The Queen of the Night offers her daughter Pamina to Tamino, but he has to bring her back from her father and priest Sarastro. She gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to the bird ... See full summary »
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The Queen of the Night offers her daughter Pamina to Tamino, but he has to bring her back from her father and priest Sarastro. She gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to the bird hunter Papageno, who follows Tamino and wants to find a wife. The duo travels in a journey of love and knowledge. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Magic Flute is a great story. It's fast-moving, funny, touching and Harry-Potter fantastical. It's ideal for film. Unfortunately, it is also an opera, a theatrepiece unavoidably diminished when not experienced live. Indeed, given this opera's fantastical nature it is a wonder that anyone manages to stage it competently at all. It would seem that mounting any sort of a production is a compromised, Faustian arrangement.
Inevitably perhaps, Bergman's The Magic Flute is a model of how opera could be seen on screen. Instead of a double compromise, he essentially succeeds in offsetting the detractions of one form with the advantages of the other. Where the modern audience may baulk at the formal oddity of the actors singing to a disembodied camera, he assuages us with an overture full of that audience - modern, multicultural, multigenerational and attentive. The players themselves, though occupying fantastical roles are occasionally shown in the wings or backstage, notably in an irreverent 'interval' sequence.
In this way we are left watching a staged opera - Bergman has been able to avoid the temptation of filming either on 'location' or in a studio... but if you watch closely, as the film progresses, the theatre becomes a studio, the camera moving onto the stage and changing the theatrical two-dimensions into a cinematic three. He manages to have it both ways.
With this subtlety at work it's almost superfluous to talk about the production of the opera itself, although Bergman's respect for it demands our scrutiny. Given the period restrictions of the Drottingholm theatre where it was filmed it's a fairly inventive production, with a good range of quickly implemented effects (a snowy penultimate sequence is in-theatre rather than in-studio and entirely convincing). The vocal performances are mixed - Hakan Hagegard's Papageno, Irma Urrila's Pamina and Birgit Nordin's Queen of the Night the pick of the bunch. Ulrik Cold and Ragnar Ulfung as Sarastro and Monostatos are comparatively weak.
A little tinkering with the running order may be to blame for a slowing of the pace just before the trials, close to the denouement. Otherwise this is a brilliant film, the perfect advocate for an opera hamstrung only by it being one. 9/10
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