About the Show
A young prince named Tamino is being chased by a serpent through a valley. After he falls unconscious, three ladies emerge from a temple and kill the snake. Tamino awakens and assumes the snake was killed by a good-natured bird catcher named Papageno who has just arrived on the scene. When Papageno accepts the credit, the three ladies reappear and place a padlock on his lips. They then show Tamino a picture of Pamina, the beautiful daughter of their mistress, the Queen of the Night. He immediately falls in love with her. They then tell him she has been kidnapped by the evil magician Sarastro. The Queen appears and asks Tamino to rescue Pamina, which he agrees to do. The ladies free Papageno and give him a magic set of chimes. They also give Tamino a magic flute and send the two off on their mission. Pamina is being guarded by a villain named Monostatos, who is attempting to seduce her when Papageno wanders in. Frightened, Monostatos runs off, leaving Papageno to tell Pamina that her rescuer is close by. Tamino is being led through Sarastro’s realm by three boys. He tries to enter the three temple
doors, but is turned away from two. At the third, he is greeted by a priest, who tells him the Queen is really the evil one and the good Sarastro was merely trying to get Pamina away from her mother’s dark influence. Tamino rushes off to find Pamina; a moment later, she and Papageno enter, pursued by Monostatos. Papageno plays his magic bells, rendering the villain
and his henchmen harmless. Sarastro enters and tells Pamina she is free to marry but not to return to her mother. Tamino is brought in by Monostatos, who demands a reward from Sarastro but instead gets punished.
Sarastro informs the priests of Isis and Osiris about what is going on and explains that Tamino and Papageno are about to undergo the rites of initiation to determine if they are worthy to enter the Temple of Light. Tamino, who is brave, and Papageno, who is not, receive contradictory counsel from the priests and the Queen of the Night’s three ladies, but they decide to follow the priests, who take away the flute and bells from the pair. Monostatos attempts one last seduction of Pamina, but he is interrupted by the Queen who comes to her daughter and demands that she murder Sarastro. Instead, Pamina goes to Sarastro and begs forgiveness for her mother; he agrees, declaring that only love, not vengeance, will lead to peace and happiness. As part of their tests, both Tamino and Papageno are sworn to silence. An old woman approaches Papageno declaring that she is really 18 years old and in love with him. She runs away, but three boys appear and give back to Tamino and Papageno the magic flute and bells. Pamina arrives, but she misunderstands Tamino’s silence and is heartbroken. Sarastro reassures her, but she is not comforted. Papageno says that he wants a sweetheart, and the old woman returns and reveals herself to be a young woman in disguise. Her name: Papagena. As soon as she reveals herself, however, a priest orders her away. Meanwhile, Pamina is about to commit suicide using the dagger her mother gave her to kill Sarastro. The three boys stop her and take her to Tamino, who is about to undergo the final trial. Pamina and Tamino go through the ordeal together, emerging unscathed thanks to the magic flute. Papageno rather reluctantly attempts to hang himself. Seeing this, the three boys suggest he play his magic bells. He does and Papagena appears; the two declare their intent to raise a large family. Meanwhile, Monostatos has joined forces with the Queen of the Night, but their plan to kill Sarastro is foiled by an earthquake. The opera ends with Sarastro, Tamino, and Pamina celebrating the victory of light over darkness.
Musical Selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute
These are most of the musical selections you will hear during the opera with a brief explanation of the scene.
# 1: Overture
Listen for the three chords that are played at the beginning of the overture and note when the three chords are heard again.
# 2: Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe! (Oh help me! Protect me!)
In Tamino’s aria, he sings: “Oh help me, protect me, my power forsake me! The treacherous serpent will soon overtake me. . . . Oh rescue me, protect me, save me, rescue me.”
# 3: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja (I am a man of wide-spread fame)
This is Papageno’s famous folk song where he sings: “I am a man of widespread fame, and Papageno is my name. To tell you all in simple words; I make my living catching birds. . . I’d like to fill my net with all the pretty girls I’ve met.”
# 4: Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön (O image angel-like and fair!)
In this aria by Tamino, he sings of his infatuation with Pamina: “O image angel like and fair! No mortal can with thee compare! I feel it, I feel it how this godly sight pervades my heart with new delight. I can not name this strange desire which burns my heart with glowing fire.”
# 5: O zitre nicht, mein leider Sohn! (Oh tremble, not, my son arise)
In this aria the Queen of the Night sings of her grief over her daughter Pamina’s capture by the evil Sarastro. “An evil fiend tore her from me. How helpless she cowered, her strength over-powered! What sad consternation! What vain desperation! . . . For all my efforts were too weak.”
# 6: Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen (The man who feels sweet love’s emotion)
In this duet, Papageno and Pamina sing of their desire to find their true loves. “Each maid must share his deep devotion, and from this duty never part. The joys of love shall be our own. We live by love, by love alone.”
# 7: O Isis und Osiris (O Isis and Osiris)
In this aria and chorus, Sarastro and chorus members sing of their desire that Tamino and Pamina discover the right path to seek The Truth. “O Isis and Osiris favor this noble pair with wisdom light! Grant them your aid in their endeavor. Lead them to find the path of right . Let them be strong against temptation . . . Take them to your abode on high.”
# 8: Bewahret euch von Weibertücken (Beware of womanly wiles)
The priests advise Tamino and Papageno of the dangers ahead of them, warn them of women's wiles and swear them to silence
# 9: Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden (All the world is full of lovers)
In this aria, Monostatos laments of his loneliness in never having a girlfriend. “All the world is full of lovers, man and maiden, bird and bee. Why am I not like the others? No one ever looks at me!”
