19 August 2008 | roald-1
Interesting reencounter with a cherished fairytale
For us lovers of Mozart and the Magic Flute, a new version is always welcomed with great interest. We lately had Kenneth Branagh's bizarre British production in 2006 with new English libretto (text) by Stephen Fry. Most connoisseurs agree that nothing can match Ingmar Bergman's Swedish version of 1974, which fortunately still is available on DVD with the good music score in stereo and English subtitles. Most CD recordings use the original German language.
As for this new version, it pretends to be a 'North American' effort to show Salzburg a variant of the opera. Warren Christie (33) is a sympathetic actor and well suited as prince Tamino and the narrator of the story. As stated in the film, most 'princes' in other stagings are often at least 45 years old and 200 pounds heavy. (Bergman's prince was 28 and handsome. Papageno, sung by a funny Hakan Hagegard (then 29) has never been made better.) The main suspense with a new version is whether one likes the new performers and can believe in them. The next element of suspense is what has been changed or cut. The beginning here suffers because Tamino never gets to sing his well-known opening aria, and the first aria of the Queen of the Night has been cut to pieces with all the best and famous parts left out. Besides, she looks like a drag-queen. Pamina is supposed to be Russian here, but was not worth the diplomatic complications according to my taste. Monostatos is not black, for a change.
As for the subplots, they seem to wander off too much towards the end in passages with music alien to both the opera and Mozart, but that is also a matter of taste.¨ My overall impression is that the music editing should have been handed over to a person with more reverence for Mozart's score and understanding of music in general. The result here consists of haphazard cuts that sometimes don't even belong together, and with the best parts left out.