Ingmar Bergman first fell in love with Mozart’s “Magic Flute” as a 12-year-old boy, built the scenery for his puppet theatre, but couldn’t afford to buy the expensive records, so he had to postpone his plans to put on the show. Although he later received offers from opera houses to direct the opera, he was only able to realize a production when Swedish Television commissioned him to direct it on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their founding in 1975.
Originally it was planned to shoot the TV film in the theatre at Drottningholm Palace, probably the oldest extant theatre from Mozart’s time, but it was unsuited for the film equipment, so sets had to be built to reflect the old-fashioned artifice of the original fairytale. To intensify the theatrical and child-like aspects – the TV broadcast on New Year’s Day 1975 was meant for children, young people and adults – Bergman shows the faces in the audience, looks behind the wings, dresses the fierce dragon and animals of the forest in funny costumes, simplifies the story and chooses singers who sing the lines clearly and give convincing acting performances.
Rarely has Mozart’s magical musical comedy about Tamino and Pamina, Papageno and Papagena, Sarastro and the Queen of the Night been put on as delightfully and as clearly as in this Swedish TV production, which then toured the world as a film.