The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte, in German) is the last opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart staged during the composer’s life and was premiered at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on September 30, 1791 under the direction of Mozart himself, just two months before his death. The singspiel is a type of popular opera sung in German, where spoken parts are interspersed.
When Mozart premiered The Magic Flute was thirty-five years old and had only two months to live. The theater entrepreneur Emmanuel Schikaneder was going through serious economic hardships and the composer, a great friend of his from the years of youth and in his financial situation, decided to write for him a work that could give money. When knowing that a rival theater was going to premiere another opera with the same subject, the action was completely modified, giving it, in addition, a symbolic meaning of enlightenment, strength and wisdom. The mythical and wonderful element acquired a great relief in The Magic Flute.
Schikaneder was a friend of Mozart. He was the first to play Papageno, while the role of the Queen of the Night was played by Josepha Hofer, Mozart’s sister-in-law. Many of the ideas and motifs of the opera are reminiscent of the philosophy of the Enlightenment.
Currently The Magic Flute is present regularly in the repertoires of opera houses internationally. Its status as an opera masterpiece is unquestionable and certainly unique within the narrowest scope of the singspiel, where there is no possible comparison.
Some of his melodies are very familiar, such as the duo of Papageno and Papagena, or the aria of coloratura of the Queen of the Night titled Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen.
MUSIC AND LIBRET
In the year 1777, Schikaneder, well-known actor, writer, and theatrical entrepreneur among other activities, proposes to Mozart the possibility of collaborating to make an opera together. Neither Mozart nor Schikaneder were going through a good economic moment, and thought that in this way they could get ahead. Mozart accepted the idea, and while composing the music for the opera, he began to compose the Requiem and his opera La clemencia de Tito. Since its premiere, this opera was not quite successful.
The argument of the opera has been much discussed. While many researchers see it simply as a fairy tale, others see it full of symbolism and references. In that sense, and despite the strong influence of popular culture. In the same way, many authors, including Gérard Gefen, have seen a prefiguration of Ignaz von Born in the role of Sarastro. Likewise, the theme of the struggle between light and darkness is a recurring symbol in the illuminating teachings.
It is believed that the libretto could be inspired by the work Lulu or the magic flute, but also that it could have other sources, such as King of Egypt, by Philippe von Greber or Sethos, by Jean Terrason.
As for music, it has many highlights, being especially known, for its technical complexity, the arias of The Queen of the Night, O zittre nicht, where Tamino tries to motivate him to release his daughter and especially Der Hölle Rache, where the second more acute note composed by Mozart appears for the vocal music, a fa 6, for whose interpretation a degree of important virtuosity is needed. Other fragments are also well known, such as the quintet of Papageno, Tamino and the Three Ladies, Hm, hm, hm …, with some comicity, or the aria of Sarastro, In diesen heil’gen Hallen, where he shows his wisdom with the bass voice Also the interventions of Papageno, with his aria Kinget, Glöckchen, klinget and especially his duo with Papagena.
Poster of the premiere, September 30, 1791.
* Tamino, prince (Tenor)
* Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night (Soprano)
* Papageno, birder or man-bird (Baritone)
* Papagena, woman-bird (Soprano)
* Sarastro, high priest (Low)
* The Queen of the Night, (Soprano)
* Monostatos, server of Sarastro (Tenor)
* Three Ladies, ladies of the Queen of the Night (2 Sopranos, and one contralto)
* Two Priests, servants of Sarastro (Tenor and baritone)
* Three Boys, charitable geniuses (Tenores)
* Men of the armor, guides during the test to Tamino and Pamina (Tenor and bass)
* Speaker, server of Sarastro (Low)
TABLE 1: IN THE ROCKY LANDS
Papageno Prince Tamino reaches rocky land chased by a snake. He has lost his weapon and prays for his life until he faints (“Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!”). But right away he is saved by the Three Ladies (Die Drei Damen) who kill the monster. When they see the young man they fall in love with him, but they leave him with the promise of returning again. Tamino wakes up, dazed, next to the snake, when he hears a whistle. Papageno, a being half bird and half person, with a big cage behind him, approaches him singing (“Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja”).
