OPERA in Movies – a blog/list

I am a great opera fan as you know. But I am also very fond of movies and I have collected a lot.

Opera and movies have always been associated with each other:
There are many and great opera films which I have blogged about earlier in Opera Movies – An Historical Overview  
And there are very many movies with opera in the soundtrack. just think about Apocalypse Now (Wagner’s Ride of the Walkyries) or A Room with a View (Puccini’s O mio babbino caro). The list would be endless including Philadelphia, The Shawshank Redemption and many more.

But today I would like to concentrate on movies where an opera performance or a visit to the opera is an integral part of the story and action.
I will not include any music films or movies which are about composers (Amadeus) or singers (The Great Caruso).

So here is a listing of my personal selection without much comment.

It probably all started 1925 with The Phantom of the Opera as silent movie. There were several remakes of it. In 2004 the Lloyd-Webber musical version came to the screens. In all these movies the Paris Opera – the Palais Garnier has a leading role.


A Night at the Opera 1935

The Marx Brother starred in this farce which includes the most famous hilarous performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the final scene.

Charlie Chan at the Opera 1936

Movies about the detective Charlie Chan were hugely popular in the 1930s. In the 13th movie of the series Charlie Chan investigates murders at the opera. The opera Carnival played here was written specifically for this movie by Oscar Levant.

Citizen Kane 1941

brought to us by Orson Welles where Kane wants to make his wife into an opera singer. The scene at the opera is by Bernard Herrmann who created the opera “Salammbô” specifically for this movie.

Senso 1954

This Visconti movie begins in the opera with Verdi’s Il Trovatore. There is a second scene at the opera later in the movie again with Il Trovatore



SISSI, Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin  1957

When Elisabeth (Sissi) and Emperor Franz Joseph visit La Scala in Milan they are greeted by Va pensiero from Nabucco instead of the Austrian hymn.

La Luna 1979

Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie has a final scene in the Arena di Verona with a rehearsal of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera

Age of Innocence from 1993 

The movie starts with a visist to the opera in New York 1870. The performance is of the most played opera of that time – Gounod’s Faust.

Pretty Woman 1990

Here is the scene where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts’ LA call-girl Vivian to the opera. The performance is most appropriately La Traviata.

Diva 1981

French romantic thriller in which the performance of  “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from La Wally by Catalani sung by Wilhelmenia Fernandez plays a central role because of a bootleg recording. 


Fitzcarraldo 1982

A great movie which starts off with Verdi’s Ernani and has an extraordinary ending: ‘A te o cara’ from Bellini’s I Puritani performed on board a steamboat on the Amazonas !


Life is Beautiful 1997 

Here Jacques Offenbach’s Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffmann is performed on scene while the leading actor Guido Orefice (Benigni) is much more interested in something else.


The Fifth Element  1997

Science Fiction and opera – what a unique combination. Bruce Willis visits the spaceship opera where the Blue Diva Plavalaguna (sung by Inva Mula) performs ‘Il dolce suono’ from Lucia di Lammermoor. But soon violence erupts.

Moonstruck 1987

Ronny and Loretta go to the Metropolitan Opera to see Puccini’s La Boheme.
Nice views of Lincoln Center too.

The Godfather Part III

This is my personal favourite. The movie ends (almost) with a performance of Cavalleria rusticana at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and the famous shooting scene on the opera theaters huge entrance staircase when Al Pacino’s daughter is killed. Each time I walked those stairs I thought of this scene.

Meeting Venus or Zauber der Venus 1991

The final scene of the movie with Glenn Close as opera star performing in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The soundtrack features Rene Kollo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Håkan Hagegård and Waltraud Meier.

Marie Antoinette

The French Queen’s visit to the opera theatre attending Rameau’s Castor et Pollux. The aria is ‘Tristes apprêts’ (Sad Endings) and is sung by princess Telaire after the death of her lover Castor in battle

Quantum of Solace 2008

James Bond and Tosca – that is quite a combination. The performance is on the floating stage on Lake Constance of the Bregenz Opera Festival.


Intouchables 2011

Philippe and Driss go to the opera and watch Weber’s Der Freischütz. Watch Driss’ reaction !


Mission Impossible Rogue Nation 2015

A Quote from Glyndebourne Opera:

“This ten-minute sequence is one of cinema’s most lavish homages to opera – a scene whose tense will-he-or-won’t- he drama is every bit the equal of the music from Puccini’s Turandot that provides the soundtrack. It’s also a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at the inner workings of an opera house – in this case the magnificent Vienna State Opera.

