When Opera Meets Tinseltown

The Top 15 Greatest Opera Moments in Film

Monday, August 08, 2011 - 09:38 AM

A couple of weeks ago, we examined opera on television, listing the 10 greatest moments that the latter referenced the former. And with the EPIX Movie Free-for-All festival screening Norman Jewison's 1987 masterpiece, Moonstruck, in Coney Island next Monday, we're priming our popcorn for a jump to the silver screen.

When it comes to Tinseltown's love affair with opera, however, 10 just isn't enough. In fact, the 15 occurrences assembled below aren't even adequate. Some of my personal favorites—Susan Graham singing "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, the use of Cosí fan tutte in the couple-swapping Closer, Fellini's tenor showdown in the boiler room of a ship in È la nave va—are all on the proverbial cutting room floor. Other truly sublime moments, like the whole Gilbert and Sullivan biopic Topsy Turvy, were backburnered for more prominent cases of composer flicks (which in and of itself could constitute a Top 10 list). And actual opera films like The Tales of Hoffmann and The Mikado fell victim to similar technicalities that could provide fodder for future lists.

But some are just plain overlooked. Which is why we're opening up the comments for you all to argue with me to your heart's content and make passionate cases for your favorite opera moments on film. Make it fun. What would be on your top 15 list? Leave them below.

15. Faust, 1994 (Faust)

Czech director Jan Svankmajer examines all facets of the Faust legend in his surrealist film set in modern-day Prague that runs the gamut through puppetry, claymation and live actors (primarily through the late, great Peter Cepek—this was his final film—as the title character). Svankmajer fleetingly touches on Gounod's opera of the same name with the first act chorus used in a surrealist field scene featuring wheat-thrashing and soup-slurping ballerinas. It makes even the regie-est of the Komische Oper's productions look like Zeffirellian traditionalism, but it fits in with the mind warp that is the original myth.

 

14. Quantum of Solace, 2008 (Tosca)

In another life, Tosca could have made for a (ahem) killer Bond girl. For the most recent James Bond film, Ian Fleming's hero ends up at the Bregenz Festival's dramatically ocular production of Tosca. Standing in the wings while the "Te Deum" reaches a fever point, Bond taps into a Quantum conference during the performance. As the organization's members are all speaking into earpieces, Bond interjects ("Can I offer an opinion? I really think you people should find a better place to meet.") and catches the members as many, realizing their cover has been blown, leave. One, however, remains, turns to his companion and quips, "I guess Tosca isn't for everyone."

13. Aria, 1987 (Les Boréades, Die tote Stadt, Pagliacci, Armide, Louise, Tristan und Isolde, Un ballo in maschera, Turandot, La forza del destino, Rigoletto)

Think of Aria—a collective of 10 films by 10 different directors (including Robert Altman and Jean-Luc Goddard) based on 10 operas—as an adult version of Fantasia, and you're on the right track. At times it seems as if Puccini has gone on poppers, Verdi on Vicodin, but there are some striking moments of beauty and style—Goddard's NSFW take on Gluck's Armide, Altman's imagining of Les Boréades, Bruce Beresford's nostalgic trip through "Marietta's Lied" in Die tote Stadt and Derek Jarman's wistful ode to Louise all stand out. There are also some familiar faces, including Elizabeth Hurley, Tilda Swinton, Bridget Fonda (in her first film role) and, for devotees of PBS's French in Action, Valérie Allain.

12. The Departed, 2006 (Lucia di Lammermoor)

Here's where I know the arguments are going to start, but I stand by my guns here: The Departed makes far better use of Donizetti's highlands tragedy than The Fifth Element (which is not on this list). Jack Nicholson is a character doppelganger for Enrico, the head of a clan that is slowly losing its power and quarreling with the law and clinging to each shred of power with a frenzied desperation. We get a significant taste for this in a small scene that sees Nicholson in an opera box with two…companions, watching the "Sextet" from Lucia—it later underscores a less wholesome scene involving a handful of cocaine and comes back as Nicholson's ringtone.

11. Citizen Kane, 1941 (The Barber of Seville, Salammbo)

As if Orson Welles's thinly-veiled William Randolph Hearst biopic wasn't operatic enough, there is the element of Kane's mistress, Susan Alexander. Based on the real-life soprano Sibyl Sanderson, for whom Massenet's Thaïs was written and the would-be wife of Hearst, Alexander differs in that she has no aspirations to a career in opera. Kane, however, forces her into it, driving her to the brink of suicide, with a work called Salammbo. That Salammbo, written by Hitchcock composer Bernard Herrmann (who would later write his own opera based on Wuthering Heights), sounds like a lost Massenet score is no coincidence: Welles originally wanted to use Thaïs, but at the time could not acquire the rights.

