days later, on September 30 1791, under Mozart’s baton, Die Zauberflöte, K 620 had its first performance, in the Theater
auf der Wieden in the Freihaus. Mozart also conducted the second performance on
the following day, in what was to be his last professional appearance. He
invited Antonio Salieri and Catarina Cavalieri to the October 13 performance,
and they were full of praise for the opera. On November 20, Mozart took to his
bed, never to get up again. He died at 1 o’clock in the morning of December 5
1791, as the success of Die Zauberflöte
was becoming overwhelming: it had already had its fortieth performance, an
achievement not attained during Mozart’s lifetime by all the rest of his operas
together. How cruel was destiny to this the greatest of all musicians!
Die Zauberflöte began to be produced
in all the opera houses of the German-speaking world. In 1811, the first
performance in Italian was given in England, in His Majesty’s Theatre in
London, and in the United States in 1833 the first English-language performance
was given. It was normal practice,
outside the German-speaking countries, to perform the opera in the local
vernacular until the mid-twentieth century.
Nowadays it is generally sung in German, although it is still common to
perform the spoken parts in the local language, or even to cut these parts.
Die Zauberflöte was, among all
Mozart’s operas, the one most admired by German composers. Beethoven, who had a
poor opinion of Don Giovanni, and
worse of Cosi fan tutte, entered into
ecstasies whenever Die Zauberflöte
was mentioned. For Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner it represented the
greatest glory of German opera.
in the same way as Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte was never to disappear
from the repertoire of the opera companies, especially those of Germany and
composed much of Die Zauberflöte in a pavilion that Schikaneder made available
to him in the Freihaus. He was thus able to become thoroughly familiar with the
endowments of the singers who were to interpret what was to be his “swan song”.
The pavilion is now preserved in the Mozarteum at Salzburg.
opera has a large number of characters, some of which do not sing, but only
a young oriental prince, was interpreted by the company’s principal tenor,
Benedikt Schack, who was himself a composer and flautist of considerable
quality. When the thirty-three-year-old Schack performed Tamino, it was
probably the only time that the actor playing the prince actually played the
flute on stage. Tamino is musically and dramatically a direct precursor of the
Wagnerian Heldentenor. His heroic mission is to rescue Pamina. As in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart
accords great importance to the tenor, a voice that tended to be dominated by
the sopranos and basses in the opere
buffe he composed with Lorenzo da Ponte as librettist.
fatherless daughter of the Queen of the Night, is kidnapped by Sarastro. This
role was first performed by Anna “Nanette” Gottlieb, who was only seventeen
years old. She had been the first to sing the part of Barbarina in Le nozze de Figaro five years
earlier. Many legends have grown up
around Nanette, but it is undeniable that, had she not been a great singer,
Mozart would hardly have written for her the beautiful music with which Pamina
delights us on various occasions during the opera. For me it is important that the
singer chosen to interpret Pamina should sound genuinely young and innocent.
Queen of the Night, whom we initially take for the innocent victim of Sarastro,
but whose aims are in fact evil, has just two solos: but what solos! The first Queen of the Night was the eldest
of Constanze Mozart’s sisters, Josepha Weber-Hofer, married to the violinist
who accompanied Mozart on his journey to Frankfurt in 1790. She was 33 years old at the time of the
opera’s first staging.
the High Priest of the Temple of Wisdom, was —according to some— modelled on
the person who was at the time head of the most important Masonic lodge in
Vienna, Ignaz von Born. The High Priest is a solemn character, wise and firm in
his convictions. He offers a total contrast with the Queen of the Night, not
only in moral terms, but also musically. He is a schwarz bass who reaches a
tranquil and very deep bottom E, almost immediately after the Queen of the
Night’s furious top F. The twenty-seven year-old Franz Xaver Gerl was the first
to interpret Sarastro. A few months before, Mozart had composed for him the
bass aria Per questa bella mano, K 612.
