Last December, I mentioned that Kenneth Branagh has undertaken a film version of The Magic Flute. At that point, I knew that René Pape was going to sing Sarastro and that Lyubov Petrova would portray the Queen of the Night. I also knew that Branagh was using an English translation of the German text of the opera, made by actor and comedian Stephen Fry. Now all opera fans know the magical movie of The Magic Flute made by Ingmar Bergman, which makes me wonder at Branagh's foolhardiness in trying to compete with it, especially for his first attempt to adapt an opera to film. His plan was to transpose the story to the era of World War I -- the quote at the time was that "the three ladies who accompany the Queen of the Night will be recast as field nurses, and the feathered man, Papageno, will become the custodian of canaries used to detect lethal gas." Well, Branagh is not the first director to try to make a WWI film as a whimsical comedy.
A recent article (Branagh's Magic Flute to debut in Toronto, August 11) in The Guardian provides the following update:
Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute will get its world premiere at next month's Toronto International Film Festival [September 7 to 16]. The £27m picture, which will reportedly launch simultaneously at the Venice Film Festival [August 30 to September 9], transplants Mozart's opera to the first world war. Stephen Fry has provided a libretto translated from the German. The new version is unlikely to be a hit with traditionalist Mozart afficionados but Branagh has called it "a very exciting departure for me as a filmmaker". The movie is being funded by British philanthropist Sir Peter Moores [who spends a lot of money trying to bring opera to a broader audience].The always informative Internet Movie Database adds the following casting information: Joseph Kaiser as Tamino (he sang the role of Mark in last fall's production of Tippett's Midsummer Marriage at Lyric Opera of Chicago), Amy Carson as Pamina, and Broadway singer Benjamin Jay Davis as Papageno. Other sources report that the music was recorded by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, led by James Conlon, last September. The sung parts were acted out with the singers lip-synching. The same sources reported that the Venice Film Festival, whose jury will be chaired by Catherine Deneuve this year, will screen Branagh's movie on September 7, in the Gran Teatro La Fenice. Nice. Who should represent Ionarts: Jens or me?
For more articles and a few gorgeous pictures of the shoot, go here.