Die Zauberflote – The Magic Flute

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by Proggie

The Magic Flute was Mozart’s final opera. It was written in 1791, the year of his death. It was first performed at the Theater auf der Weiden in Vienna.
 
How The Magic Flute Came About
 
The idea for The Magic Flute came about as a result of the friendship between  Mozart and Emmanuel Schikaneder who was an actor, singer and was also the manager of the Theater auf der Weiden, which had been gaining in popularity with the Viennese middle classes.  Schikanader suggested to Mozart that a pantomime type comic opera would be a crowd pleaser and potentially highly profitable for them both. Mozart, who was at that time under some financial strain, agreed readily.
 
Mozart worked on the opera over the summer of 1791 and it did much to raise his spirits regarding his money woes. However shortly after beginning work he received a commission which has been the cause of much rumour and speculation ever since. He was supposedly sent an anonymous request to write a requiem mass. There was a condition on the final payment that Mozart should make no attempt to discover who his patron was. Despite the odd way in which the commission was sent Mozart decided to accept – after all it was going to pay well. Mozart was again surprised when in he received a commission to write an opera to celebrate the  crowning of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Time was short and work had to begin immediately. As a result he was obliged to delay working on the Magic Flute and travel to Prague, which did not please Shikanader.
 
On returning to Vienna in September Mozart, under some pressure from Schikanader, managed to complete  The Magic Flute in time for its premiere on 30th September August. Schikanader was proved right; it was a huge success and attracted full houses.

Original cast
 
Tamino  – -Benedict Schack
Papageno – Emanuel Schikanader
Pamina –  Anna Gottileb
Queen of the Night – Josepha Hofer (Mozart’s sister in law)
Sarastro – Franz Xaver Gerl
Papagena  – Barbera Gerl

Libretto
 
The story is a somewhat convoluted and potentially confusing one and the main plot gives way at frequent intervals to comic sub plots. However the basic story is about Tamino, a prince, and Pamina, daughter of the Queen of The Night.
Tamino becomes lost in a far off land. He is being persued by a serpent which is killed by three ladies who are attendants of the Queen of the Night.
 
Tamino then meets Papageno, the birdcatcher who pretends to Tamino that it was he who rescued him. The three ladies are angry at this and punish Papageno. They show Tamino a picture of a young maiden (Pamina) and Tamino falls instantly in love with her.
 
At this moment the Queen of The Night appears and tells Tamino that he must rescue her daughter ( Pamina) who is being held captive by the evil Sarastro. She promises Tamino that if he frees her daughter then he can marry her. He is given a magic flute to take on his journey.
 
Tamino agrees and sets off on his rescue mission but when he arrives at the place where Pamina is being held he is not allowed to pass through the Gates of Nature and Reason. He tries the Gate of Wisdom instead where a priest tells him that Sarastro is actually a good character. Tamino plays the Magic Flute, hoping to bring Pamina to him. She eventaullay arrives together with Papageno. The guards attempt to capture them but Papageno enchants them with his magic bells.
 
Sarastro arrives and Pamina tells him that she wishes to leave with Tamino. Together with the council of priests Sarastro decrees that Pamina can leave with Tamino if they can pass a trial by ordeal. They complete their trials with the help of the Magic Flute and are re-united again.
 
Masonic Connections
 
Mozart and Schikanader were both masons and  The Magic Flute appears to be filled with masonic references of one kind or another.The Masonic Sacred number is three and the opera is writen in E flat major, which has three flats.
There are three ladies who attend the Queen of the Night and three spirits are sent to help Tamino and Pamina.The rituals which Tamina and Pamina have too undergo bear strong reemblance to the masonic initiations rituals.
There are many more examples but the conclusion must be that Mozart and Schinakeder had deliberatelywritten a masonic opera. This is a bit surprising given the vows of secrecy members are expected to observe but there are too many references for it to be merely coincidence.
 
Another of the little mysteries surrounding Mozart that we will probably never have a full to answer to.
 
The Magic Flute is still going strong and is performed regularly all over the world.

Numerous productions of The Magic Flute are available on DVD and can be found at Mozart DVD

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