10 Fabulous movies on Opera

Fitzcarraldo – Werner Herzog – 1982

'Fitzcarraldo' by Werner Herzog 1982

The story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an extremely determined man who intends to build an opera house in the middle of a jungle.

Callas Forever – Franco Zeffirelli – 2002

Fanny Ardant in Callas Forever directed by Franco Zeffirelli, photographed by Fabian Cevallos, 2001

A fictionalised account of the last days of opera singer Maria Callas (wonderfully played by Fanny Ardant)

ARIA – Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge, Julien Temple – 1987


Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (Vivaldi, Bach, Wagner), and is an interpretation of the particular aria

Tosca’s Kiss – Daniel Schmid – 1984


Meet the inhabitants of the “Casa di Riposa” in Milan, the world’s first nursing home for retired opera singers, founded by composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. In his documentary film Tosca’s Kiss, which has developed an underground cult following over the years and is a favorite among opera and music lovers worldwide, director Daniel Schmid has captured a world in which these wonderful singers (many of whom had significant careers on the opera stage) re-live and re-enact their triumphant roles of the glorious past. Tosca’s Kiss is a touching and often hilarious film on the subject of aging and the power and timeless capacity of music to inspire.

What’s Opera, Doc? – Chuck Jones – 1957 – short

What's Opera, Doc_ 1957 by Chuck Jones

Elmer Fudd is again hunting rabbits – only this time it’s an opera. Wagner’s Siegfried with Elmer as the titular hero and Bugs as Brunnhilde. They sing, they dance, they eat the scenery.

Meeting Venus – István Szabó – 1991

'Meeting Venus' by Istvan Szabo 1991 starring Glenn Close

“A deliciously biting satire about both the world of Grand Opera and United Europe. A Hungarian conductor (Arestrup) attempts to mount a bold new production of Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” while navigating the snares and pitfalls of artistic egos, rampant nationalism, internal company dramas, union politics and precarious funding.” Dawn M. Barclift 

Farinelli – Gerárd Corbiau – 1994

FARINELLI: IL CASTRATO, Stefano Dionisi, 1994, © Sony Pictures Classics

“Farinelli, is the artistic name of Carlo Broschi, a young singer in Handel’s time. He was castrated in his childhood in order to preserve his voice. During his life he becomes to be a very famous opera singer, managed by his mediocre brother” Micheal Rudoy

Young Toscanini – Franco Zeffirelli – 1988

'Young Toscanini' by Franco Zeffirelli starring Elizabeth Taylor

A fanciful biopic of legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini as a very young man. Look out for Elizabeth taylor in what seems to be blackface.

And the ship sails on – Federico Fellini – 1983

'And the Ship Sails On' (E la Nave Va) by Federico Fellini 1983

In 1914, a luxury ship leaves Italy in order to scatter the ashes of a famous opera singer. A lovable bumbling journalist chronicles the voyage and meets the singer’s many eccentric friends and admirers.

The music teacher – Gerárd Corbiau – 1988

The Music Teacher ( Le Maitre de musique) by Gerard Corbiau 1988

“Aging opera singer Joachim Dallayrac retires from the stage and retreats to the countryside to school two young singers, Sophie and Jean. Although the rigorous training takes its toll on both teacher and students, there is plenty of time for relationships to develop between the three.” Kevin Kraynak

By Oleg Mitrofanov


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