He had been a pupil of Leopold Mozart at Salzburg and was to attend,
with Schack, the readings of the Requiem in
the bedroom of the sick Mozart.
the part first played by the baritone Schikaneder, is a character immune to all
the solemnity and symbolism of the opera. He spends his days catching birds
that he supplies to the Queen of the Night in exchange for food and drink, and
his only interest is to find a female companion similar to himself. Against his
will he agrees to accompany Tamino on his adventure. Schikaneder was not only a
very good Hamlet, but also a great clown. He must surely have drawn forth the
guffaws of the public at his buffoonery.
the bird-catcher’s companion has a brief musical appearance in duet with
Papageno. The part was first taken by Gerl’s wife, Barbara Reisinger, who was 21-year-old.
the character who changes sides, is a black man. He is a light tenor, in contrast with the
heroic tenor, and has a brief but important aria. The fact of his being black
has generated an excess of pointless discussions in the Anglo-Saxon lands,
derived from the hypocritical obsession with racism that exerts so much
influence in those parts of the world. There is no reason to bring racism into
the interpretation of a work, simply because it explicitly notes the presence
of an African, nor to adduce racist overtones. It is possible that both Schikaneder
and Mozart associated a dark skin with the Turkish enemy, although it was also
surely just another exotic element in this opera. Johann Joseph Nouseul was the
Queen of the Night is accompanied by an élite corps of Three Ladies: soprano,
mezzo soprano and contralto. They act as messengers and warriors, sometimes as
flirts, at other times gossips. The first Three Ladies were Fräulein Klöpfer,
Fräulein Hofmann and Schack’s wife, Elisabeth Weinhold.
priests who sing are identified in the libretto as the Second and Third,
although in the score, Mozart identifies them as First and Second. One of them
is a tenor, the other a bass, the tenor in the first production being Johann
Michael Kistler and the bass Herr Moll.
The first priest, a non-singing actor, was Schikaneder’s older brother
open question concerns the identity of the performer of the part now referred
to as Sprecher (“speaker” in English). At the end of the first act, the Speaker
has an important duet with Tamino. According to William Mann, this duet must
have been performed by the bass Herr Moll, while an apprentice actor,
identified in the original program as Herr Winter, took the part in the speech
of the first scene of Act II.
and Moll were also the first to play the parts of the “Men in Armor” who appear
at the beginning of the finale of Act II, at the moment of Tamino and Pamina’s
remaining singing parts, the Three Boys, were sung by Urban Schikaneder’s
daughter Nanette, and two boys identified as Tuscher and Handlgruber.
last three characters, all non-singing parts, are a group of slaves under the
command of Monostatos; these were interpreted by the above-mentioned Karl
Ludwig Giesecke, Wilhelm Frasel and Herr Starke.
be appreciated, the opera has an enormous cast, twenty-two in all. This
represented the Theater auf der Wieden’s entire company; obviously there was no
room for failure.
Mozart’s stylistic development was still an ongoing process is proved by the
orchestration of Die Zauberflöte.
the small orchestra pit at the Theater auf der Wieden he placed one flute and a
piccolo, which on occasion plays a second flute part, and the habitual pairs of
oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets, the string section —first and
second violins, violas, cellos and double basses— and the timpani. Three
trombones also appeared in the orchestra, as well as a carillon of bells, a
glockenspiel (a rudimentary precursor of the later celesta) which Mozart himself
played in one performance. The clarinetists also changed their instruments at
some points during the performance for the deeper-pitched instruments known as
bassethorns, which were often heard in the music of the Freemasonry.
