Friday, June 14, 2013

Rene Pape and Benjamin Jay Davis in long-awaited US release of Kenneth Branagh's Magic Flute

Rene Pape as Sarastro (left)
We've found it odd that a number of European release operatic films never make it to the U.S., or take years to get here. Kasper Holten's brilliant movie Juan (based on Don Giovanni) starring barihunk Christopher Maltman has never played at an American film festival or been released for general distribution (It did play at some scattered theaters last year). This isn't a new phenomenon, even Ingmar Bergman's 1975 classic film version of the Magic Flute took awhile to reach American soil after it appeared on Swedish television. Slightly more baffling is the seven years that it took for Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh's adaptation The Magic Flute to open in the U.S.

On Sunday, June 9th the movie opened at about 150 Emerging Pictures theaters across the U.S. and will have limited release moving forward. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a theater within 100 miles of either America's movie capital Hollywood or opera crazed San Francisco. The closest that we found to New York City was 57 miles away in Toms River, New Jersey. For individual theaters and show times go to: You can purchase your own copy of the DVD by clicking HERE. We'd like to think that a great director like Branagh would get broader distribution, which would surely attract new audiences to opera. You can request a showing at a theater near you by visiting this link.

We enjoyed the movie which features a libretto by the great actor Stephen Fry, which he updated to the eve on World War I.  Barihunk readers will be delighted to know that in a brilliant stroke of dream casting, Rene Pape has been cast as Sarastro. In the Branagh/Fry version Sarastro is a man in charge of a field hospital, not a high priest, and his ultimate wish is world peace, not simply the triumph of good over evil. He is also Pamina's father, as in the Ingmar Bergman adaptation. Another similarity to the Bergman film is that Sarastro desperately tries to save the Queen's life, who appears to be his estranged wife.

Benjamin Jay Davis as Papageno (right)
The barihunk in this opera is usually Papageno, who in the film is played by Benjamin Jay Davis, who we admittedly did not know. His website would indicate that, despite having studied with opera coach Bill Schuman of AVA fame, he has made his career in television and in Broadway musicals. He is currently appearing in Spamalot in St. Louis, where he will next take on the role of Emile De Becque in South Pacific next month. He returns to opera in September at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he will play Billy in Mark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole. We certainly welcome him to the realm of barihunks and plan on seeing him in Anna Nicole.

The critical roles of Tamino and Pamina are played by the rising tenor sensation Joseph Kaiser and soprano Amy Carson. The movie kicks off when Tamino sets off on a perilous journey in pursuit of love, light and peace in a world afflicted by darkness, death and destruction. An eerie quiet descends over a landscape still untouched by conflict as Tamino waits anxiously with his fellow recruits for the command to go into battle.  What ensues is an extravagant musical adventure in which the blossoming love between Pamina and Tamino may help determine the fate of a nation and the destiny of millions.


  1. This MAGIC FLUTE is listed as being available on NETFLIX, both on DVD and via streaming.

  2. And René Pape as "Bassohunk" :)

  3. Mr. Davis seems to use "Ben Davis" as his professional name now. He was one of the Liebeslieder quintet in the recent Broadway revival of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (understudying the role of Carl-Magnus). And he starred alongside Kelli O'Hara in the concert of Weill's KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY, which was recorded.

  4. I love the opera Magic Flute, gave it a try on Netflix, and ended up watching all the way through twice... it's the best version I've seen yet.

  5. Ben Davis--what a gorgeous hunk!