The Magic Flute
Spring 2009 Main series
Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 4:00pm
Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 7:00pm
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Emanuel Schikaneder, Kenneth Branagh and Stephen Fry
Based on the opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Starring Joseph Kaiser, Amy Carson, René Pape, Lyubov Petrova, Benjamin Jay Davis, Silvia Moi and Tom Randle
Rated NR ·
United Kingdom and France
Oscar-nominated British actor and director Kenneth Branagh saw no inconsistencies in setting his film adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fairy tale opera, The Magic Flute, in the bloody fields of the First World War. Well known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays, Branagh said that Mozart’s 1791 opera has been “set on the moon, in the jungle and on the beach… it’s the most elastic of operas.” Although The Magic Flute is often considered light, romantic fare, Branagh noted that it also contains themes of light and darkness, good and evil that parallel the contrasting images of the glory and devastation of the First World War.
Trained in the theatre and film, Branagh did not have a background in opera when he undertook the project, and described filming a production performed by singers rather than actors as “an adventure.” His cast of opera singers, including Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser who stars as Prince Tamino, was somewhat nervous about singing and acting on film. And Branagh admitted that he was both nervous and excited about filming an opera. This tension, however, proved to have positive results. The cast had a tremendous appetite for performance, Branagh said, creating “a sense of risk or adventure … fun and edginess all the way through, which I think can be an important feature of what can make good art.” Before shooting the film, the cast trained as actors with improvisation and ran through the production without singing. “We looked at the opera in the same way we would have looked at a contemporary play,” Branagh said. He never feared the project would fail. “You fall down, you get up, you fall down, you get up,” Branagh said. “Or, as Samuel Beckett described it, ‘Fail, fail again, fail better.'”
The Magic Flute opened in cinemas across North America in March.