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Bergman, (Ernst) Ingmar locked

  • Richard Evidon

(b Uppsala, July 14, 1918). Swedish stage and screen director and writer . Although he is generally regarded as one of the most distinguished and influential film-makers of the postwar period, Bergman’s more constant sphere of activity has been the legitimate theatre, where he has concentrated his work since retiring from the cinema in 1982. He has described his musical limitations candidly, yet a lifelong love for opera drew him into staging Die Dreigroschenoper in Stockholm in 1950, Die lustige Witwe at Malmö in 1954 and The Rake’s Progress at the Royal Opera, Stockholm, in 1961, which Stravinsky considered the perfect realization of his opera; a production of Die Zauberflöte planned for Hamburg in 1965 was cancelled because of Bergman’s illness. Returning to the opera stage in 1991, he directed and collaborated in writing the libretto of a new work, Backanterna (after Euripides: The Bacchae), by the Swedish composer Daniel Börtz. The opera and, in particular, Bergman’s stunning production were widely acclaimed.

Probably Bergman’s best-known contribution to opera, however, is his film adaptation of Die Zauberflöte (Tröllflöjten), made in 1975 for the 50th anniversary of Swedish television; this was the culmination of a passion dating back to 1939, his time as an assistant at the Stockholm Opera, when he conversed with the conductor Issay Dobroven about a proper staging of the work: intimate, with simple scene changes, like the original production. The film, sung and vividly acted in Swedish, in part simulates a performance in the Drottningholm theatre, re-creating its stage, sets and machinery, with elegant, subdued lighting by the master cinematographer Sven Nykvist. A few excisions and slight reordering of numbers in the second act, though musically questionable, clarify the action. Characters and themes from earlier films by Bergman the Lutheran pastor’s son – his obsession with morality and marriage, wisdom and strength made possible through harmony between man and woman – resonate in Tröllflöjten, illuminating the opera’s own humanist preoccupations (for illustration see Film , fig 6).

Bibliography

  • H. Sjögren: Ingmar Bergman på teatern (Stockholm, 1968)
  • R. Wood: Ingmar Bergman (London, 1969)
  • J. R. Taylor: ‘Bergman, Ingmar’, Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago, 15/1977), 1841
  • I. Bergman: Laterna magica (Stockholm, 1987; Eng. trans., 1988, as The Magic Lantern) [autobiography]