When Tamino talks to him he asks who he is. He is the birder of the Queen of the Night (Die Königin der Nacht), who gives him food in exchange for birds. Talking Tamino believes that Papageno killed the snake and that it saved him. Papageno on this does not say anything. At this moment you hear the voice of the Three Ladies who, seeing that Papageno has lied, they close their mouths with a golden padlock. When they address Tamino, they give him a portrait of a beautiful girl. If he does not remain indifferent, fame, honor and happiness will give him as a reward.
In the privacy, Tamino shows with his singing how much he likes the portrait of the young woman (“Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön”). He does not know who is the one portrayed, but he knows that he falls in love with her.
The arrival of the Queen of the Night, before her first aria. Staged by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) for a production of 1815.
The Three Ladies appear before Tamino and tell him that the Queen heard her singing and wanted him to rescue his daughter. It is Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, and is kidnapped by a demon named Sarastro, who lives in a very well guarded castle. Then, decided, Tamino sets out to save and free Pamina. Suddenly there is a thunder and the night falls. The mountains open giving way to the Queen of the Night, who sits on a throne of stars making the darkness behind her. In her delicate and complete aria of three different times (“Oh zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn!”) She persuades Tamino to rescue her and, in exchange, will let her stay with her forever. After this the Queen retires among the mountains and the day is done again.
Tamino, thinking in solitude if what he has seen is true, he meets Papageno on the way, who can not speak for the punishment (“Hm, hm, hm”). Then the Three Ladies appear, who release Papageno from his punishment, but he must never lie again: the punishment must serve as a warning! Tamino is offered a golden magic flute, which modifies the mood of the one who listens to it, makes men happier, the sad makes him happy and the bachelor single. Papageno must accompany Tamino, but he is afraid of Sarastro, he would abandon Tamino for not going. The Ladies, to avoid this, give her some magic silver bells that will protect her with their sound. They say goodbye to them, telling them before that to guide themselves and find the castle, they must follow three young boys, beautiful, noble and wise.
TABLE 2º: IN THE ROOM WITH JEROGLÍFICOS OF SARASTRO’S PALACE
Some slaves and Monostratos enter with Pamina, hold her and bind her. She tries to avoid Monostratos, who harasses and desires her. He approaches her without knowing what intentions (“Du feines Täubchen, nur herein!”). At that time enters Papageno who finds Pamina next to the black Monostratos. The two are scared by the strange appearance of the other, and escape, but Papageno returns and appears before Pamina and tells him that there is a prince in love with her who will rescue her on behalf of his mother the Queen. Both sing a duet about the need they feel for love in their lives before leaving (“Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen”).
TABLE 3º: IN THE FOREST BEFORE THE SARASTRO’S PALACE
Tamino is led by the three boys to the palace in his car of Sarastro, they tell him to be firm, patient and quiet. The temple has three doors, the door of Wisdom, in the middle, on the right that of Reason, and on the left that of Nature. Enter the door of Wisdom because the others prevent you from passing, Back! (Zurück!). A speaker with whom he speaks comes before him and asks him, but what he responds creates a lot of confusion (“Zum Ziele hin führt dich diese Bahn”). It seems that Sarastro is not evil, he says, what he does is protect Pamina, but that nothing can say more by an oath. Tamino, who wants to find Pamina, starts playing her flute, whose sound attracts the animals of the forest. When playing the flute you hear the melody that always plays Papageno (“Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton”).
Pamina and Papageno also look for Tamino and hear his flute. Monostatos, hearing Papageno, appears and tries to trap them. He calls his slaves who come with chains, but Papageno uses the gift of the Three Ladies and with their bells stops them and makes them dance and sing (“Schnelle Fuesse, rascher Mut”).
Now trombones are heard and Sarastro is annuiado by an invisible choir (“It is lebe Sarastro, Sarastro lebe!”). Enter triumphantly, with his priests and mounted on a car pulled by six lions. Pamina implores him to forgive her escape, she wanted to escape from Monostatos, who was harassing her. Sarastro all this already knew, and also knows that she is in love with Tamino. If she continues with her mother she will lose her happiness, says Sarastro, that is the reason for her kidnapping, the Queen must no longer fulfill the function of mother, surpasses the sphere that corresponds to her.
