THE MAGIC FLUTE  -   Press Releases

Variety, 19 December 2005

Flute Plays for Love, Not Profit
By Adam Dawtrey

You might think a $27 million movie of Mozart's masonic opera "The Magic Flute," updated to the First World War, wouldn't stand much chance of making a profit. But the producers of the pic, which starts shooting in January, want to make absolutely certain it doesn't.

No, this is not some kind of "Springtime for Hitler" scam. The Mozart movie, conceived and directed by Kenneth BranaghKenneth Branagh with a libretto by Stephen Fry, is being bankrolled by a grant from the Peter Moores Foundation. As a charity, it's not allowed to make profits. So the film has been set up to ensure that any upside flows to the distributors, rather than to the foundation itself.

Paris-based sales agent Celluloid Dreams is offering buyers an unusual deal -- the better the film performs, the bigger their share of the backend. Once the distrib recoups its minimum guarantee and marketing costs, overages are initially split 50/50 with the production company, rising to 90/10 in favor of the distrib.

"In my 20 years of experience as a producer, it's the first time I've seen a film financed that way," says the pic's French producer Pierre-Olivier Bardet.

In this way, the foundation hopes to recoup some of the production cost without actually slipping into the black. It's also a deal designed to give distribs the maximum incentive to go for a mainstream release.

After all, the charitable intent of Sir Peter Moores, the 73-year-old Liverpool-based patron of the arts whose family made its fortune with the Littlewoods retail and gambling business, is to bring opera to the masses. Over the years, his foundation has funded roughly 50 recordings of operas in English.

"The Magic Flute," filmed in English, is just a much more expensive and ambitious step along the same path. The foundation is putting up $25 million, with the remainder coming from a sale and leaseback deal by Ingenious. That's the single biggest grant ever made by the charity, which has doled out $185 million over three decades. The 11 week shoot will sprawl across six soundstages at London's Shepperton Studios. Branagh's regular production designer Tim Harvey is building huge, elaborate sets, to be augmented by a considerable CGI element from Double Negative. The music has already been recorded, and cameras roll Jan. 23. The target is a world premiere at Cannes in 2007.

Opera News online, 4 November 2005
by Tim Dams

Branagh-Directed Magic Flute Film to Update Story to Eve of World War I Battle

A $27 million film version of Mozart's The Magic Flute, which is to be directed by Kenneth Branagh, with an adapted libretto written by actor Stephen Fry, will reportedly update the story of Mozart's opera to the eve of a World War I battle, with a young soldier named Tamino entering into a "twilight dream world" while in pursuit of love. The movie will reportedly commence filming next year in the UK, the BBC has reported.

"This is a very exciting departure for me as a filmmaker," Branagh told the BBC.

The film version of The Magic Flute is to feature conductor James Conlon leading the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and a spate of young singers in the lead roles, including tenor Joseph Kaiser as Tamino, Amy Carson as Pamina and Ben Davis as Papageno. René Pape will reportedly play Sarastro and Lyubov Petrova is to sing the Queen of the Night.

The movie is being funded by British philanthropist Sir Peter Moores.

Branagh and Fry previously worked together on the 1992 Branagh-directed film Peter's Friends.

The Guardian, 3 November 2005
By Charlotte Higgins

Branagh To Put The Magic Flute On Film

Kenneth Branagh is to direct a film of The Magic Flute, with a libretto translated from the German by Stephen Fry. The opera - Mozart's fantastical tale of the triumph of lovers Tamino and Pamina against the evil Queen of the Night, complete with masonic overtones, pyramids, lethal serpents and a lustful Moor - will be set in the first world war.

The three ladies who accompany the Queen of the Night will be recast as field nurses, and the feathered man, Papageno, will become the custodian of canaries used to detect lethal gas.

The $27m (£15.2m) venture, which starts shooting in January, is being financed by the 73-year-old Littlewoods heir Peter Moores, whose charitable foundation has supported opera recordings sung in English for decades. "It's not the world of the small chequebook," he said.

His dream of bringing opera to film audiences has been brewing for 15 years. "My original idea was to ask Richard Attenborough. I have about two ideas every morning. Most of them die, but some of them live on under the floorboards."

The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, under James Conlon, recorded the opera in September with the cast, who will mime on set at Shepperton studios.

The cast includes German bass René Pape as the wise ruler Sarastro and Lyubov Petrova as the Queen of the Night. Joseph Kaiser and Ben Davis, both veterans of film director Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production of La Bohème, sing Tamino and Papageno respectively. A complete unknown, recent Cambridge graduate Amy Carson, sings Pamina.

The Hollywood News, 2 November 2005

Branagh Directing "The Magic Flute"

Kenneth Branagh has been hired to direct the big screen version of the Mozart opera "The Magic Flute". The film will begin shooting in Shepperton Studios in London.

The project will be updated to the eve of World War I, and will shoot in English rather than German. The movie tells the story of a young soldier waiting for the command to go to battle is transported into a twilight world between dream and nightmare. He is sent on a deadly mission to rescue the daughter of the queen of the night from the dark lord Sarastro.

This will be the first British film to take place on the six sound stages at Shepperton.

Time Out, 2 November 2005

Branagh to make 'The Magic Flute'
Kenneth Branagh is to direct a film version of the classic Mozart opera

Following appearances in children's films 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' and 'Five Children and It', Kenneth Branagh is returning to more adult fare, directing a film version of Mozart's classic opera 'The Magic Flute'.

Featuring a newly adapted libretto by Stephen Fry, the film transfers the action to the eve of World War I, when a young soldier is magically transported to a twilight world where he is caught between dream and nightmare.

The $27million production will occupy six of the major soundstages at Shepperton Studios, while the cast will be composed of up-and-coming British opera stars, including Joseph Kaiser as Tamino, Amy Carson as Pamina and Ben Davis as Papageno.

'This is a very exciting departure for me as a filmmaker' Branagh said of the project. 'Working with Sir Peter Moores and his Foundation to help bring this masterpiece to a different audience is an immense and thrilling challenge.'

Principal photography on 'The Magic Flute' starts in January.