The Magic Flute was entirely created using CGI technology with all of the filming being done on a virtual set. The impossibility of shooting on location in Salzburg, Austria, inspired the ingenuity of the filmmakers to shoot the production in studio in Toronto, filling in the backdrops with digitally reconstructed CGI photography. Sullivan traveled to Europe to shoot all the background photography, and using special effects technology, was able to recreate the world of Mozart in 3D in post production using a uniquely new approach seen in recent CGI movies like Sin City and 300.
The CGI technology allowed the entire fi lm to be shot with real actors in front of green and blue screens. In post-production, backgrounds and animation were added to create a virtual environment. This technique also made for an abundance of creative freedom in depicting the contemporary settings of Salzburg where characters could travel throughout the picturesque city – from a baroque theatre to a bustling train station or a hotel to vast Austrian palaces and monasteries – and then into imaginative fantasylands within the opera itself. All without ever leaving the studio!
Sullivan decided to employ the collaborative efforts of the renowned Opera Atelier company, in order to authenticate the transition from theatre stage to the screen. He worked alongside various members of the company, from choreographers, to artistic directors and scenic artists to create one of the most genuine interpretations of the execution of a pure baroque opera production captured on film. Sullivan’s film is rivaled only by Ingmar Bergman’s film version of The Magic Flute produced in the 1970’s for Swedish Television; where Bergman built in studio a replica of the famous Drottningholm Court Theatre on which to stage his 18th century interpretation. Opera Atelier provided formal backdrops and large set pieces used in their celebrated stage production to convert the studio into an actual replica of the famous Landestheater Opera House in downtown Salzburg. Sullivan also used many of Opera Atelier’s company singers, performers, and dancers to stage the elaborate musical numbers seen throughout the film. Opera is rarely seen on film, simply because it so often gets lost in translation, but Sullivan was intentional in his determination to bring the sensation of the stage to the screen. For this reason, he meticulously made use of backdrops, costumes, singers and dancers to bring the spectacle of live performance to The Magic Flute Diaries.
The idea of combining both film and stage is reflected in the cast members; some of which are film actors who have never been on stage, others are stage performers who have never been in front of a camera! Each cast member stepped out of their comfort zones, training with professionals in each field to study the craft and perfect their performances. The process of film making proved to be one of the major obstacles facing the Opera performers. On stage, the cast is accustomed to running the opera start to finish, without break from character or flow of pace. However, making a film is much like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle; shot in fragments, often out of story order, and pieced together in post production. This process was exacerbated even further by the fact that many of the performers and singers were never able to actually see or understand the elaborate world they performed in, as their vision of the film was restricted to a green soundstage. This film, however, did allow each member of the cast, with backgrounds in either stage or screen, to experience the world of both art forms.
It is this eclectic mixture that breathes life into the texture of the entire production and illuminates the fantasy of the lead performer, Tom, overwhelmed by Mozart’s genius. The film brings together two completely diverse forms of artistry, proving that by using modern technology along-side a deep rooted artistic tradition of performance, there can be an extraordinary creative synergy.