Tamino enters hold by Monostatos and the two young people recognize themselves and soon they are embraced strongly, which provokes the fury of Monostatos that separates them immediately and prays to its gentleman who punishes them. Sarastro, impartial, sentences a punishment of seventy-seven lashes, but on Monostatos, to whom his priests take him. Finally he orders that they accompany Papageno and Tamino to the temple of trials, with their heads covered with sacks, to be initiated.
TABLE 1: A FOREST WITH PALM TREES
Sarastro and his priests, in a solemn procession, meet in his temple (“Ihr Eingeweihten der Goetter Isis und Osiris”). Discuss the possibility of hosting Papageno and Tamino and start them in their practices. All accept the proposal, but they must be virtuous and pass a series of tests. At this moment Sarastro sings the aria with chorus (“O, Isis und Osiris”) praying to the gods to strengthen them with virtues and welcome them in case they should die.
TABLE 2: IN A ROOM, AT NIGHT, WITH A STORM
Three priests lead Tamino and Papageno to the room where the tests will be carried out, and the bags are removed. Tamino and Papageno engage in a conversation in which thunder sounds about which Papageno feels very afraid. Then some priests with torches enter, with whom Tamino says that he would be willing to give his life for friendship and love and to undergo tests for it. On this Papageno does not agree very much. He is a primitive man (Ich bin so ein Naturmensch) and until he is assured of a beautiful young woman, Papagena, he does not accept. But you must promise not to talk to her if you see her. They have to remain silent, and not talk to any woman. In this duo the main motivations of the test are detailed (“Bewahret euch vor Weibertuecken”).
The three priests leave the room and leave them in the dark. At that moment, The Three Ladies appear on the floor and the quintet (“Wie? Wie? Wie?”) Is sung, trying to convince them that this is not a good place. Papageno does not stop asking Tamino if what they say is true, but Tamino, who is strong, does not think about what they can say. They insist that the Queen of the Night is heading towards the temple, while Papageno faints. But you hear the priests who expel them until they disappear on the ground. Enter these and take Tamino. They make Papageno get up to continue guiding him.
TABLE 3º: A GARDEN
Tamino and Pamina, watercolor by Max Slevogt, Pamina is asleep under the light of the moon. Then Monostratos enters and sings his aria without anyone seeing him (“Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden”) in which he laments his compromised position. He can not love a being as beautiful as the moon because black is ugly. She approaches Pamina, but the Queen of the Night emerges from the ground. Pamina wakes up and Monostratos hides. The Queen is enraged to see that Tamino has sided with Sarastro, and asks for revenge for it. In the opera’s most famous aria (“Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen”) she expresses that she feels cheated, forces Pamina to kill Sarastro with the threat of abandoning her forever. He gives the knife to his daughter to kill Sarastro and leaves in a rage. Monostratos comes out of hiding and decides to avenge Sarastro by asking her to marry him, but Pamina refuses. Sarastro arrives to console Pamina and take justice, the way it is within those walls, which do not know revenge (“In diesen heil’gen Hallen”).
TABLE 4: IN THE TEST ROOM
Meanwhile, Tamino and Papageno continue to overcome the various tests imposed. At this moment, they face the silence test, but Papageno does not shut up. An old and ugly woman emerges from the floor, offering water to Papageno, who does not stop talking to her and discovers that she is 18 years and two minutes old, and also has a lover, Papageno himself. When he goes to ask the name of the old woman, a thunderclap sounds and the old woman disappears. The boys arrive to bring them food and their instruments. They give Tamino his flute and Papageno his chimes and disappear. Tamino plays the flute while Papageno eats and drinks. Pamina appears at the sound of the flute, which, having received no response from Tamino, thinks that she does not love him and very wounded sings her beautiful aria (“Ach, ich fühl’s, is ist verschwunden”), it is the most solemn moment of all the work.