10. Love and Death, 1975 (The Magic Flute)

Woody Allen, who turned down an opportunity to direct a short film in Aria, has a longstanding cinematic connection to opera. Some great moments include the use of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly in Hannah and Her Sisters and the Verdian gamut in his more recent film Match Point. Perhaps his most adroit, albeit brief, reference to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in a score otherwise dominated by Prokofiev. On furlough, Allen's "militant coward" character Boris goes to the opera in St. Petersburg and engages in a scandalous, slapstick, silent flirtation with a wealthy countess. What makes the connection stronger, however, is how Boris directly relates to the challenge-averse Papageno. And who can resist that sword-wielding?

9. Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources, 1986 (La forza del destino)

The best laid plans compete with force majeure in Claude Berri's duology starring Gérard Depardieu: Depardieu's hunchback character at one point curses God for cursing him with a deformity that leads to his provincial village distrusting him; his scheming neighbors tamper with a hidden spring to break his profitable farm in order to buy the land; his daughter, Manon (named for Lescaut, a role Florette's opera-singing wife treasured) exacts her own revenge on the town and there's a twist at the end worthy of Il Trovatore. So it's only appropriate that the dominant theme in both of these films be the Overture to Verdi's La forza del destino, carrying the films from inception to resolution and adding to the cyclical nature of the works.

8. Apocalypse Now, 1979 (Die Walküre)

Voted the most iconic scene in cinema by Empire Magazine, the helicopter attack scene in Coppola's Vietnam-set Heart of Darkness adaptation is certainly the best cinematic use of Wagner's ubiquitous "Ride of the Valkyries." Like the central conflict between Wotan and his daughter Brünnhilde, and like the life and political views of Wagner himself, Apocalypse Now examines the moral ambiguity of heroism through the extraordinarily controversial and ambiguous conflict in Vietnam. The effect is instantaneously galvanizing and horrifying, much like the rest of the movie.

7. The Great Caruso, 1951 (Aida, Tosca, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Gioconda, Rigoletto, La Bohème, Il Trovatore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Pagliacci, Martha)

Wholly inaccurate as far as the Caruso life story goes, The Great Caruso is nevertheless a fantastic collection of Mario Lanza at his vocal height singing some of opera's greatest hits including "La donna è mobile," "Celeste Aida" and "M'appari." Most touching, however, is a scene once again incorporating the Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor: As an anxious Caruso performs onstage, his wife is in labor. At this height of the opera, the word is out that Caruso has a daughter, and as the Sextet plays out, the word goes from stagehands to Caruso to cast to prompter to orchestra to the front row to the boxes to the ardent fans in the cheap seats and standing room. From a personal standpoint, I still get misty watching this heartwarming schmaltz.



6. Raging Bull, 1980 (Cavalleria Rusticana)

Martin Scorsese's love of setting beautiful, lyrical opera moments against gritty and gruesome film sequences didn't start with The Departed, as evidenced by his probing character study, Raging Bull. He uses Cavalleria Rusticana's lush intermezzo against the more violent moments of Jake LaMotta's animalistic outbursts in and out of the ring. Other Mascagni works factor into the score—selections from both Silvano and Gugliemo Ratcliff—but, like Barber's Adagio for Strings in Platoon, it's the Cavalleria clip that forever weds its composer's most famous opera to one of Scorsese's most lauded works. 

5. Fatal Attraction, 1987 (Madama Butterfly)

The parallels between Fatal Attraction and Madama Butterfly—an opera Glenn Close's character in the film references—occupy two sides of the same coin: In the latter, a geisha marries an American naval officer, naïve to the fact that he believes this to be the 19th-century version of a one night stand. When he later marries an American bride and returns to Nagasaki to reclaim his son from Cio-Cio San, things get complicated. The one-night stand in Fatal Attraction occurs when the Pinkerton character (played by Michael Douglas) is already married and a parent, making Glenn Close, like Kate, the other woman and Douglas's character makes it perfectly clear that he wants no strings attached. But when Close's Puccini-loving character develops a Cio-Cio-San–like obsession with her one-time lover, well, things get complicated.

