Kenneth Branagh Transforms Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE Into A Cinematic Experience

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Screening in select U.S. theaters on Sunday, June 9, and Tuesday, June 11, Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute transforms Mozart's opera into a true cinematic experience.

Branagh is also scheduled to participate in a question-and-answer session after the screening on Sunday, live via webcast from London. Among other questions, he might be asked, "What took so long?" The film enjoyed a simultaneous world premiere at the Toronto and Venice film festivals in September 2006, timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Subsequently it was released in multiple territories, including Canada and England, but not the U.S.

Now Emerging Pictures, a company that specializes in delivering specialty films and "alternate content" (opera, ballet) to a network of participating theaters, has secured theatrical screenings, however limited. And Revolver Entertainment will release the film on DVD and make it available via various Video On Demand providers on Tuesday, June 11.

Ingmar Bergman made the first and most famous screen version of The Magic Flute for television in 1975; two animated versions followed before Branagh took on the challenge. Stephen Fry wrote a new English-language libretto. Admittedly, my knowledge of opera is more limited than Bugs Bunny and/or Elmer Fudd in Chuck Jones' What's Opera, Doc?, but, watching the film in advance on DVD, I was quickly caught up by the beauty of Mozart's music, the amazing vocals by a cast of well-trained opera singers, and Branagh's staging, which is fluid and dynamic.

Within Branagh's directorial ouevre, the film falls in the period when he was making As You Like It and before Sleuth. In its bold color palette, it's a partner with As You Like It; on both, Branagh worked with cinematographer Roger Lanser, who collaborated with him on several films in the early 1990s. The highly-stylized atmosphere is augmented by digital imagery that probably wasn't state of the art, even in 2006, but, nonetheless, the artificiality seems of a piece with the balance of the film.

The result is a strong piece of work that is well worth seeking out. The Region 1 DVD includes 11 cast and crew interviews and a 'Making of' featurette.

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  • BeBe Booyah

    That is the problem with the film. Opera people don't like seeing operas translated and made into movies. They also do not like operas performed on Broadway. Baz Luhrmann's 'La Boheme' ran 7 months and lost 6 million, I saw it twice. Does not matter if it was the original score and was awesome. Opera people don't like their operas on Broadway. I watched the movie by accident on Hulu this morning waiting for a repair man. (one of those between 9 and noon things) I was stunned. Made in 2006. All funded by one man for 27 million bucks. Sir Peter Moore I think. Lots of CGI work but still pretty amazing and in English. You could really tell when a big opera star started to sing. Had to turn down the volume. So much talent in that movie. So much money spent. Wow. Would I go to a theater and spend $15 to see it. No. But I didn't do that with Ironman 3 either. Good thing Cameron didn't get the rights. (pretty funny know) I can only imagine Opening Christmas Day! Mozarts The Magic Flute! IN 3D! LOL. Get a chance..watch it. Very worth it.

  • Thank you for your insights.

  • BeBe Booyah

    I think this is the first time anyone that wrote the article has ever responded to me. Trust me I don't know anything about opera, Broadway, and hardly get to a movie so any insight is pure speculation. I have been a professional idle speculator for some time. I do know what I like. When I lived in NYC would to to Broadway shows all the time. Another one that I thought was awesome was Taboo. Had tickets to that one for a second time too but it folded. Too much infighting I read, but again...what do I know.

  • Well, you're way ahead of me on Broadway shows -- I've only seen two or three in my lifetime. Adaptations from one medium to another always fascinate me, though, and I appreciate hearing from readers who can bring a different perspective to the site.

  • mightyjoeyoung

    "Ingmar Bergman made the first and most famous screen version of The Magic Flute for television in 1975;"

    I still haven´t seen it, one day maybe.

    "The result is a strong piece of work that is well worth seeking out."
    Branagh usually knows what he is doing, thanks Mr Martin.

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