I love Roberto Benigni’s 1997 film La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful), which somehow brings grace and humor to the horrifying subject of the Holocaust. The first hour of the film actually takes place prior to the deportation of Jews from Italy, as Roberto’s character Guido woos Dora (played by Benigni’s real wife, Nicoletta Braschi). In one scene, he goes to the opera because he knows she’ll be there. I was 11 when I first watched this, which was before I truly loved opera, but I remember being mesmerized by the gorgeous duet in this scene. Being 1997, this was also pre-Google, so I tracked down the opera by finding the film’s soundtrack in a CD store (remember those?) The following duet is the Barcarolle from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman:

The duet returns later in the movie after Guido, Dora, and their young son Giosué are interned in a Nazi concentration camp. Though their surroundings are bleak, Guido does what he can to instill beauty in their lives. Fittingly, the Barcarolle begins with the lyrics “Beautiful night, oh night of love, smile on our joys…”