Taglines: Obsession. Murder. Madness.
When Mara Cecova, the arrogant and ill-tempered star of an avant-garde production of Verdi’s Macbeth at the Parma Opera House, is injured after getting hit by a car outside the theater during an argument with the director, Cecova’s young understudy, Betty (Cristina Marsillach), is informed of the incident and is given the coveted role of Lady Macbeth. In spite of her initial sense of foreboding, Betty is an instant success with her performance.
However, an anonymous figure finds his way into the opera house on the opening night, watching Betty’s performance from an empty box. When a stagehand finds him, the man murders him by impaling him on a coat-hook. While at her boyfriend Stefano’s (William McNamara) apartment, the unseen assailant breaks in and attacks and overpowers Betty. He ties her to a pillar, and forces her to watch him kill Stefano, taping a row of needles beneath each of her eyes to ensure she sees every horrific detail.
Afterwards, the hooded, masked killer unties Betty and flees the apartment. Disturbed by a half-hidden childhood recollection of the same hooded killer murdering her own mother several years earlier, Betty chooses not to go to the police and instead confides in her director, Marco (Ian Charleson) that the killer may know her.
The next day, Police Inspector Alan Santini (Urbano Barberini) arrives at the opera house where he questions the staff about Stefano’s murder as well as an apparently connected attack on the troubled production’s pet ravens, three of which were found dead after the show. Betty arrives at the opera house for rehearsals, but avoids Santini, hiding in her dressing room, where she calls her agent, the motherly Mira (Daria Nicolodi), for advice on her situation.
Later that day, after her costume is found slashed to ribbons, Betty meets with the wardrobe seamstress, Giulia (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni). While repairing the dress, Giulia finds a gold bracelet sewn onto it. While Betty and Giulia try to find what the faded words on the bracelet say, the killer intervenes, once again tying Betty up and taping needles under her eyes. He then attacks Giulia in order to retrieve the bracelet. Bleeding to death from stab wounds, Giulia inadvertently swallows the bracelet with her dying breath, forcing the assailant to cut her throat open in order to retrieve it. The assailant unties Betty and flees.
When Betty flees to her apartment, she is met in the lobby by Inspector Santini and tells him about the latest murder and that the killer may be after her. Santini promises to send Betty a detective to keep guard over her. While Betty struggles with her vision after applying eye drops, a man identifying himself as Inspector Soavi arrives to look after her.
Some time later, Mira arrives and tells Betty that she talked with a man in the lobby claiming to be Inspector Soavi. Unsure of which one is the impostor, Betty and Mira hide while the figure claiming to be Soavi receives a phone call and leaves the apartment. While Betty tries to call the police, Mira hears a knock on the front door. Mira demands the visitor identify himself, and is not convinced when he shows police ID and a gun.
As she looks the peep hole, she is shot in the head and killed. Betty is forced to hide as the killer breaks in, and she comes across the real Inspector Soavi (Michele Soavi) who stumbles into the apartment after being fatally stabbed. After a game of cat-and-mouse in the apartment with the half-blind Betty trading gunshots at the hooded killer with Soavi’s gun, she escapes through a ventilation shaft when a little neighbor girl helps her escape into her apartment down the hallway.
Opera (also known and released as Terror at the Opera) is a 1987 Italian giallo film co-written and directed by Dario Argento, with music composed and performed by Brian Eno, Claudio Simonetti, and Bill Wyman. Starring Cristina Marsillach, Urbano Barberini, and Ian Charleson, the plot focuses on a young soprano (Marsillach) involved in a series of murders being committed inside an opera house by a masked assailant.
The film was one of Argento’s most commercially successful, seeing 1,363,912 ticket sales in his native country of Italy. This is the second Dario Argento horror film to have THX audio certified and picture quality.
Directed by: Dario Argento
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Antonella Vitale, Barbara Cupisti, William McNamara
Screenplay by: Dario Argento
Production Design by: Davide Bassan
Cinematography by: Ronnie Taylor
Film Editing by: Franco Fraticelli
Costume Design by: Lia Francesca Morandini
Set Decoration by: Valeria Paoloni
Art Direction by: Gian Maurizio Fercioni
Music by: Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Steel Grave, Claudio Simonetti, Bill Wyman
MPAA Rating: R for strong terror and violence, and for a scene of sensuality.
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: December 19, 1987