4. A Night at the Opera, 1935 (Il Trovatore)

Has the total and utter disruption of an opera performance ever been so downright uproarious as this, the first Marx Brothers movie for MGM? Setting aside the grand musical number "Cosi-Cosa," which highlights Chico's piano prowess and Harpo's skills on the harp, the use of the highbrow Il Trovatore as the backdrop for the lowbrow antics of the brothers as they take their revenge on an impresario is pure, madcap joy. The overture is sabotaged with an interlude of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," Groucho says of Azucena, "How would you like to feel the way she looks?", and all hell breaks out during "Di quella pira." And you thought Peter Gelb had problems.

3. Philadelphia, 1993 (Andrea Chénier)

If, like me, the "Sextet" scene from The Great Caruso makes you misty, then the scene in Philadelphia in which Tom Hanks plays Maria Callas's recording of "La mamma morta" for Denzel Washington in Philadelphia will make you openly weep. Playing an out lawyer with AIDS at a time when both subjects were still tetchy in popular culture (especially the latter), Hanks's character, Andrew Beckett, indulges in La Divina's rendition of this Andrea Chénier standard for legal colleague Washington. Though not a musician, Beckett's description of this aria is one of the most simple and moving synopses, on and off the silver screen. Adding to the headiness is a dizzying cinematography that catapults you into the heart of Giordano's French Revolution opus.

2. Moonstruck, 1987 (La bohème)

I think there are two camps when it comes to life-imitates-art films that involve a first time at the opera: The Moonstrucks and the Pretty Womans. I firmly fall into the former camp, and those of you in the latter can debate and hate me all you want for it, but nothing beats the moment in which Nicolas Cage kisses Cher's hand during a performance of Mimi's farewell aria in La bohème. Yet the power of Puccini in this film isn't just in the Met scene. In fact, the more moving moments of opera come in the mundane day-to-day life of Nicolas Cage's one-handed, tortured character as he spins an LP of the opera and Cher's equally lifeless routine as a young widow. Scenes like the Momus introduction underscore her reanimation thanks to a passionate love-at-first-fight with Cage.

1. Amadeus, 1984 (The Abduction from the Seraglio, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte)

As Milos Forman said of his Oscar-winning film based on Peter Shaffer's play and the unsubstantiated rumor that composer Antonio Salieri murdered his rival Mozart, the music is the third character. Opera transcends soundtrack and scene-setting here and becomes the whole raison d'etre of the film, fueled by Peter Shaffer's exquisite descriptions of Mozart's music, spoken by the eloquent F. Murray Abraham. The historical accuracy of the productions themselves is also testament to the love that went into this movie: Don Giovanni is shot in the same theater in Prague where it had its premiere and the costumes are based off of original sketches. And while it's hard to name a favorite opera occurrence in the film, the transition from Mozart's mother-in-law berating him to the Queen of the Night's mile-high coloratura (sung by June Anderson) is a pretty strong contender.

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Comments [45]

carol prisant from New York

And nobody has mentioned (probably because nobody's that old) the amazing Disney cartoon "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" from a 1940s Disney compilation called "Make Mine Music." In it, Nelson Eddy sang ALL the voices of Willy the operatic whale. Willy is hunted by an implacable impresario who believes he has swallowed many opera singers. It still brings me to tears.

Mar. 27 2012 09:50 AM
SteveNYC

There is a very noir-ish spy thriller set in postwar Berlin called "The Man Between" which features a scene near the climax set in and around an opera house. An opera's final scene is being performed and its music dominates the soundtrack as parts of the performance are shown. The opera is Salome. The singer is Ljuba Welitsh in her prime. There's a clip on youtube.

Feb. 21 2012 04:36 PM
Jan Schwartz from Vacaville, CA

Right on, Pat from Upstate NY. That "Hansel and Gretel" was fantastic! I had the long playing RP for many years and know the English lyrics they used quite well. It was unbeatable as an introduction to opera and classical music!

Aug. 18 2011 07:55 PM
Melissa

Cosi fan tutte is referenced throughout Mike Nichols's Closer starting Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen. The music underscores the plot at many moments, which echoes the plot of Cosi in many ways.

Aug. 16 2011 12:48 PM

Hey Peter,
Trovatore in A Night at the Opera is number 4 on the list. One of my favorite movies hands-down.

Another one just occurred to me: The use of Verdi (notably Traviata) in The Leopard (Il Gattopardo). A film about the Italian reunification would be incomplete without some Verdi.

