What they can't do is bring us any of Bergman's stage productions, many of which were imported to BAM by its then impresario Harvey Lichtenstein. I saw nearly all of them, and every one was stunning in its own way. Foremost in memory is "Long Day's Journey into Night," with Jarl Kulle, Bibi Andersson, Thommy Berggren and Peter Stormare; Bergman had given O'Neill's prolix text, burdened with dated American slang, a much-needed editing. It was part of a Bergman season also including "Miss Julie" and "A Doll's House." On a visit to Stockholm I was hoping to see his production of "The Bacchae" in the Swedish Royal Theater, only to find that Bergman had postponed the opening until after I had to leave.
From a piece in today's New York Times, here's some commentary on Bergman's work in the theatre.
Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote:Unlike Orson Welles or Elia Kazan, other influential directors who started in theater, Bergman stayed the course, directing 60 features for cinema and television and about 150 plays. In a typical year he would oversee two shows, then shoot during the summer, often with the same actors. (The Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted a dozen Bergman-directed productions between “Hamlet” in 1988 and “Ghosts” in 2003.)
“Most non-Swedes don’t know that he made much more theater than films,” said Jan Holmberg, 47, who runs the Ingmar Bergman Foundation. “He regarded theater as the faithful wife and cinema as the exciting mistress — and he would always return to the wife.”
Which is not to say that theater was a predictable comfort zone for Bergman, who after all was married five times. Although he claimed, for instance, that he only wanted to honor a playwright’s work, he often meddled with the scripts — his “Ghosts” interpolated Ibsen’s text with some Strindberg.
The latter, a fellow Scandinavian moralist and explorer of tortured psyches, was a major influence on Bergman, who staged his plays repeatedly over his career...