Tuesday, October 05, 2004


We've been watching more DVDs lately. Here's one.


I recall disappointment, thinking the movie un-Berman-like when I first saw it. This viewing was pure delight. It's just right for what it is. The music is beautiful, voices excellent, acting just right, and cinematography entirely appropriate for all the rest.

The film evokes the original production of the opera in 1791, but is presented as to a modern audience of all the world, including a cherub in whom Bergman and the camera take particular delight.

The opera's libretto isn't as bad as some, though Mozart gave too much rein to his infatuation with Freemasonry.

As one critic says: "Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in 1791, just after the French Revolution and just before he died. Haydn had introduced Mozart to Freemasonry, and the opera is full of the ideas (the autonomy of the individual, self-determination, appalling sexism) and ideals (power, wisdom, beauty) of the Masons...." Arthur Lazere

This hodge-podge is interesting from a history-of-ideas perspective, and Bergman's touch is respectful of the original but far from propagandizing this view of life. His Music-Hall moral placards keep the Masonic themes from weighing down the tone of boyant optimism.

Another critic, Mark Blumberg, says, "Rarely does one see a movie that has such visual flair and sincere emotions that it fills the viewer with so much excitement."

Squib from the Internet Movie Database:
Bergman's Magic Flute
made for TV
Far from attempting to open out the opera, Bergman has been at pains to recreate the atmosphere of the 1791 production at the Theater auf der Weiden in Vienna (even the dragon that pursues Tamino upstage is a delightful creature of felt and bunting). The Drottningholm Palace Theatre proved too fragile to accommodate a TV crew, so the stage was carefully reconstructed in the studios of the Swedish Film Institute, under the direction of Henny Noremark.

This one's from Bright Lights Film Journal
Ingmar Bergman does it again!
Mozart’s librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, was a prominent German Shakespearean actor, who’d just finished a run in The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most artificial plays. Schikaneder imported Shakespeare’s characters wholesale, so that Prospero equals Sarastro, Ferdinand equals Tamino, Miranda equals Pamina, Caliban equals Monostratos, and Ariel equals Popagano. The Magic Flute hovers deliberately between comic opera and fairy tale, and Bergman takes off on this. ... Schikaneder’s libretto is, famously, a mess, but that’s half the charm. It’s hard to see how anyone could make The Magic Flute coherent, and, at any rate, Bergman wasn’t the man for the job.

Other Magic Flute links

New York Times

DVD Beaver

British Film Institute

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