Pop Culture Deaths in Venice

26 February 2024

There’s not long to go before Welsh National Opera’s brand-new production of Death in Venice opens at our home venue in Cardiff. Britten’s dark and dramatic opera creates images of ravishing beauty, as well as exploring the grotesque hidden beneath the surface as the beautiful city of Venice faces a deadly cholera epidemic. 

Based on Thomas Mann’s novella of the same name, Britten’s Death in Venice isn’t the only time mortality has been challenged in La Serenissima, the City of Canals. From James Bond to Spider-man, let’s look at some other popular culture moments that have juxtaposed the ending of life with the watery beauty of Venice.  

There are three James Bond movies with scenes in Venice; the first being From Russia with Love (1963) where Rosa Klebb, a SPECTRE operative tries to kill Bond in his hotel room but is eventually shot by Bond’s lover Tatiana. 1978’s Moonraker sees Bond arrive by gondola to St Mark’s Square and, after discovering a secret laboratory, gets into a fight with his main opponent, Hugo Drax’s henchman Chang. Bond throws Chang through the glass clock-face of the St Mark's clocktower, killing him. In Daniel Craig’s first outing as the secret service agent, Casino Royale (2006), Bond falls in love with British Treasury agent, Vesper, and the couple travel to Venice. While there, gunmen take Vesper captive inside a Venetian palace undergoing restoration, and Bond shoots the building's flotation devices, causing it to sink into the Grand Canal as he picks off the shooters. 

From spies to sharks, Shark in Venice stars Stephen Baldwin as an archaeologist who travels to Venice with his girlfriend in search of his missing father. While in the Italian city, they discover that the canals are teaming with sharks and unsuspecting tourists are being devoured. 

Another archaeologist who travels to Venice in search of his missing father is Indiana Jones. In The Last CrusadeIndy discovers a secret catacomb beneath the library where his father was last seen. There, he is attacked by the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a group dedicated to preventing treasure seekers from obtaining the grail, but instead of killing the group’s leader, Indy spares him in return for information on his father’s whereabouts. 

In A Haunting in Venicedetective Hercule Poirot attends a Halloween party and séance at the palazzo of famed opera singer Rowena Drake. The palazzo, a former orphanage, is believed to be haunted by the spirits of children who died there during a city-wide plague with rumours claiming that the spirits torment those who dare enter. With party guests dying one by one, Poirot begins investigating and discovers that Rowena caused the deaths, hoping to pass them off as part of the children's curse.  

In 2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Homethe Elementals, which are illusions based on earth, wind, fire and water, wreak havoc across the world. Spider-Man, Peter Parker, is on a school trip in Venice, when the Water Elemental attacks. The beast explodes out of the canal, destroying boats, bridges and buildings, causing death and destruction across the picturesque city. 

While there may not be sharks or spies in our new production, Death in Venice has everything else you could want from a night at the opera; beautiful music, a compelling story and stunning sets with astounding acrobatic work. Join us as we tour to venues across Wales and England this Spring.