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The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute, written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

Synopsis of The Magic Flute

 A prince rescues a princess from a sorcerer in this version of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute. Directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Product description of The Magic Flute

Ingmar Bergman’s Magic Flute is a magical adaptation of Mozart’s last opera. The tale of two star-crossed lovers–and an impish man whose greatest desire is to find a wife–unfolds through Mozart’s glorious score. With all the urgency of a live performance, it is the most successful popularization of an opera to date.

Editorial review of The Magic Flute courtesy of Amazon.com

The Magic Flute, written and directed by Ingmar BergmanIngmar Bergman’s vision of The Magic Flute (sung here in Swedish) remains one of the indisputable classics in the opera-as-film catalog, its charm and enchantment undiminished since the film’s initial release in the 1970s. This is a case not of competition between two geniuses (and two media) but of affirmative, graceful, and enlightening synergy. Instead of simply filming a staged run-through of the opera, Bergman chooses to play with the framework around such a performance (given in Stockholm’s elegant Drottningholm Theatre)–and he moreover rearranges the order of the scenes in the final act. Intermittent shots of audience reactions–including those of a young girl infectiously involved in the story–and sudden, psychologically probing close-up angles result in a richly textured, multilayered effect.

Certainly Bergman renders the fairy-tale aspects of Mozart’s mise-en-scène with such buoyant detail that the film makes an excellent entrée both for youngsters and for anyone who is uneasy about how to approach an opera. Yet there is much food for thought to be savored by the already initiated as well. One of Bergman’s more brilliant interventions is to depict Sarastro and the Queen of the Night as a divorced couple engaged in a bitter battle over daughter Pamina. The director supplies plenty of energetic wit and arabesques of allusion (in addition to his Prospero-like demeanor, the high priest Sarastro is shown at one point during the intermission perusing the score of Parsifal), and–as might be expected of one of film’s greatest symbolists–teases out the opera’s weightier allegorical levels with hauntingly beautiful effect. Brilliant chiaroscuro and contrasted lighting patterns, for example, offer ongoing visual commentary on the contest between darkness and light. The cast is exceptionally photogenic, their abundant youth and obvious chemistry more than compensating for the often no-more-than-mediocre vocal performances (with the exception of Håkan Hagegård’s utterly disarming,

Brilliant chiaroscuro and contrasted lighting patterns, for example, offer ongoing visual commentary on the contest between darkness and light. The cast is exceptionally photogenic, their abundant youth and obvious chemistry more than compensating for the often no-more-than-mediocre vocal performances (with the exception of Håkan Hagegård’s utterly disarming, still-fresh portrayal of Papageno). For a desert-island audio recording, try Thomas Beecham. –Thomas May

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