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Top films featuring opera 20-16

The first part of our countdown, featuring among others a blue alien belting out Donizetti.

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

11 October 2011 at 9.53am | 9 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...

20. The Age of Innocence (1993) Dir. Martin Scorsese featuring Faust

After Daniel Day-Lewis was done gallivanting around the Mid-West as a Mohican, he appeared in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence as respectable lawyer Newland Archer in this tale of high society in 1870s New York. Faced with the dilemma between his attractive but rather dull wife (Winona Ryder) and her more sophisticated and fiery cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer as a Countess no less), will Newland cast off the shackles of society's rules and give into passion or will he opt for a loveless marriage?

Whilst there aren't any diabolic visitors in Scorsese's tale, the choice of Faust for the soundtrack during the opening scene does reflect the torturous dilemma the main character does have to face.

19. Marie Antoinette (2006) Dir. Sophia Coppola featuring Iphigenie en Aulide

Everyone's favourite pre-revolutionary fan of frivolity was brought to life by Sophia Coppola in this film which received a mixed reaction from the critics. The film was criticised for the stylised modernisation of the life of Marie Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst. Still, a trip to the opera for the Queen Consort provides a perfect excuse for the depiction of an extremely lavish operatic experience - a favourite of courtesans until the guillotine was wheeled out in 1793 by Monsieur Robespierre.

This particular clip features Rameau's Platée, although as a bumper prize for opera fans Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro appears later on in the film as well.

18. The Fifth Element (1997) Dir. Luc Besson featuring Lucia di Lammermoor

This over-the-top science fiction film from French director Luc Besson saw Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich fighting to save humanity from the camped up clutches of Gary Oldman. One of the most memorable scenes (filmed in our very own auditorium no less) featured blue skinned diva (voiced by Albanian soprano Inva Mula-Tchako) belting out ‘the mad scene’ from Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a perfect example of blue bel canto.

17. The Killing Fields (1984) Dir. Roland Joffe featuring Turandot

Before Pavarotti bellowed the crescendo of Nessun Dorma into living rooms around the world, the aria was used in Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields - a film about photographer Sydney Schanberg being trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot's Year Zero campaign of genocide.  It's estimated that Pot's regime in the country claimed the lives of two million Cambodians.

The emotion of the aria perfectly counters the cold stoicism of Richard Nixon's news broadcast speech before it gives way to heart-wrenching footage of victims during the crescendo. As a word of warning, this clip does contain shots some viewers may find disturbing.

16. The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) Dir. Anthony Minghella featuring Eugene Onegin

Like a filmic Tosca, The Talented Mr Ripley was filmed primarily in Rome and Venice, using many landmarks of the cities as backdrops for a murderous thriller. The film tells the story of Tom Ripley and his friendship (increasingly an obsession) with wealthy shipping heir Dickie (played by Jude Law).

In this clip, Ripley is dragged to see Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin by socialite Meredith Logue. The famous duel scene in particular affects Ripley, reminding him of his own murder of Dickie (in a rowing boat with an oar, if you're wondering...)

We'll be counting down the next 15 films over the course of the week. In the meantime, what are your favourite films featuring opera?

View 15-11

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

11 October 2011 at 9.53am

This article has been categorised Learning, Opera and tagged Andrei Serban, Christof Loy, Faust, Film, Iphigenie en Aulide, Le nozze di Figaro, Lucia di Lammermoor, Movie, opera, Production, soundtrack, turandot

This article has 9 comments

  1. Simeon Katsarov responded on 11 October 2011 at 10:25am Reply

    I like the La Mamma Morta scene in Philadelphia.... Personally one if my favourites!!!!!
    Also love the final scene in Milk when he's murdered and the last thing he sees is the Tosca poster.... :))))

  2. Lisa Azarmi responded on 11 October 2011 at 11:04am Reply

    Something to look forward to , brilliant !

  3. vero kel responded on 11 October 2011 at 11:05am Reply

    the Life of David Gale....Turandot! 7:25 and on. The actual music begins about a minute before that

  4. James I responded on 11 October 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

    La Traviata in the Adventures of Priscilla. Quite abridged... but still good

  5. Always loved that scene from #18, The Fifth Element, especially against the backdrop of the (unheard) fight scene running in parallel. Never knew what the piece was until I saw Lucia di Lammermoor at the Coliseum last year; I just about managed to stifle the realisation.

  6. Gloria responded on 17 January 2012 at 3:30pm Reply

    Looking forward to the rest of the list!
    Can't wait!

  7. Tracy responded on 11 February 2013 at 10:00am Reply

    It's got to be Sherlock Holmes (A game of shadows) featuring Don Giovanni's final act. Very apt to the story line of condemnation of evil!

  8. I had reached the point in my life where I could not bare the idea of seeing another historical-costume-drama. The thought of seeing another actor attempting the stilted period lingo and mello-drama gives me a headache, BUT Miss Coppola has undone my pain with this fresh take on the period drama, with her lovely and off-beat MARIE-ANTOINETTE. Usually you watch the piece from afar, thinking, "Wow, life sure was hard back then," but you never really can relate to the characters, but Coppola breaks tradition in a completely refreshing way, so that you can really understand these characters. She uses modern day music (not like the horrible A KNIGHT'S TALE did) and hand held camera work. Her style is much more free and alive. She takes her time with the material so that we get a feel for time period and all of the free time they had. The acting is first rate, other than a mis-cast Rip Torn who's a little too over-the-top. If you've enjoyed her other movies (THE VIRGIN SUICIDES & LOST IN TRANSLATION), then you are sure to enjoy this film. But if you are looking for another stilted period drama with forced accents and dead camera work then rent THE PARTRIOT or VANITY FAIR. I really enjoyed MARIE-ANTIONETTE, though I'm not sure how historically accurate it is, it's a fine film. Some have criticized Coppola for making a French subject so American, but that is not the point, she has created an accessible historical biopic, that people of MARIE-ANTIONETTE's age could enjoy and relate to.

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