Barrie Kosky, Susanne Andrade, and Paul Barritt’s production of The Magic Flute is heavily inspired by the silent film era and the spirit of the roaring twenties. In Kosky’s words, “Papageno is suggestive of Buster Keaton, while Monostatos is a bit Nosferatu, and Pamina perhaps a bit reminiscent of Louise Brooks.” There are a plethora of silent films to check out before seeing The Magic Flute, as the silent film era was a rich time for the industry. Filmmakers explored the artistry of the cinematic medium, creating new stories and adapting classic – even operatic – works for a new audience (King Vidor’s excellent 1926 La Boheme film is definitely worth a movie night). Before you step into the world of The Magic Flute, here are a few silent films to watch to get you in the 1920s spirit.
Why Worry (1923)
Director Fred Newmeyer’s adventure comedy centers on hypochondriac Harold Lloyd, who escapes his rich, business focused life to the tropics, only to find himself in the middle of a revolution.
In our Magic Flute, Papageno is basically Buster Keaton with a Harold Lloyd Twist. Similar fashions, similar comedic impulses.
The Gold Rush (1925)
Charlie Chaplin is the king of silent film comedies and The Gold Rush is arguably one of his best pictures. Chaplin stars as a lone prospector, who ventures to Alaska in search of gold, and falls in love with a woman named Georgia. Chaplin’s brand of slapstick comedy permeates the fantasy world of this Magic Flute.
If you’re a Monostatos fan, you’ll love that his character is heavily inspired by Nosferatu. F.W. Murnau’s classic horror film, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, tells the story of Count Orlok and his interest in his real estate agent’s wife. The film has a subtle German Expressionist (the style of cinematography that later inspired film noir) feel that helps it retain its rightful place as one of the greatest classic horror films – a must-see for horror junkies everywhere. (LA Opera is presenting Nosferatu this Halloween at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.)
The Lodger (1929)
Most people know Alfred Hitchcock as the director of such classic as North by Northwest or The Birds, but his silent films are eerily perfect and worth a watch. In The Lodger, a serial killer is on the loose, hunting women with blond hair, and a landlady suspects her new lodger is the madman. Compelling and gritty for its time, The Lodger is emblematic of some of the darker, cabaret styled designs featured in The Magic Flute.
Pandora’s Box (1929)
The silent film era saw a significant amount of “moralizing” silent films. Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s Pandora’s Box showcases the rise and fall of a woman whose “eroticism inspired lust and violence in those around her.” (It’s arguably the best Louise Brooks film.) Pamina’s look is inspired by Louise Brooks, very telling as so many men are attracted to the lovely Queen of the Night’s daughter. Yet, The Magic Flute is no grim morality tale. Far from it! It takes the essence of Louise Brook’s character and puts her into the comedic shoes of Pamina – hilarity ensues.
Fritz Lang’s science fiction masterpiece is the story of a futuristic “Utopia,” where the son of a wealthy mastermind falls in love with one of the workers who keeps the Metropolis running. The aesthetics of this film, futuristic and cinematic, are representative of part of the design for The Magic Flute.
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