Opera in Film

Even if you’re a newcomer to the world of opera, chances are you’re already familiar with some of opera’s best known music – especially if you’ve seen one of these films before! (Consider yourself warned, some spoilers ahead…)


Mrs Doubtfire


This amazing parody of Figaro’s aria from Rossini‘s The Barber of Seville opens Mrs Doubtfire. Chuck Jones, the iconic animator for Looney Tunes (who has parodied opera classics countless times before), directed the creation of this opening scene.

Audiences loved Pudgy Parakeet and Grunge the Cat so much so that the full five-minute feature of this scene was included on the Mrs Doubtfire DVD several years later.

Discover the Barber of Seville

Pretty Woman


Always wondered which opera Edward and Vivienne go to see in Pretty Woman? It’s Verdi‘s La Traviata!

The song you’ll probably recognise the most is Violetta’s ‘Sempre Libera’, which is the first sung aria in the clip.

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Fatal Attraction has more ties to Puccini’s Madam Butterfly than just this scene where Dan and Alex are listening to the aria ‘Con onor muore’. It’s no coincidence that the two main characters, played by Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, first meet at a Japanese-themed party.

Later in the film, Alex offers Dan tickets to go and see a production of Madam Butterfly, which they both claim is their favourite opera.

The most obvious connection is perhaps the alternate ending for the film (which was scrapped), in which the scorned woman, Alex, kills herself with a knife. This scene has parallels with the opera as the Butterfly stabs herself, choosing to die with honour rather than live in shame.

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Just like Pretty Woman, the characters in this scene are actually attending the opera.

This time, James Bond is scoping out the bad guys at a performance of Puccini‘s Tosca, filmed at the open air opera in Brengenz, Austria.  Cleverly, the film scene and the act of the opera, almost mirror each other.

Discover Tosca

Apocalypse Now


No opera in film list is complete without a feature of Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

If you haven’t already seen the film, you probably won’t know that the use of Wagner‘s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from the enormous Ring Cycle, isn’t merely used as background accompaniment.

As instructed by their commander, the soldiers in the film actually play the music through a speaker, in order to psych themselves up for battle.

Read our beginner’s guide to Wagner

Want to know why opera works so well in film? Take a look at this video that explains the emotional impact that many filmmakers create by using classical music in the films…