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Bergman hits a high note on the British Film Institute’s ranking of opera on film

A new print of the director’s screen version of Mozart’s Magic Flute is now on release

03 May, 2018 — By Sebastian Taylor

Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Ingmar Bergman’s cinematic hands

WHICH are the top 10 opera films? Certainly, Ingmar Bergman’s 1975 film of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is near the top of the list, if not at the very top. Thankfully, with its tale of innocence, it’s much lighter fare than much of Bergman’s other work.

To let audiences judge for themselves, a new British Film Institute print of the film is being shown at cinemas up and down the country over the next two months.

Others in the top rankings put together by Trevor Johnston for the BFI include:

• Joseph Losey’s 1975 Don Giovanni. Lavish offering that takes a classical approach with splendid baritone Ruggero Raimondi in the central role.

• Götz Friedrich’s 1981 Elektra. Full-on stuff sustained by a powerful rendition of Richard Strauss’s startling score.

• Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s 1982 Parsifal. Lengthy takes showcase the flowing lines of Wagner’s epic score provide an experience that’s entirely different from seeing the work on stage.

• Franco Zeffirelli’s 1982 La Traviata shows the director at his best. Although gilded settings are sumptuous, the human drama remains convincing and affecting.

• Francesco Rosi’s 1984 Carmen. Gypsy passions, bull-fighting, big tunes and plenty of smoulder between the two leads, notably fiery heroine Julia Migenes-Johnson and a young Placido Domingo in matinée-idol mode.

• Andrzej Zulawski’s 1989 Boris Godunov. You may be slightly bemused but you will never be bored.

• Penny Woolcock’s 2003 The Death of Klinghoffer makes opera vital and relevant for today in a way the medium so rarely is.

• Robert Dornhelm’s 2008 La Boheme has much for both first-timers and old hands to enjoy.

• Michael Haneke’s 2013 Così fan tutte, not a feature film but a film of a live performance at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

Details of The Magic Flute screenings at: www.bfi.org.uk/whats-on/bfi-film-releases/magic-flute

Trevor Johnston’s10 great opera films: www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/10-great-opera-films

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