Ever since Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute, was first performed

 
Ever since Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute, was first performed

Ever since Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute, was first performed

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Ever since Mozart’s final opera, The Magic Flute, was first performed in 1791, it has enchanted music lovers, tested generations of coloratura singers with one of the most notoriously challenging arias in the canon, confused anyone who tried to make too much sense of the storyline, and captivated those who like to do deep dives into conspiracy theories, inspired by multiple arcane Masonic symbols in the story. A beautiful Swedish language version was directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1975 and a strange English language version set in World War I, directed by Kenneth Branagh, was released in 2006. 

This new international production, directed and co-written by Florian Sigl, is grandly envisioned but unevenly produced. It takes place in a music boarding school in the mountains named for Mozart. The students are putting on a production of The Magic Flute. The school also has a secret magic passageway to an actual magic flute story. 

In addition to the music (which has a touch of Michael Jackson), the movie benefits from intricate, often beautiful production design by Christoph Kanter, especially the interior of the school and some of the magical settings. Some of the showiest visuals in the enchanted landscape reflect the influence of producer Roland Emmerich, best known for effects-heavy blockbusters.

To make the 18th-century creation more accessible, the German libretto of Mozart’s opera is loosely translated into English and some singers are closer to pop than classical. The Queen of the Night aria, though, is performed by Sabine Devieilhe, an acclaimed diva who has played the same role with the Royal Opera of London. It is breathtaking when she sings that thrilling aria, her fabulous cloak floating up to the sky as though it's carrying her astonishing high notes. Morris Robinson, also a professional opera singer, gives his rich, resounding bass notes to Sarastro, accused by the Queen of abducting the princess. Iwan Rheon is on hand for the lovesick comic relief character Papageno.

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