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is in pursuit of his usual brand of international criminal masterminds. He follows them to the Vienna State Opera where he believes that they are conspiring to assassinate the Austrian Chancellor. With a little help from Simon Pegg’s laconic Benjie Lane and plenty of implausibly athletic feats, Hunt manages to see off not one but three would-be assassins, including a particularly opera-savvy one whose shot is timed precisely to the climactic final Top A of the tenor’s showpiece aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ (though if she was a real expert the Top B just beforehand might have been a better bet).

Puccini’s aria is one of opera’s greatest hits – a triumphant musical shout of confidence in which Prince Calaf vows to be the one to vanquish the princess Turandot’s three riddles and win her hand. Cruise might be the ultimate action-hero, but when it comes to sheer bravado, Calaf leaves him in the dust.”

That is it. Do you have any other favourites ? Please comment below !

I hope you will continue to enjoy both operas and movies.



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Comment (12)

  1. There is an opera scene in Charlie Chan at the Opera, and there is also an opera scene in a thriller starring Boris Karloff, but I cannot remember the name of the movie. Also some of the Mario Lanza movies include scenes in the opera house, such as That Midnight Kiss (maybe the best of all of them) and A Night in New Orleans, both with Kathryn Grayson. There is a Mel Brooks film where there is a sequence at the opera of Un Ballo in Maschera, and finally the movie Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn where there is a Mikado sequence at the opera sung by members of the NYC Opera.

  2. Oh yes!
    Match Point.
    Terrore nell’ opera. (Argento)
    La luna. (Bertolucci)
    Meeting Venus. (Szabo)
    Le maître de music
    Highlander III
    Ludwig (Visconti)
    Casanova (Fellini)
    Ė la nave va. ( Fellini)!!!

  3. Great post. Thank you.
    Some comments:
    1. Bernard Herrmann, ( incorrectly spelled)
    2. You need to include “Dio! mi potevi scagliar”– entire scene sung by Mario Lanza in “Serenade” (1956)

    1. Thanks George, I corrected the spelling.
      Actually I stayed away from Mario Lanza movies by intent.
      You would expect an opera performance in such movies. Would you not?
      In James Bond, Sci-Fi, Tom Cruise you would not.
      And that was the point I am trying to make….

      1. Flamand–
        Thanks for the reply. I don’t quite get the point, but I appreciate your comments.
        Actually, the Lanza performance of “Dio! mi potevi scagliar”from Otello, is quite good. Most of the other Lanza movies include only arias, but I’m still amazed that a ’50s film would play that scene in its entirety.
        As for Lanza’s credentials, let’s not forget that in the mid/late forties, before he changed his address to MGM, Lanza was a member of the Bel Canto trio, along with Jennie Tourel and George London.
        Rather impressive credentials….

  4. There is also Ingmar Bergman’s 1975 film ‘The Magic Flute’ and a more recent version directed by Kenneth Branagh in 2006.

    1. There are very many opera films. But this blog/list is not about opera films. It is about films on a non-musical subject which include a scene at the opera.

  5. The Chevy Chase / Goldie Hawn movie “Foul Play” includes an attempted assassination during a San Francisco Opera performance of “The Mikado.” [OK, so it’s not an opera — still a funny movie]

  6. I’m surprised that the quote from the Glyndebourne Opera would state that the aria Nessun Dorma is about Calaf and his intent to answer Turandot’s three riddles. It is not! He has already answered all three riddles. Now he has given HER a riddle – find out his name before sunrise. Then he sings Nessun Dorma, which states that no one sleeps (the riddle needs to be solved.)

  7. I don’t remember the title of the movie or television film where where in a thriller the plot culminates when Cavaradossi is shot for real on stage – does anybody remember?
    Thank you in advance

  8. I can remember a bunch of Czech or Czecho- Slovak comedies, where seeing an opera is part of a plot. Mabe I will write a blog with links later.

    Merry Christmas octopus – The children visit an opera, carying with them their magical little friends made from living plasticine. The plasticine creatures are so moved by the plight of Rusalka, that they start interfering with the opera to help her, causing an uproar in the theater.

    The Accumulator 1 – a young man finds out, that he becomes energy depleted every time he watches TV, to the point of almost dying. He always has to recharge by healthier activities, to survive. When his girlfriend takes him to the opera (Nabucco), he becomes so super-charged, that he starts jumping in his seat and leaves the building several times to store the spare energy in the pile of wood (the wood works that way in this reality).


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