TABLE 5º: A LARGE ROOM SAVED, INSIDE A PYRAMID
Sarastro, together with the choir of the priests, initiate a ritual (“O, Isis und Osiris, welche Wonne”). Tamino, in front of the great priest, listens to his words. Then Pamina enters with a sack on her head accompanied by the priests with Tamino. Sarastro takes off his jacket. He does not stop asking for Tamino who is at his side, but Tamino does not talk to her. In this quintet the story is told (“Soll ich dich, Treuer, nicht mehr sehn?”). They have to separate and both accept it because they promise they will meet again.
TABLE 6º: SMALL GARDEN
Papageno is alone and lost in the room where the tests are performed. He does not find the exit, they always tell him Back! (Zurück!). When approaching a priest this criticizes him that his behavior deserves a punishment, but the benign gods forgive him. In return you will never feel the joys of the initiates. Papageno is satisfied with a glass of wine, which is granted to him, and with a girl (“Ein Maedchen oder Weibchen wuenscht Papageno sich!”) Who will listen to him and love him. Singing finds his wife but it is the same old woman who asks for his eternity. He agrees with reluctance, because if he does not live imprisoned without a friend and without living in the world he likes so much. At that moment, she becomes a beautiful young woman, Papagena, but loses her, because a priest approaches, he is not yet worthy of her, he says. Papageno sinks into the ground because he does not want to listen to the priest.
TABLE 7º: A GARDEN
The three girls announce the arrival of the morning and talk about Pamina (“Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkuenden!”). Pamina, believing herself rejected by Tamino, decides to commit suicide. She is there, but the young geniuses save her in time, and ask her to be patient (Ha, Unglückliche, halt ein!)
TABLE 8º: TWO MOUNTAINS, A FIRE FIRE AND THE OTHER WATER
Two men in armor bring Tamino to pass the water and fire tests. Before the test, Pamina appears ready to see him (“Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden”). They decide that as Pamina does not fear death she is worthy of being initiated. They both shake hands. Tamino plays the flute to be able to cross the pillar of fire. They enter and leave this. Tamino returns to play the flute and they go to the mountain that throws water. They enter and leave this. Then the entrance to a very illuminated temple appears and from inside there are shouts of triumph and joy for the couple (“Tamino mein! O welch ien Glueck”).
TABLE 9º: SMALL GARDEN
Papageno, seeing that he has lost Papagena, desperately searches for her by singing and playing his whistle (“Papagena, Papagena, Papagena!”). He decides to hang himself. With a rope you approach a tree. Ask them to take pity but you can not hear anything. He sets out to hang himself resigned. The three boys stop him and advise him to play his bells. It is the famous duo, where he meets his beloved Papagena, with whom he decides to have many Papageno children.
TABLE 10º: SUBTERRANEAN OF THE TEMPLE
The Queen of the Night, together with Monostatos, who has joined her, emerge from the ground and silently (“Nur stille, stille, stille, stille!”) Try to attack the power of the priests and of Sarastro entering the temple . The Queen has promised Monostatos her daughter and she shows him the way. Noises are heard, they are the priests, who overcome them with thunder and lightning. The Queen of the Night and Monostatos are expelled, the earth swallows them. Sarastro summons the kingdom of light and the kingdom of truth. Beauty and wisdom have been crowned forever in that beautiful place. Complete booklet of The Magic Flute.
The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten), is also a cinematographic adaptation of this Opera, made by Ingmar Bergman in 1975. The film had an Oscar nomination, the Goya Awards and the Golden Globes. The film was reissued on DVD in the mid-2000s, and was completed with a very interesting making of interviews and interviews. In 2006 it is taken again to the cinema (the magical flute (2006)) by the British Kenneth Branagh.
In France, an editorial edited the main themes of the opera on a CD dedicated to children, and presented in the form of a story.
Beethoven, used one of the themes of The Magic Flute, the aria Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, sung by Papageno, to perform his 12 variations in F major for Violoncello and piano on this theme, Op. 66, and with another of his songs, the aria Bein Männern, duet sung by Papageno and Pamina, made the 7 variations in E flat major on this theme, of the same title, for Violoncello and piano, WOo. 46
The Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge composed, in 1989, his Four variations on a theme of The Magic Flute, based on the aria In diesen heiligen Hallen, interpreted by Sarastro. In addition, Franz Listz composed his Adagio Der welcher wandelt diese Strasse, of the Magic Flute, in 1881.