Opera Meets Film: Maria Callas As The Ultimate Superhero in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

By David Salazar

“Opera Meets Film” is a feature dedicated to exploring the way that opera has been employed in cinema. We will select a section or a film in its entirety, highlighting the impact that utilizing the operatic form or sections from an opera can alter our perception of a film that we are viewing. This week’s installment is the mega-blockbuster hit “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

A few weeks back we took a look at the similarities between Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and Wagner’s “Ring,” exploring how the latter is essentially a building block for the latter.

Now we hone in more directly on one Marvel movie that actually brings the opera connection with superheroes to the forefront.

It’s not a major understatement to call an opera singer a superhero. Like the fantastical characters such as Spider-Man or Iron Man, opera singers are often known for being larger-than-life for one simple fact, they have a superpower many simply can’t comprehend. They can sing.

In fact, many people often wonder if the tale of singers being able to break glass with the potency of their voice is true. If that’s not a superpower, then what is?

So it is undeniably exciting to hear opera’s most legendary superstar make an appearance in a film featuring Marvel’s greatest superheroes.

The Greatest Opera Super Hero

This superstar is none other than Maria Callas, a diva who in many ways defined modern opera and its move toward a more complete and dramatically immersive artform. Callas was not just a great singer, but a compelling actress capable of fusing both her vocal prowess with her physical portrayals to create something few others had ever experienced. While one might say she revolutionized opera, the truth is that she took all the elements already inherent in the artform and united them into a perfect package.

Many see the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the same terms – taking what was already inherent in the superhero formula and perfecting it to an incredible degree.

Contrasting Characters

But the Callas connection is even more fascinating when we see how she is incorporated into “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” She is a literal superhero in the context.

After the opening battle, the heroes fly back to their base for a nice break. Suddenly the voice of Maria Callas singing “Casta Diva” takes over the soundtrack. It’s Bruce Banner, relaxing his inner Hulk” on his Beats headphones. Callas is literally subduing the uncontrollable green monster.

But the opera connections dig even deeper into exploring the character of Banner. We haven’t spent much time with the Hulk since the previous “Avengers” movie, so this addition of him listening to opera gives the viewer insight into his interests, while also adding a reminder of Bruce Banner’s cultured identity. He is a scientist and by the choice of music he listens to, it indicates that he is a rather sophisticated one.

And one interesting final note – compare Callas with Bruce Banner’s alter-ego. Callas is in control, her voice fine, and the singing gentle and glorious. The Hulk is the complete opposite – a raging monster that lacks articulation or a sense of control. Where Callas sings, he roars. Where Callas’ voice moves about with finesse and agility, the Hulk’s body is massive and clumsy. Whereas she creates, he destroys. And the same goes for Banner himself, particular in his role of creator in “Age of Ultron,” being one of the brains behind the births of both Ultron and Vision.



Opera Meets FilmSpecial Features