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Top films featuring opera 15-11

The second in our series featuring among others La traviata on a bus in the Australian outback and Bond in Bregenz.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

12 October 2011 at 9.53am | 8 Comments

The Royal Opera House cinema season continues this month with Adriana Lecouvreur which will be screened in over 700 cinemas in 22 countries. To celebrate we’re counting down our top 20 films featuring opera. If you missed it, take a look at the films that made it in between 20 and 16. On with the show...

15. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) Dir. Stephan Elliot

Anything but a drag to watch, the plot features three drag queens jumping on a bus (the Priscilla of the title) and taking a sequin-studded roadtrip through the Australian desert, where they meet a variety of characters, each of whom with differing attitudes to the trio. The film became a cult hit in the mid 90s, helping raise the profile of the Australian film industry once more after the post-Crocodile Dundee lull.

This clip sees Guy Pearce belting out the aria Follie! Delirio vano è questo (Madness! This is delirium) into the wilderness from atop the bus, sequined dress trailing behind the vehicle, rippling into the desert air...

14. Raging Bull (1980) Dir. Martin Scorsese

Scorsese definitely wasn’t punching above his weight in using the Intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana in the beautiful opening sequence of this seminal boxing flick. All slow motion air punches and atmospheric smoke, the shot from the side of the ring of Robert DeNiro weaving and bobbing his way through a warm up is the perfect example of the balletic aspects of boxing.

Two minutes of calm before the blood and spit start to fly…

13. Heavenly Creatures (1994) Dir. Peter Jackson

No orcs and wizards this time around for Peter Jackson, instead the less magical but probably more intense tale of two girls and a brutal murder using a brick in a stocking. Based on a true story, Heavenly Creatures tells the tale of two friends in New Zealand who take disturbing revenge after their parents separate them, becoming concerned their fantasy is too intense.

Puccini’s Coro a bocca chiusa (the famous Humming Chorus) is used to eerie effect in this scene, just before the brutal murder of one of the girl’s mothers in a Christchurch park.

As a word of warning, the second half of this clip does contain material some viewers may find disturbing...

12. Quantum of Solace (2008) Dir. Marc Forster

They might have claimed to have reinvented Bond with the arrival of Daniel Craig a few years back, but aside from a bit more grit, it’s still largely an action and entendre affair (though admittedly with fewer gadgets since Q’s sad passing a decade or so back).

Bond may be dispatching baddies in as rapid succession as ever but this time around, he does squeeze in quick trip to the opera at Bregenz – all part of the job of course. Environmentalist organisation Quantum is the latest in a long line of MI6 botherers, attempting to control Bolivia’s national water supply. In this scene head honcho Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric) and his entourage hold a secret meeting during a performance of Tosca, the aria in question being Scarpia´s Va, Tosca (Te Deum) from the end of Act 1. But they are not alone and a rather short-tempered Bond manages to get in a dig at his quarry’s lack of theatrical decorum…

11. A Room with a view (1985) Dir. James Ivory

Based on the E.M. Forster novel of the same name, A Room with a View takes a swipe at social norms in Edwardian England with the aristocratic Lucy (a young Helena Bonham Carter) falling for dashing free spirit George (Julian Sands). With any other cast it might be a rather formulaic love story set against a social backdrop on the cusp of change. However, a stellar ensemble (Simon Callow, Maggie Smith, Judy Dench and Daniel Day Lewis) and a smattering of Puccini make this a far from mediocre affair.

This montage clip features the aria Oh Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi sung by Kiri Te Kanawa...

We’ll be counting down the final 10 films over the rest of the week. In the meantime, what are your favourite films featuring opera?

View 10-6

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

12 October 2011 at 9.53am

This article has been categorised Learning, Opera and tagged aria, by Richard Jones, Film, Gianni Schicchi, movies, opera, Production, soundtrack

This article has 8 comments

  1. Monica Galiano responded on 12 October 2011 at 11:57am Reply

    It has to be "Philadelphia" and the scene where Tom Hanks character listen to "La mamma morta", one of the most poignant arias I ever heard (from Andrea Chenier, Umberto Giordano) and sung by nothing less than the greatest, Maria Callas! Unforgettable

  2. Mareike responded on 12 October 2011 at 2:40pm Reply

    Clearly Pretty Woman. There is a scene where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to San Francisco to see "La Traviata".

  3. Marianna responded on 12 October 2011 at 3:39pm Reply

    "Moonstruck" is my number one!

  4. Minghan responded on 12 October 2011 at 3:48pm Reply

    I love the barcarolle 'Belle nuit' from les contes d'hoffmann by Offenbach featured in Italian film la vita è bella. Shows how the two main characters fall in love...

  5. Ivyhouse responded on 12 October 2011 at 8:34pm Reply

    Another one for 'O mio bambino caro' this time by Meriel Andrew in 'A Very Annie Mary'

  6. Peretta responded on 13 October 2011 at 12:36am Reply


  7. Pretty Woman ......... every time. Just great use of opera in cinema and who does not love La Traviata.

  8. 1. "A Night at the Opera" Marx Brothers & "Il Trovatore"

    2. "Diva" where I and many others first came across the opera "La Wally" which also made appeared in "A Single Man".

    Wiki say this about the opera "The opera features one of the most memorable of operatic deaths, in which the heroine throws herself into an avalanche. It is seldom performed because of the difficulty of staging this scene..."

    Now is that enough of a challenge for ROH?

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