Gilliam, 72, will direct "Benvenuto Cellini," a technically challenging and rarely performed work by French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz, the London opera company said in announcing its 2013-14 season.
Berlioz was "wonderfully ahead of his time," Gilliam told the London Evening Standard.
"He had too many ideas, he was spectacular, he was shameless, the music is so extreme -- and I kind of identify with him," Gilliam said.
At the opera's 1838 premiere in Paris, audience members were so disturbed by its radical nature that they rioted.
Gilliam, whose films include "Brazil," "The Fisher King," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," didn't say what his vision for "Benvenuto Cellini" was. However, his successful 2011 production of Berlioz' "The Damnation of Faust" was set in Nazi Germany.
He joked with the newspaper he had "beginner's luck" with that production. He had never directed an opera before.
"Benvenuto Cellini," Berlioz' first opera, is loosely based on the memoirs of an influential Florentine Renaissance goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician of the same name who supposedly took some of his female models as mistresses.