Classical Music in Succession: An Orchestration of Power and Drama

by Patria

When it comes to the HBO series “Succession,” classical music plays a pivotal role in shaping the narrative and underscoring the themes of power, ambition, and family dynamics. Throughout the show’s episodes, the use of classical music serves as a sonic backdrop that enriches the storytelling experience. In this article, we will delve into how classical music is strategically employed in “Succession” to evoke emotion, accentuate character development, and contribute to the overall cinematic experience.

The Overture: Classical Music as a Dramatic Prelude

“Succession” opens with an iconic and instantly recognizable theme song, composed by Nicholas Britell. While this theme is not a classical composition in the traditional sense, it bears classical elements, particularly in its orchestration and grandeur. The theme’s use of strings and brass instruments gives it a symphonic quality that is often associated with classical music. This bold and sweeping musical introduction immediately sets the tone for the series and hints at the operatic drama that will unfold.

Throughout the series, the opening theme serves as a leitmotif, reappearing during critical moments of the show. This recurring musical cue not only ties together the episodes but also reinforces the idea of classical music as a thematic thread running through the narrative. It reminds viewers of the show’s overarching themes of power, succession, and the larger-than-life conflicts of the Roy family.

Classical Music as a Mirror of Emotion

One of the most compelling aspects of classical music is its ability to convey a wide range of emotions, often without the need for words. “Succession” leverages this power by incorporating classical compositions that mirror the emotional turmoil of the characters and the unfolding drama.

In many scenes, classical music serves as an emotional counterpoint to the characters’ actions and dialogues. For instance, when characters engage in intense confrontations or make critical decisions, the use of classical music underscores the gravity of the moment. The juxtaposition of classical music with these dramatic moments creates a sense of irony and heightens the tension in the show.

Mozart’s Requiem: A Haunting Leitmotif

One classical piece that plays a recurring and symbolic role in “Succession” is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem. This hauntingly beautiful composition, left incomplete at Mozart’s death, is often associated with themes of mortality and transcendence. In the world of “Succession,” it takes on a multifaceted significance.

The Requiem first appears in the series during a pivotal moment in the pilot episode, when Logan Roy, the patriarch of the Roy family, is rushed to the hospital. As the family gathers in the waiting room, the ethereal strains of Mozart’s Requiem provide a solemn and introspective backdrop to their anxiety and uncertainty. The choice of this piece is poignant, as it foreshadows the themes of mortality and legacy that will permeate the series.

As the series progresses, the Requiem reemerges during moments of crisis and reflection, serving as a recurring leitmotif that underscores the characters’ vulnerability and the fragility of their power. Its presence in the soundtrack becomes a reminder that, despite their wealth and influence, the characters in “Succession” are ultimately mortal and subject to the same existential questions that have occupied humanity for centuries.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7: The Sound of Ambition

Classical music in “Succession” is not limited to solemn or introspective moments. It also plays a role in capturing the characters’ ambitions and the relentless pursuit of power. One notable example of this is the use of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 is known for its energetic and triumphant character, making it a fitting choice for scenes that depict the characters’ ambitions and determination. In “Succession,” this composition often accompanies scenes of corporate maneuvering, strategic planning, and moments when characters assert their authority.

The use of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 serves as a musical embodiment of the characters’ relentless pursuit of success and the cutthroat nature of the business world in which they operate. Its bold and dynamic melodies mirror the characters’ unwavering drive and the high-stakes nature of their endeavors.

Classical Music and Character Development

One of the remarkable aspects of “Succession” is its complex and multifaceted characters. Classical music plays a crucial role in enhancing the depth and development of these characters by providing insight into their inner worlds and motivations.

For instance, classical music is used to underscore the contrasting personalities of the Roy siblings. Kendall Roy, the ambitious and tormented heir apparent, often has scenes accompanied by intense and dissonant classical pieces that reflect his internal struggles. These compositions create a sense of unease and highlight Kendall’s inner turmoil as he grapples with the weight of his family’s expectations.

On the other hand, Roman Roy, the witty and irreverent younger son, is often associated with more playful and lighthearted classical music. This choice of music mirrors Roman’s carefree attitude and his tendency to approach life with humor, even in the midst of family crises.

Shiv Roy, the sharp and ambitious daughter of the family, has scenes accompanied by classical music that reflects her intelligence and calculated approach to power dynamics. The use of intricate and precise classical compositions underscores Shiv’s strategic thinking and her ability to navigate the treacherous waters of corporate politics.

In this way, classical music serves as a narrative tool that enhances character development and provides insight into the inner workings of the Roy family members.

