Saturday, September 11, 2010

Magic Flute

I wanted to blog this Mozart overture for a long time. The original DVD of this movie is from the Criterion collection and it is stupidly protected by some strange encryption. It gave me a lot of grief to extract this clip. I bought this DVD a long time ago and finally can share it here so you can see a piece of work by a world renown movie director, a great cinema photographer and hear music by the one of a kind Mozart.

The Magic Flute (German: Die Zauberflöte, K. 620) is an opera in two acts composed in 1791 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. The work is in the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue. The opera was premiered in Vienna on 30 September 1791, at the suburban Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart conducted the orchestra himself so if you have seen the movie Amadeus, you know that it is quite faithful with this fact.

This clip is the overture of The Magic Flute (Swedish: Trollflöjten.) This is Ingmar Bergman's 1975 film version of Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte. It was intended as a television production and was first shown on Swedish television but was followed by a cinema release later that year. The film was shown at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition. The film is notable as the first made-for-television film with a stereo soundtrack.

Photography was by Sven Vilhem Nykvist (3 December 1922 – 20 September 2006) who was a Swedish cinematographer well known for his work in Bergman's films. He won Academy Awards for his work on two Bergman films, Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop) in 1973 and Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander) in 1983, and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography for The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

As the overture begins, a close-up shot of the face of a young girl who was Ingmar Bergman's daughter fills the screen. Her face reminds me of La Joconde (Mona Lisa in case you do not know the alternate name of this famous painting) by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci during the Renaissance. During the overture, Nykvist showed close-ups of a multitude of faces in the audience. Bergman's daughter reappears frequently. At the end, a portrait of Mozart himself is shown then the curtain rises and the opera begins. Unfortunately, I don't know which of Bergmans' daughter is seen here as he has several from different wives. He also fathered a secret daughter from an affair with a Swedish countess in the 1950s. If you know, leave a comment here.

Update: I was told by a savant secret admirer from afar that the young "La Joconde" in question here is by Liv Ullmann. I should have guessed... because Ullmann was clearly Bergman's favorite leading lady.


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