Aug. 14 2011 09:31 PM
Pat from Upstate NY

A wonderful list, even if I haven't seen many of the films listed (just not the sort of film I like). A couple more moments: The Marx Brothers using the 'Anvil Chorus' in 'The Cocoanuts', and the 'Apocalypse Now' parody in 'The Great American Traffic Jam' (helicopters coming over the hill - carrying port-o-potties).

I do hope you have a 'first time at the opera' list some day soon. My nomination: 'Hansel and Gretel: an Opera Fantasy', which I saw when I was two. It used a then-innovative form of stop-motion animation, with the late, great comedienne Anna Russel as the voice of the Witch. I recently re-discovered it on DVD.

Aug. 13 2011 12:41 AM
Michael Greenhouse

At the end of Lena Wertmuller's, Swept Away, there is a short opera rendition representing Gennerino's despair. Does anyone know the piece and the singer?

Aug. 12 2011 09:14 PM
John from Forest Hills

Does anyone know the name of an Eastern European film from the 50's in which the bell song from Lakme is sung by the main character?

Aug. 12 2011 11:10 AM
Sandi from New York City

As mentioned above, "Rabbit of Seville" starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd "Let me trim your mop, let me cut your crop, daintily, daintily".

Aug. 11 2011 07:20 PM
Duv from NYC

Fascinating list, and since I recognized so many of the entries it worried me that maybe I've seen too many movies! My earliest exposure to opera was via Jeanette MacDonald, an abiding love affair.
But nowadays it's the real thing that captures my attention, like "Mad About Opera" mentioned above ("Non Ti Scordar Di Me" is an English language film with Gigli delivering an indelible object lesson in how to sing and color the voice). It would thrill me to see your next list concentrated on actual great singers on screen, hopefully to reveal to me unknown gems to feast upon (Lotte Lehmann in the film "Big City" was a recent, enthralling, discovery). That would be an historic list to cherish.
For today's list I would add Leonie Rysanek singing beautifully over the opening and closing credits of the movie "Magic Fire" parts of "Gotterdamerung" and "Tristan" she never sang on stage or recorded elsewhere!

Aug. 11 2011 04:33 PM
SusanNYC from NYC

David, the information on "The Godfather" music is on this link:

http://www.soundtrackinfo.com/title/godfather.asp

Aug. 11 2011 01:41 PM
belle

What a wonderful list! Must see The Departed as Lucia is my favorite opera. Thank you for this; gives me lots of new films to see.

Aug. 11 2011 01:22 PM
David from New Jersey

At last, a possible answer to a question that has haunted me.I don't remember which film in The "Godfather" series it was, but I believe that it may have been that last fatal walk that Marlon Brando took in his garden with his grandson. There was a trumpet solo, which may have been played more than once in the films. Was it from "Don Pasquale?" If so, what part? If not, then from which opera?

Aug. 11 2011 12:07 PM
Zach from NYC

One of the most memorable Opera moments in film has to be the "Duettino - Sull'aria" from "Le nozze di Figaro" in The Shawshank Redemption. It is the pefect pairing of memorable opera and classic film.

Aug. 11 2011 12:01 PM
Barb from NYC

Where's Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd??? Did I miss an earlier category

Aug. 11 2011 10:26 AM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

How could you omit "Il Trovatore" in "A Night at the Opera": probably the one greatest obstacle to this classic Verdi potboiler's ever fully regaining whatever respect it may once have earned?

Aug. 11 2011 09:49 AM
Tom Cowan from Staten Island

The film I saw as a child on TV in the 60's that turned me on to opera was the 1944 film "Bluebeard" starring John Carradine. He runs a puppet show in a park in Paris and the puppets perform scenes from Faust. Marguerite's aria "Ange Pur...." is sung and after hearing it I went out and bought my first LP of the opera. I still own that LP today.

Aug. 11 2011 08:54 AM
Ilana

No arguments, just an addition:
"Mad About Opera" - a madcap comedy with wonderful performances by Tito Schipa, Gino Bechi, Tito Gobbi, Maria Caniglia, Beniamino Gigli .. All the singers except Caniglia and Gigli also appear in the movie playing themselves.

Aug. 10 2011 11:24 PM
Frank DeCavalcante from Princeton, New Jersey

The fifties melodrama, "Interrupted Melody", purportedly the life of diva Marjorie Lawrence features scenes from Madame Butterfly, Samson and Delilah, and most notably, in the final scene of the move, a highly emotional scene of Lawrence's triumphant return to the Met in Tristan and Isolde.

