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VENICE 2006 Out of competition

A magical flute for Branagh

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A magical flute for Branagh

"Taking opera out of the theatre, to make it accessible to wider audiences": such is British philanthropist Sir Peter Moores’s stated objective behind his eponymous foundation, which, since 1964, has contributed to opening the doors of art to people and who had the idea behind making a film of Mozart’s The Magic Flute [+see also:
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, directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Written by Branagh, with an adaptation of the libretto by Stephen Fry, the film will have the honour of being presented tonight at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice opera house, which is exactly the same age as Mozart’s opera, composed in 1791. The two main characteristics to this transposition by the prolific English director are language and setting. To Moores, rewriting of the text in English is justified by the fact that the film can have greater worldwide distribution if shot an eminently cinematic language. Branagh adds that "Stephen Fry’s transposition from German respected the original spirit of the text, trying to be as literal as possible, with a touch of updated vernacular".

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In fact, Branagh’s The Magic Flute is set during the middle of WWI, because, the director explains, "It seemed that in the music there was a kind of plea for peace and this made me think of the dramatic global scale of the Great War, with its millions of victims. There could be a parallel with the visual landscape of the war". Tamino thus becomes a soldier sent to the front lines and Papageno the head of the canaries that were actually used to detect the presence of gas in the trenches.

The film was a true challenge for Branagh, and the temptation to compare it to the renowned film version by Ingmar Bergman is strong. "Bergman’s film is fantastic," says Branagh, "but very different from what we wanted to do. The challenge was to maintain the sense of improvisation in order to give it energy and life without showing the technical solutions behind it. We were enthusiastic about the possibility that an interpretation of the score could find new cinematic life, not revealing something conceived many years ago". BR>
The energy of which the director speaks certainly came from the performances of true singers, who before offering their faces, offering their voices. Produced by Pierre-Olivier Bardet, with orchestra conductor James Conlon and musical producer Daniel Zalay, the film features Lyubov Petrova (the Queen of the Night), René Pape (one of the best singers in the world, in the role of Sarastro), Joseph Kaiser (Tamino) and a young Pamina, Amy Carson (23), who made a highly professional film debut.

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(Translated from Italian)

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