The Magic Flute review – Ingmar Bergman does Mozart with dreamlike strangeness | Ingmar Bergman

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Ingmar Bergman’s 1975 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, originally made for television, is now rereleased as part of the Bergman centenary retrospective at London’s BFI Southbank. It has gaiety and mystery. To consider it between, say, his Smiles of a Summer Night and Fanny and Alexander, is perhaps to see the Mozartian quality of Bergman’s work generally; to savour an influence on his own registers of seriousness and mischief, and his use of symbolism.

Bergman’s production is a cool, frank presentation of the opera, an imagined theatrical performance that begins by looking at members of the audience in turn, but in the course of the action periodically returning to a single young girl’s smiling or thoughtful face – infrequently enough for us to realise that we had forgotten about her, and that another, quieter narrative is running alongside the story: that of this girl’s enjoyment and judgement.

Ulrik Cold sings the part of Sarastro, the high priest, here also the father of Pamina (Irma Urrila), whom he has taken away from her mother, the Queen of the Night (Birgit Nordin). She induces Prince Tamino (Josef Köstlinger) to get Pamina back, in which quest he is accompanied by the genially comic Papageno (Håkån Hagegård). But they find that Sarastro is the guardian of a Masonic brotherhood of wisdom and virtue. It is a mythology that sets up the victory of a masculine ideal over feminine iniquity, but in the opera’s dreamlike exotic strangeness, this is hardly noticed. The intelligence and clarity of Bergman’s The Magic Flute is a marvel.

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Source: The Guardian
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