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Max von Sydow
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
Some opera-buff acquaintances of mine have called Ingmar Bergman's movie of "The Magic Flute" the only good opera film ever made. While I don't know enough about opera to be able to accurately judge that, this movie is certainly a delightful experience. Sung in Swedish by a cast of photogenic Scandinavians, the film both looks and sounds wonderful.
With its fairy-tale plot and passages of spoken dialogue in addition to singing, "The Magic Flute" is already a very accessible opera. Bergman accentuates this by taking an unpretentious "Opera for Everyone" approach, exemplified by his close-up shots of audience members' faces as the overture plays. His production mostly has an 18th-century rococo/ Neoclassical look, though there are a few jarringly modern touches, such as writhing dancers in the last scene. Other than that, this seems a pretty faithful (if shortened) version of the opera that captures its comedy as well as its serious themes.
Mozart's music is both gorgeous and character-appropriate: lyrical arias for aristocratic lovers Tamino and Pamina, powerful coloratura for the vengeful Queen of the Night, folksy melodies for the bird-catcher Papageno. Papageno, a lovable Everyman type, is probably my favorite character in the opera, and Hakan Hagegard does the role justice. Ingmar Bergman's movies are known for their focus on human psychology, and even though "The Magic Flute" is a fantasy, the cast members make their actions believable. They do not just stand and sing like divas; they become tangible human beings.
This collaboration across the centuries between two great artists, Mozart and Bergman, yielded a lovely result. Highly recommended for novice opera-watchers and serious opera buffs alike--though I'm sure many opera fans have already seen this treat of a movie.
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