This week the UWA Film society have a series of screenings focusing on the work of Ingmar Bergman – yesterday’s screening was ‘Wild Strawberries’, and tomorrow they will be showing ‘Virgin Spring’, and so I think it’s only fitting to now post about Bergman’s film version of The Magic Flute. Made in 1975 for Sweedish Television this version stays very much in opera’s natural habitat of the theater and makes no attempt to enliven the fantastical elements of Schikaneder’s plot, but instead lurks around that transitional moment when actors move from stage to backstage – I I certainly don’t mind abandoning the absurdness of the opera’s plot and I think that the use of the theater is quite clever and not at all devoid of cinematic technique – and though set in a theater it is not a mere recording of a production.
Apparently Bergman first saw the Magic Flute at the Royal Opera in Stockholm when he was 12 and tried to recreate it in his marionette theatre at home. For a film maker Bergman certainly had a lot of fascination with the theater, and the play within a play idea – like in the opening scene of Fanny and Alexander. Film directors certainly do create a different kind of production when they direct opera – it’s always a git grander, a bit stranger, and it never seems quite limited to the stage. Baz Luhrmann’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for Opera Australia was a visual fest that imported everything from his extravagant films, and Julie Teymor’s Met Opera productions seem to have the same absurd pastiche of hers – It’s all quite different from the theatrical directors like John Bell whose works for Opera Australia are much visually sparser.