# 10: Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (The wrath of hell within my breast I
In this classic aria, the Queen of the Night sings of her anger that Tamino has failed and
Sarastro still has her daughter. “The wrath of hell within my breast I cherish; death,
desperation, death, desperation prompt, the oath I swore. If by your hand Sarastro does not perish . . . then as my child I know you nevermore.”
# 11: In deisen heilgen Hallen (Within these holy portals)
In this aria, Sarastro sings of Tamino and Pamina’s journey. “Within these holy portals,
revenge remains unknown, and to all erring mortals, their way by love is shown.”
# 12: Seid uns zum zweitenmal willkommen (Here in Sarastro’s hallowed border)
In this trio, the three spirits (genii) welcome Tamino and Papageno into Sarastro’s temple.
# 13: Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden (Ah, I feel, to grief and sadness)
In this touching aria, Pamina sings of her pain from being rebuffed by Tamino during his vow of silence. “Ah, I feel, to grief and sadness, ever turned is love’s delight. Gone forever joy and gladness. In my heart reigns mournful night.”
# 14: O Isis und Osiris (O Isis and Osiris!)
The chorus and Sarastro sing of what is to come for Tamino. “The noble youth through
suffering recreated. Shall be to holy office consecrated.”
# 15: Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen (I’d give my finest feather)
Papagena sings of his heart’s desire to find his “little Papagena.” “I’d give my finest feather to find a pretty wife. Two turtledoves together, we’d share a happy life!”
# 16: Papagena! (Pa–, pa–, pa–)
Papageno and Papagena sing of their life together and building a happy family. “Now I will be thine forever…come be my little starling . . . and their grace on us bestowing, will send us tiny children dear.”
# 17: Die Strahlen der Sonne (The sun’s radiant glory has vanquished the night)
Sarastro and chorus sing of the triumphant of good
Program notes by Gene Cropsey, Opera Tampa League member
While visiting Salzburg in 1780, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart became acquainted with Emanuel Schikaneder, actor, singer, playwright, and producer, as well as manager of the resident theatrical troupe at the Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna. Both were Freemasons and attended lodge meetings together. In spite of restrictions placed on the Masonic Order by Austria’s Joseph II, they maintained a devout belief in Masonic principles. This mutual interest was the impetus that brought them together to work on The Magic Flute — Die Zauberflöte — which they did “very busily,” as librettist Schikaneder described their collaboration. In accordance with their belief in the brotherhood of the Masons, the opera likewise presents Freemasonry as the hope for universal brotherhood transcending the class system of eighteenth-century Europe. They made no secret of the fact that the Temple’s brotherhood in the opera represents the Freemasons. The glorification of Masonry did not win the opera any popularity in official circles, but the general public enjoyed the stage tricks, the comedy and the music.
The sources of the The Magic Flute libretto are many. The opera shares much of it’s plot and characters with Singspiels* written earlier for the Schikaneder troupe. Bits of popular plays with spoken dialogue and child-like fairy-tale plots were transformed into a profound work whose scope includes religion, philosophy, love, comedy, and a suicide attempt, as well as some slapstick.
The Magic Flute premiered on September 30, 1791 at the Freihaustheater auf der Wieden in Vienna, a mere ten weeks before Mozart’s death. It was the composer’s first opera written specifically for a popular venue, rather than a court theater. Mozart referred to the work as a “German Opera,” while the first printed libretto called it a Singspiel. At the premiere, Mozart was seated at a keyboard instrument as he conducted and played along with the orchestra. The singers Mozart had assembled included both virtuosi and ordinary comic actors asked to sing for the occasion. He had fashioned his music to fit the particular musical abilities of the available singers. The vocal lines for Papageno were sung by Schikaneder himself, and Mozart’s sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer, premiered the role of the Queen of the Night. Also, Mozart helped the less musically inclined singers by doubling them with instruments.
There were no written reviews of the first performances of The Magic Flute, but it was evident that Mozart and Schikaneder had achieved a monumental success. The opera drew immense crowds and reached hundreds of performances during the 1790s. The success of the opera lifted the Mozarts’ spirits when he had fallen ill while in Prague a few weeks after the premiere. His delight was reflected in his letters to his wife, Constanze.
“I have this moment returned from the opera, which was as full as ever,” he wrote on October 7, listing the numbers that had to be encored. “But what always gives me the most pleasure is the silent approval! You can see how much this opera is becoming more and more esteemed.” Following the premiere, Mozart went to see his opera almost every night, taking along friends and relatives.
According to several reported accounts, The Magic Flute is presently the fourth most frequently performed opera world-wide. Some modern performances, however, stretch the imagination. One of these was the unforgettable Zagreb (Croatia) Opera’s 1970 production of the Magic Flute in modern dress. It featured the Queen of the Night as a feather-boa-ed Chicago Moll in a white Rolls Royce accompanied by corrupt capitalist gangsters opposed to Sarastro’s good Communist Blacks.
In 2006, actor Kenneth Branagh made a film version of The Magic Flute. It was released in Europe, but it did not come to the United States until June 9, 2013, when it was shown in 150 theaters across the country. The film’s revised libretto transports the opera to the First World War. According to Branagh, “It is a historical event in which the conflict between good and evil, the light and the dark, really resonates, I think, with the thematic values of The Magic Flute.”
The Magic Flute premiered at His Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, London on June 6, 1811, and in New York at The Park Theater on April 17, 1833.
*Singspiel: A German form of opera, corresponding to opéra comique, often with spoken dialogue.