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6 Greatest Opera Moments in Movies

Music has always played a key role in movies and opera has been a staple in many genres. Usually used to reflect the plot of the story, operas are an effective way to show a change in a character or provide a backdrop for action. While many films use opera music in their soundtracks, this list is all about moments at the opera. Here are 6 great Opera Moments in the movies.


Pretty Woman (1990)

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A down-on-her-luck woman named Vivian (Julia Roberts) working as a prostitute encounters a wealthy businessman (Richard Gere) who needs a date for the week to accompany him to some formal functions and of course they fall in love. One of these functions is an evening at the opera, her first ever. With new clothes and a very expensive diamond necklace, they go to La Traviata, an opera about rich man falling in love with a courtesan. Hey, just like them. Naturally she is moved to tears and we see the tender side of her and the spark that helps him fall in love with her.

Moonstruck (1987)

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Loretta Castorini (Cher) is engaged to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) who must leave for Italy to visit his sick mother. Before he goes, he asks Loretta to invite his estranged younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to come to the wedding. She visits Ronny at his the bread store where he works the ovens and discovers he is tortured soul, blaming his brother for the loss of his hand. But attraction is a fickle thing and it’s not long before the two are in bed, their passions overtaking them. Ashamed, Loretta tells him it can’t go on but Ronny is in love and pleads for one date, a night at the opera. She agrees and transforms herself from a frumpy slightly grayed spinster to a sensual beauty and at Lincoln Center watches Puccini’s La bohème, which moves her to tears and helps her to see the passion in Ronny. Too bad she also sees her father in the audience with another, far younger woman.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

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This re-imagining of the young queen is crafted for a younger audience, straying from history but remaining genuinely entertaining. Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) is a spontaneous youth, and the film follows her journey from teenaged bride to experienced woman to queen of France. In an age of extreme formality, she raises concerns and eyebrows with her apparent lack of manners, though she only wants to be a good person. In Versailles, attending a court performance, the young queen sits above and centered, thoroughly enjoying the show as around her, others talk and seem disinterested. When it’s over, she begins to clap, a major social faux pas at the time, but she ignores the rule and continues, moved by the music and soon her clap spreads through the entire house until all are giving applause. A challenging moment for Antoinette, the scene is beautiful and touching.

Fifth Element 1997

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Every 5,000 years the greatest evil in universe arrives and the only thing able to defeat it is a weapon consisting of five elements. The first four are stones of earth, air, water, and fire. The fifth element is a life form that takes the shape of a beautiful woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) who escapes the confinement tank she is being held in. She gets help from a flying taxicab driver named Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) where they end up in a luxury intergalactic space cruise ship to meet a contact. She is Diva Plavalaguna (voiced by Inva Mula and acted by Maïwenn Le Besco), an opera singer with special information. She sings for a thrilled audience a song called The Diva Dance, an interpretation of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor: Il dolce suono that is part opera and dance mix. It’s a startling performance that is unexpected and for a few minutes transforms this fun action movie into a near transcendent experience.

Farinelli (1994)

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Carlo Broschi (Stefano Dionisi) is an 18th century flamboyant castrato opera singer using the stage name Farinelli. His performances on stage are the rage of the music industry, turning the classics into a kind of Vegas lounge act that has women swooning. The story is much more tragic than that and while there are several stunning musical moments, the highlight is the film’s finale when Farinelli performs Handel’s Lascia Ch’io Pianga, a story about man who weeps about his cruel fate and longs for freedom. Hey, just like him. What matters is that while he sings for a full audience, having learned of the truth about his castration, he is looking at his father seated in the audience, the man who made him who he is. It’s a heartbreaking, breathtaking performance.

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

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Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMP team are threatened with the elimination of their agency but go undercover to find and take down the criminal organization called The Syndicate. Hunt, now a fugitive, follows a lead to Vienna, enlisting his partner Benji (Simon Pegg) to meet up at a performance of Turandot for the Austrian Chancellor. While the opera begins, up in the catwalks and behind the curtains, Hunt is playing a silent game of cat and mouse with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a former IMF agent working for the Syndicate who appears to be trying to kill the Chancellor, though another operative emerges and soon there is chaos behind the scenes. It’s the single greatest opera moment in the movies, a perfectly staged, sublimely executed scene that is the highlight of an already great film.

 

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