Top 10 opera movies: great masterpieces that brought the best of grand opera to our screens.
It is always difficult to draw up rankings when it comes to great masterpieces. In this case we are dealing with cinematic masterpieces concerning operatic masterpieces. Here is a ranking of the best operatic films (many of them from the 1980s) in which the difference in quality is often minimal or non-existent; but all of these films deserve an honorable mention for the attention paid by the filmmakers towards the original opera.
1. Verdi’s La Traviata (1983), directed by Franco Zeffirelli, may be the greatest opera film ever. It’s beautifully sung by Domingo and Stratas, deftly orchestrated, with lush settings, costumes and décor.
2. Wagner’s Parsifal (1982), directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. The search for the Holy Grail narrated in a singular, expressionistic, avant-garde style.
3. Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1979), directed by Joseph Losey, is the Don Giovanni par excellence with a great cast with the likes of Ruggero Raimondi, José Van Dam, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Kenneth Riegel.
4. Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1975), directed by Ingmar Bergman. This cerebral masterwork brings up some of the darker aspects of Mozart’s operatic masterpiece.
5. Bizet’s Carmen (1984), directed by Franceso Rosi. One of the most popular opera ever with a superb Julia Migenes playing Carmen, and Placido Domingo playing a legendary Don Jose. Amazing tunes and a provocative plot.
6. Verdi’s Otello (1986), directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Plácido Domingo as Otello, Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona and Justino Diaz as Iago are excellent. Great set design, spectacular orchestration, all is perfect to forgive Zeffirelli's ‘liberties’ with respect to the original opera.
7. Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1995) This Frédéric Mitterand production sets the action in a lakeside Tunisian hamlet specially constructed to resemble the setting of the opera, a Japanese town outside Nagasaki. Period costumes, special effects, careful cinematography, and subtitles.
8. Puccini’s La Bohème (1965), directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The singing from Raimondi and Mirella Freni is magnificent.
9. Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1974) directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. At the heart of the tale is Figaro (Hermann Prey) and the love triangle of Count Almaviva (Luigi Alva), Rosina (Teresa Berganza), and her guardian, Batolo.
10. Verdi’s Rigoletto (1982) directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. Both Ingvar Wixell and Luciano Pavarotti are magnificent in this colorful film. How to forget the famous aria “La Donna È Mobile” sung by Pavarotti!
The list may still go on: Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (1982) directed by Franco Zeffirelli; Puccini’s Tosca (1976) directed by Gianfranco De Bosio; Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (1982) directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and many more!