An Opera for Everyone

Ingmar Bergman was a master of both screen and stage, and in his 1975 version of The Magic Flute, he merged the two mediums to enchanting effect. He couldn’t have chosen more inspiring material to showcase his gift for capturing the all-consuming artifice of theater: not only is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s tale of a prince’s quest to rescue an imperiled princess the most beloved opera of all time, it was also the Swedish director’s favorite opera as a child. As considerate of the action onstage as he is of the audience, Bergman chose to record the opera with the cast in a sound studio and then set up cameras for the actual production, freeing the actors to tailor their performances for the choreographed camera moves and close-ups. At crucial moments, he also turns his gaze away from the proscenium. As Bergman expert Peter Cowie explains in a supplemental feature on our brand-new edition, the filmmaker wanted to highlight the diversity of the audience, cutting between close-ups of spectators of various ages and races. Watch the above excerpt from Cowie’s interview, in which he also explains how Bergman creates a sense of playfulness by momentarily bringing us backstage.

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