Most, if not all, modern films have a musical score accompanying them. Whether it’s classical, rock, or modern pop, music plays a huge part in films to accentuate the drama, comedy, or seriousness of a scene. It may come as a surprise that opera has played its part in some of the biggest movies ever shown on the big screen. From James Bond to Star Wars, opera has appeared when you least expect it. Here are some of the top films where this musical art form has appeared and maybe we haven’t even noticed.
James Bond – Quantum of Solace
The Suave British agent is never seen queuing up for Italian opera tickets or standing in line waiting to enter the Bolshoi, but we often see him dressed in a tuxedo, prepared to take down the bad guys while enjoying the performance on stage. In Quantum of Solace, Puccini’s Tosca is played out on stage while simultaneously, Bond takes out some of the bad guys in scenes that intersect each other magnificently to fully bring to life the drama of both the opera and Bond’s situation.
The Godfather Part III
Known as one of the greatest movies of all time, the finale of the Godfather trilogy is played out while the Cavalleria Rusticana opera by Pietro Mascagni plays. In a poignant scene, Michael Corleone’s son, Anthony, makes his operatic debut at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo. At the end of the performance, Mosca, a hitman hired to murder Corleone, shoots at the family, wounding Michael and killing his daughter Mary. As the scene plays out, the opera music intertwines with Michael Corleone’s screams in one of the most dramatic death scenes in movie history.
The 1987 story of a married man’s brief affair features Puccini’s Madame Butterfly throughout. Dan Gallagher, the protagonist, reveals to his lover Alex that his opera is Madame Butterfly. She then tries to persuade Dan to attend a performance with her, which he refuses and in one scene, Alex can be seen switching a lamp on and off while the opera plays in the background. In the play itself, Butterfly kills herself when she discovers her husband has married another woman, but Alex has no intention of following the operatic lead.
Francis Ford Coppola’s famous take on the Vietnam war features Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Often mistaken for a classical music piece associated with the Dambusters, this dramatic opera provides the backdrop for an American helicopter assault on a small coastal village as they rain death from the air. The choice of the Ride of the Valkyries was an inspired one as it fully captured the American war machine in full action.
Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars is more known for the music of John Williams than it is for opera, but in Episode III, George Lucas’s take on the opera in a galaxy far, far away was an incredible decision. In the scene, Anakin, still a loyal Jedi, meets with Chancellor Palpatine, unaware of his Sith alter ego. As the two discuss the difference between the Jedi and the Sith, an opera, that consists of light and energy, plays out amongst dark, sombre and haunting tones as Anakin is tempted to learn the dark side of the force. Not exactly the type of opera we’re used to, but it shows the creative flair that this art form can take.