Most first-time directors take it a bit easy with their opening films. Before he chronicled rampaging dinosaurs and killer sharks, Steven Spielberg did Duel, a simple film about a man in a car who is terrorized by a truck. Florian Sigl, however, isn’t afraid to dive into the deep end of the filmmaking pool. The novice director just did The magic Flutean adaptation of Mozart’s famous opera that’s also a Harry Potter-style fantasy epic featuring lots of elaborate CGI special effects.
In a chat with Digital Trends, Sigl talks about why he wanted to adapt an opera as a big-budget fantasy film, how he felt lucky to get Jack Wolfe before his lead role in season 2 Shadow and boneand the challenges involved in combining opera and a giant green snake on film.
Digital Trends: Usually when people think The magic Flute, they think of a stately, old-fashioned opera house. What made you want to adapt Mozart’s masterpiece as a Harry Potter-style fantasy?
Florian Sigl (director): Well, it’s a great opportunity to bring culture and classical music closer to a wider audience, especially because The magic Flute already uses popular fantasy tropes like an evil queen or large monsters like a giant snake. I thought with the popularity of all the other fantasy stories now, there’s a good opportunity to adapt The magic Flute.
Most people really struggle to understand The magic Flutehis plot, especially after the first hour of the opera, so I added a bit more structure (like the contemporary subplot in the present) to appeal to an audience that has no connection or familiarity with classical music or Mozart Magic Flute.
It must be challenging—not just for a first-time director, but for anyone—to make a musical on their own or a fantasy with special effects. But you did both, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. How did you prepare for both the fantasy elements that involved a lot of special effects and the musical sequences in The magic Flute?
It took some time to decide which parts of the opera I wanted to keep and how to integrate the music with the fantasy sequences. I was going back and forth a lot to make sure both sides fit together.
Take the snake sequence, which appears early in the film. I knew what Tim (Jack Wolfe) was singing and what the music was going to be, and I used that as a base to start from. Then I started writing a basic story, then added storyboards, then animatics to visualize what the snake would look like, then consulted with the artist who drew the snake to make sure it was right. Then I would go back to the music and check if it synced with the action on the screen.
It was double work for me because I had to balance everything evenly. Not everything worked from the beginning as I had hoped, and it was very difficult to combine these two different things. But I think, at least in certain moments, it works really well.
I wanted to talk about Jack Wolfe, who plays the main character of the film, Tim/Prince Tamino. What was it about Jack that made him the ideal protagonist for this version? The magic Flute?
Musically, I was looking for a younger male voice that is not a classical tenor. If you go to an opera and watch The magic Flute, usually Prince Tamino is played by a man in his 30s to 40s who is a bit heavier than usual. My Magic FluteHowever, it is a coming-of-age story. It is about the prince finding his place in society. In our case, it’s Jack or Tim finding his place in the world, so he can’t be too old. He must be younger.
I was also looking for an actor who had a background in a professional music school. And in the second round of casting, I realized that Jack fit the role perfectly. He went to a music boarding school, he knows how painful it is to leave your family behind, like Tim does in the movie, and he’s a big music nerd. [Laughs] I’m so glad I found him when I did because he seems to be on the verge of breaking out. Has been inserted The Witcher and he is in his next season Shadow and bone.
What was your favorite part of creating? The magic Flute?
Well, because it was double the work, I had double the fun making it. I enjoyed working with our ensemble. It was an amazing experience as a director to work with such a diverse cast. I got Oscar winners like F. Murray Abraham, Game of Thrones actors like Iwan Rheon and younger, lesser known actors like Jack.
The other great thing about working on this film was recording for three weeks straight with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg. It was only a dream. I mean, having your own orchestra for three weeks and recording a soundtrack for your first movie? That was really cool.
The magic Flute is currently playing in theaters.