Also, how could we overlook the actual film productions of Carmen with Domingo and Jula Migenes-Johnson, La Traviata with Domingo again and Teresa Stratas, and Madame Butterfly with mostly unknowns and a realistic setting in what appears to be Japan?

Aug. 10 2011 10:15 PM
Ruth

Don't forget "Room with a View," the soundtrack of which features Kiri te Kanawa singing "O mio babbino caro" (highly relevant to the film's plot) and other gorgeous Puccini arias.

Aug. 10 2011 09:35 PM
Mike Storms from Howard Beach, NY

Amadeus was one of the very few movies I was compelled to see more than once, but I think I would put Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Flute at the top of my list. It was, simply put, a magical production.

Aug. 10 2011 08:29 PM
Rosemarie from Staten Island, NY

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the Streisand/Bridges kiss at the end of "The Mirror Has Two Faces" during which the Bridges character "hears music"--a neighbor playing Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma."

Aug. 10 2011 07:22 PM
John Koster from Northern New Jersey

Jeanette MacDonald did a condensed version of Gounoud's "Faust" while Clark Gable watched in "San Francisco" and decided that opera wasn;t so bad after all. I think he got arrested just after that for stalking....my kind of guy....

Aug. 10 2011 06:45 PM
Gregory Klosek from Brooklyn, NY

Suave sia il vento from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte all over Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Aug. 10 2011 06:34 PM
gary

CALLAS FOREVER!

Aug. 10 2011 06:33 PM
richard from nyc

Since Herrmann's imaginary opera Salammbo makes the list for Citizen Kane, how about Patrick Cassidy's imaginary opera in Hannibal with the gorgeous aria Vide Cor Meum.

Aug. 10 2011 06:29 PM
Marianne from New york

In the movie diva there is the amazing
Ebben from Catalani

Aug. 10 2011 06:20 PM
SusanNYC from NYC

Opera in gangster movies is simply wonderful! In addition to well know bits in "The Godfather," I love 'Vesti la giubba' from 'Pagliacci' as used in "The Untouchables" Youtube clip here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifPaq_kNeXs

De Niro's (Al Capone) tears at the opera were a perfect combination of funny and horrifying.

Aug. 10 2011 06:16 PM
Anne Phelan from Brooklyn

Let's not forget the Marx Brothers! How often have I wanted to say to a man in a Pagliacci costume: "How do you sleep with those big buttons on you pajamas?"

Aug. 10 2011 06:07 PM

Jan-

CBS in NYC used to put on "Maytime" on the Late Late Show, around 2:00AM one night of the first week-end in May. I would set my alarm to wake me up to watch it. My wife just sort of tolerated this.

In the New York Times TV listing, they would say, "John Barrymore, Fire and Ice". For the Times, it was all J.B.

For me it was Jeanette and Nelson, the cherry tree, May Day without the politics, the Tchaikovsky 5th, and the fabulous ending with the two coupes walking in opposite directions on the privet lined path.

I know it's August, but I just might go and watch it anyway.

Every year, at the appointed time, those wonderful apple blossom credits would roll, Marsha is at the May celebration...Then, it died. It just died. Someone at CBS told me that they had gone to an all color movie policy.

I was bereft.

Then WNET put it on. I video taped it. Then I did a DVD from the video tape. As technology improved, so did I. I ripped the DVD to .mp4 and put the movie on my 1Tb external HDD.

And yes, I do still watch it.

Aug. 10 2011 01:04 PM
Jan

I happen to enjoy Jeannette MacDonald's operatic solos in movies such as "Rose Marie", and "Maytime". In the latter, Ms. MacDonald performs an excellent lyric soprano rendition of "Nobles Seigneurs", from "Les Huegnots"! Her French diction is excellent, she swaggers well, and she looks terrific in the page costume....
In another film, she gives a terrific performance as Marguerite. Tinseltown did opera fans a great service when it put Ms. MacDonald on the silver screen.

Aug. 10 2011 01:01 AM
Raymond Cormier from Chapel Hill, NC

Aria from "Tales of Hoffman" in LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!

Aug. 09 2011 04:00 PM
David from Flushing

I would add "Farinelli" to the list of films that depict opera. The period sets surpass those of "Amadeus" and the opera "audience" perhaps more authentically rowdy.

