The notion of packaging opera for the masses brings to mind that phrase about fish needing bicycles, yet filmmakers repeatedly strive to put this most extravagant medium on screen. The latest is Kenneth Branagh, whose adaptation of a libretto by Stephen Fry populated by a cast of new operatic faces well and truly liberates Mozart's opera from the stage, but whether this is enough to entice those coveted opera newbies remains to be seen.
Transferring the action to the trenches of WWI, Tamino (Kaiser) becomes a young soldier sent to rescue Pamina (Carson), summoned rather grandiosely by her mother, the Queen of the Night (Petrova), from atop a tank. Pamina is being held hostage by the evil Sarastro (Pape) and, having taken a fancy to her from a photo, Tamino sets off to be her knight in shining armour, with the help (and hindrance) of the bumbling birdcatcher Papageno (Davis).
"FULL OF ENERGY AND COLOUR"
A huge budget allows for spectacular CGI sequences and Branagh concocts some startlingly inspired ways to accompany Mozart's music in visuals; the Queen of the night's famous aria being one. But despite the fact that cinemagoers are by now accustomed to all manner of suspensions of disbelief, there's still something about opera that doesn't sit comfortably on screen. Branagh has done a sterling job, full of energy and colour, and although some of them might balk at his modern interpretation of the story, his Magic Flute will no doubt attract aficionados, if not the popcorn crowd.
The Magic Flute is out in the UK on 30th November 2007.