DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

MOZART: The Magic Flute (complete opera)

Highly colorful animated paintings describe the story of the opera visually

Published on December 5, 2006

MOZART: The Magic Flute (complete opera)
MOZART: The Magic Flute (complete opera), with animated images by Rens Groot

Soloists: Price, Serra, Schreier, Moll, Melbye, Adam/Leipzig Radio Choir/ Dresden Staatskapelle Orch./ Sir Colin Davis
Studio: Philips Classics Productions E.O.T.
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM stereo, German
Subtitles: English
Length: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Rating: ****

Rens Groot works in film and television in Holland. Since his retirement from the Dutch Film and TV Academy in Amsterdam he has created several animated films based on existing soundtrack music, including Peter and the Wolf. The Magic Flute employs the acclaimed complete recording on Philips conducted by Sir Colin Davis.  The animation uses neither cel nor computer animation but a hand-drawn highly colorful style that sometimes looks like finger-painting and other times like colored chalk. The characters are often represented by simple outlines and also morph into fantastic costumes and designs, often with nearly psychedelic overtones. Their movement and actions are precisely synced to the music. Even the overture to the opera has mostly abstract animation which continues for its entire length. The 4:3 image easily stretches to 16:9 with no noticeable distortion and the clean PCM stereo audio track converts well to pseudo surround via ProLogic II or Circle Surround.

I have personally never made it thru either a live or recorded performance of all of The Magic Flute, and couldn’t muster interest in the plot with its arcane Masonic overtones. (Although I’m all ears for Don Giovanni.) I did see the Bergman film, but that’s a different approach entirely.  I’m thinking the animation approach is right up my alley.  For one thing there’s nearly always something happening – no long sequences of performers just standing there singing on and on as with most operas. And the on-screen actions frequently aid in the plot points, such as showing how Sarastro and Papageno are equally afraid of one another.

The 42 chapters of the opera are broken down with a sentence or two on each one, but there is no other synopsis and none is needed. Many of the singers have other performers doing their spoken lines; there are credited in the notes. I found this DVD a completely delightful experience, and I admit to being far from an opera fan. If you have trouble finding it, try: www.mozartfilm.nl

 - John Sunier




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