Aug. 09 2011 12:02 PM
Ismael de Leon from Monterrey, Mexico

I like the final from Le Nozze Di Figaro from the movie Amadeus best. But a particular scene struck a chord in me: it was the Pagliacci scene from The Untouchables. Hollywood may be opera's best friend indeed...

Aug. 09 2011 12:29 AM
Susan from St Louis

Though technically not an opera, the juxtaposition of the choral portions of the Beethoven 9th with the heinous violence in the movie "A Clockwork Orange" is indelibly seared into my musical memory. I cannot listen to this great work with reliving Kubrick's riveting cinematography!

Aug. 08 2011 03:06 PM
Henry from New York City

I would have to eliminate from this list anything "music" specific (e.g., Amadeus) just because these are movies about music or musicians.

Gordie hit a perfect match for me, "The Shawshank Redemption". The description Freeman gives is great and, after being confined, Andy says "I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company...[points and taps his head.] It was in here. [gestures over his heart] And in here. That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you. Haven't you ever felt that way about music?"

Also, I like the opera segment in Pretty Woman (I believe La Traviata). After the opera is over:
Old Lady at Opera: Did you like the opera, dear?
Vivian: It was so good, I almost peed my pants!
Edward Lewis: She said she liked it better than Pirates of Penzance

Just too funny, that scene. And I also like the Fifth Element.

Aug. 08 2011 01:58 PM
Lucy from NYC

I would also want the entirety of Amadeus on my list, and I'll join you in defending the "Moonstruck" camp. I have to say, though, as riotous send-ups of Trovatore go, I find the denouement of the Danny Kaye vehicle "Wonder Man" at least as enjoyable as the Marx Bros.

Another "first time at the opera" in film which I confess to loving is that in Little Women (1994) where Professor Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne) takes Jo (Winona Ryder) to "Les Pecheurs de Perles." They sit above the stage and he translates for her... sigh...

Very high on my list would be "Babette's Feast," with its amazing use of "La ci darem la mano." The sensuality of the melody provides the underscoring for the delicate unfolding of an on-screen romance. The pastor and his elder daughter gripping each other's hands in the austere kitchen while a singing lesson goes on in the other room says volumes.

Aug. 08 2011 01:03 PM
Gordie

The 'Nozze' moment in 'Shawshank' perfectly describes, for me, the magic that is opera:

'I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it.'

Aug. 08 2011 12:54 PM
Gordie

The 'Nozze' moment in 'Shawshank' perfectly describes, for me, the magic that is opera:

'I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it.'

Aug. 08 2011 12:48 PM
Kari Naskinen

Good list, but best opera action in Films is swedish Ingmar Bergmans (directed) Die Zauberflöte (1975). Singer: Irma Urrila, Josef Köstlinger, Håkan Hagegård, Birgit Nordin, Ulrik Cold ... Sarastro .

Aug. 08 2011 12:38 PM
Peg

Don't forget the aria from the rarely performed opera, La Wally in the film Diva which was about intrigue around illegally recording the aria at a performance.

Aug. 08 2011 12:20 PM
Paul Pelkonen from Brooklyn, NY

Excellent list. For Bond references I would also mention 'The Living Daylights' which features Tim Dalton's Bond attending a Vienna performance of "Le Nozze di Figaro".

Although it's not a specific opera referenced, there's a great line in David Fincher's "The Game": "So you'll miss another opera you would have slept through anyway."

Aug. 08 2011 12:10 PM
Scott Rose from Manhattan

Instead of arguing the points in this article, I am going to cheer "Bis!," by which I mean that I'd like to see a follow-up post.

Aug. 08 2011 12:06 PM
John

The most twisted use of opera in a movie must surely go to <I>The Night Porter</I>. <I>Ein Madchen oder Weibchen</I> is so spectacularly inappropriate.

Aug. 08 2011 11:45 AM
Luis Andrei Cobo from NYC

All good choices. I would add, in terms of not only appropriateness, but rather, how the entire movie emphasizes the one opera scene so diligently: The Fifth Element, where the alien Diva Plava Laguna sings "Il dolce suono" from Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor". The very electronic and often cacaphonic soundtrack within the entire film underscores the sudden clarity and beauty of this aria which also is the focal point of much of the action in the movie. I would have to guess that a good number of people who may never have heard opera came to know Lucia from this film.

Aug. 08 2011 11:10 AM

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