Classical Music as a Symbol of Legacy

Legacy is a central theme in “Succession,” and classical music is often used to symbolize the weight of tradition and the expectations placed on the characters to uphold the family legacy. Classical compositions from different eras and styles are employed to evoke a sense of timelessness and continuity.

For example, when Logan Roy’s character is in focus, the soundtrack often includes classical pieces from the Romantic era, such as works by Richard Wagner or Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. These compositions evoke a sense of grandeur and tradition, reflecting Logan’s role as the patriarch and the custodian of the family empire.

Conversely, when the younger generation of Roys is highlighted, the soundtrack may incorporate more contemporary classical music or experimental compositions. This juxtaposition of classical styles highlights the generational divide within the family and the tension between tradition and innovation.

Overall, classical music in “Succession” serves as a symbol of the family’s enduring legacy and the expectations placed on each generation to maintain and expand upon it.

The Operatic Drama of “Succession”

Classical music’s association with opera, with its grand narratives and emotional intensity, is particularly relevant to “Succession.” The show’s intricate web of power struggles, familial conflicts, and personal dramas is often likened to the operatic genre, and classical music plays a significant role in amplifying this connection.

One of the most striking examples of this operatic influence is the use of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” This famous opera, centered on themes of love, sacrifice, and societal expectations, is woven into the narrative of “Succession” in a memorable way. In a pivotal scene, the characters attend a performance of “La Traviata,” and the opera’s arias and duets are used to mirror the emotional complexities and conflicts within the Roy family.

As the characters watch the opera, their reactions and interactions mirror the plot of “La Traviata” in a meta-narrative fashion. This interplay between the opera and the characters’ lives serves as a poignant commentary on the dramatic nature of their relationships and the sacrifices they make in their pursuit of power.

Classical Music as Subtext

In addition to its overt use in key scenes, classical music in “Succession” also functions as subtext, subtly enhancing the viewer’s understanding of the characters and their motivations. It often underscores the gap between appearances and reality, highlighting the complexities of the characters’ personas.

For example, the use of classical music in moments of celebration or ostentation can be ironic, as it contrasts with the underlying tension and dysfunction within the family. The juxtaposition of opulent surroundings and classical music with the characters’ inner turmoil creates a sense of unease and irony that is a hallmark of the show’s style.

Likewise, moments of betrayal or deceit are often accompanied by classical compositions that emphasize the characters’ duplicity. The contrast between the beauty of the music and the ugliness of their actions serves to underscore the moral ambiguity of the characters’ choices.

In this way, classical music functions as a subtle layer of subtext that enriches the viewer’s interpretation of the story and characters in “Succession.”

Classical Music and the Cinematic Experience

Beyond its narrative and thematic functions, classical music in “Succession” contributes significantly to the overall cinematic experience of the series. The show’s creators and composers have carefully curated a soundtrack that enhances the visual storytelling and elevates the viewer’s engagement.

The use of classical music in key moments adds a layer of sophistication and timelessness to the series. It elevates the viewer’s perception of the show, making it feel more like a high-stakes drama or even a Shakespearean tragedy. The use of classical compositions lends a sense of gravitas to the proceedings, making the power struggles and conflicts within the Roy family feel epic in scale.

Furthermore, the integration of classical music into the show’s sound design creates a unique auditory experience. The juxtaposition of classical pieces with contemporary dialogue and action adds depth and complexity to the sonic landscape of “Succession.” It invites viewers to engage with the series on a sensory level, immersing them in the world of the Roys.


In “Succession,” classical music is more than just a soundtrack; it is an integral part of the storytelling fabric that weaves together themes of power, ambition, family, and legacy. Whether it is the haunting strains of Mozart’s Requiem, the triumphant notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, or the operatic drama of “La Traviata,” classical music is a key player in the show’s ensemble cast.

Classical music in “Succession” serves as a mirror of emotion, a symbol of legacy, a tool for character development, and a subtextual layer that adds depth and irony to the narrative. It is the symphony that underscores the operatic drama of the Roy family and their relentless pursuit of success.

As we continue to follow the twists and turns of the Roy family saga, one thing is clear: classical music will remain a vital and resonant element of “Succession,” enriching the series and leaving a lasting impression on its viewers. Just as the Roy family seeks to secure their legacy, so too does classical music secure its place as a timeless and powerful storytelling device in the world of television.

related articles

Dive into the enchanting world of music at, your ultimate destination for discovering new and diverse sounds. From emerging artists to timeless classics, embark on a musical journey that transcends genres and captivates your senses.

Copyright © 2023