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  • Neil Kimel, French Horn

Opera in Movies

While movies can elicit intense emotions, the addition of an opera house or its music dramatically enhances the cinematic experience. Here are five examples where opera plays a pivotal role in a scene from a film.

Moonstruck (1987) La Boheme

The memorable sequence when Cher and Nicholas Cage go to the Metropolitan Opera to see La Boheme is one of the more romantic and touching cinematic “dates” out there. The anticipation, dressing up, the spectacle of the Met itself, and of course, the music. What more needs to be said? Consider taking your next date to the opera for a special night like this one.

Citizen Kane (1941) Salommbo

You haven’t heard of Salommbo? That is because it was an original work by the composer of the film’s soundtrack, Bernard Herrmann. Charles Foster Kane’s wife, Susan Alexander, is an opera singer, thus giving way to numerous scenes with performances of this mashup of Salome and Thaïs. It is enjoyable to watch different people’s reactions to this character’s infamously mediocre singing.

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) Turandot

High in the scenery fly loft above a performance of Turandot at the Vienna State Opera, Tom Cruise must fight the bad guy. From lighting to costumes to scenery, this is a backstage look at what it takes to put on an opera while we watch over-the-top combat. Who knew that an alto flute could be used as a weapon?! (Ed. note: We all knew, Neil.) If you admire the suspense of this sequence exactingly tied to the music, you must also watch this scene from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), to which this scene is undoubtedly paying homage: Watch here

Fatal Attraction (1987) Madama Butterfly

There’s nothing quite like an evening of cooking delicious food while listening to opera. In Fatal Attraction, we get Puccini and spaghetti! Michael Douglas and Glenn Close share wine, food and sentimental memories inspired by Madama Butterfly. While superficially quiet and innocent, the music during this scene foreshadows the cinematic tragedy that will ultimately ensue.

A Night at the Opera (1935) Il Trovatore

A cream pie thrown in the face of a dowager is just funny. Similarly, the Marx Brothers’ out of place physical comedy and antics paired with Verdi’s Il Trovatore makes us all laugh. Opera doesn’t only heighten the drama, but it can enhance comedy as well.

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