of the audience at the Theater auf der Wieden would have heard Don Giovanni in the Hoftheater or Idomeneo at Munich. Trombones were at
that period only ever heard in churches, having thus a strongly religious
association. In one way or another, however, Die Zauberflöte is indeed religious music: that of the religion of
the Temple of Wisdom. Those who were
familiar with the above-mentioned works would remember how Mozart had used
trombones at moments of terror and would perhaps find it odd to hear them used
in other contexts. Beethoven, who so much loved Die Zauberflöte, began using trombones from the last movement of
his Fifth Symphony, from which point on they became normal elements in his
Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, the Overture
begins lento, adagio, with five chords in the key of E flat major that are
perceived structurally as three, since only the second two are repeated. E flat
major, one of Mozart’s favorite keys, is in this instance a key of ceremonial
brilliance in keeping with the subject of the opera. The trombones contribute a
very important element to the color of the opening chords.
second violins take up a fugal theme as the allegro passage, in which the
flutes come to have a preponderant role, begins. Once the theme has been brilliantly
developed by the whole orchestra, the music changes tempo to adagio once more,
and we hear three triple E flat major chords, identified by some as the
knocking on the door by a person seeking initiation in the Masonic lodge. The
allegro returns, once again in fugue form. The music comes perilously close to
G minor, key of sadness for Mozart, but returns triumphantly to E flat major,
recapitulating the theme and repeating the chords, now single, bringing the
Overture to an end. This symphonic piece
is of the highest quality and, even when performed in a concert hall, it is one
of the favorites with the public.
curtain opens. The action is set in Egypt in ancient times. We observe a rocky
scene with some trees and a small circular temple in the center stage
surrounded by low hills.
elaborately-dressed young man enters, of “Javanese” appearance according to the
libretto, armed with a bow but without arrows. He enters running as if in fear,
pursued by a huge serpent: an opportunity for Schikaneder’s scenic effects. The
music, allegro in C major for oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and strings,
accompanies the cries of the youth, No.1
Introduction ‘Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!’ (Help! Help!). As the serpent catches up
with the youth, he faints, and just at that moment the Three Ladies appear from
out of the temple holding lances with which they slay the serpent, cutting it
into three Masonic segments. Triumphantly they sing, Stirb!, Ungeheu’r, durch
uns’re Macht! (Die, monster, by our power!), accompanied by an orchestra to
which flutes, trumpets and timpani have been added. The key is now a victorious
E flat major. The Three Ladies pause in order to behold the young man saved by
their heroism and the music modulates into a questioning A flat major, very
rare in Mozart –remember the toast in Così
fan tutte– when the First Lady exclaims Ein holder Jüngling, sanft und
schön (A charming youth, gentle and handsome), now without the trumpets and
timpani. The youth awakes amorous feelings in the Three Ladies, each of whom
wishes to be the one to stay alone with him while the other two go to inform
their mistress, Queen of the Night, that the young man is probably the person
she is seeking to cure her sorrows. Finally the three decide to go off together
singing a gay march in C major. The trumpets and timpani return as they leave
the stage with a beautifully harmonized trio Du Jüngling, schön und liebevoll
(O handsome youth, so loveable), retiring into the circular temple whose doors
close by themselves as if by magic.
regains consciousness, overwhelmed at finding himself still alive and at seeing
the serpent dead, and astonished at the place where he finds himself. He
wonders aloud who could have saved him. He hears the sound of panpipes from
offstage and hides behind a tree.
then appears from one of the mountain paths. His dress is like the plumage of a
bird and he carries a cage taller than himself containing the birds he has
caught. The orchestra, with oboes, bassoons, horns and strings, introduces
Papageno’s first Aria No.2, ‘Der
Vogelfänger bin ich ja’ (The bird catcher am I), andante in the plebeian key of
G major and without complications. This aria is a song in thoroughly popular
style —in fact it rapidly became part of Viennese folklore— in three verses
that repeat the same melody. In it Papageno describes himself as a very happy
bird catcher who would also like to catch girls, feeding the most beautiful one
on the sugar he exchanged for his birds. The third stanza of the song, Wenn
alle Mädchen wären mein (If all girls were mine) is not in the original
libretto nor in the score, though it is regarded as authentic.
the end of his aria, Papageno goes towards the temple, but Tamino, coming out
of his hiding place, holds out his hand to retain him. Tamino learns that
Papageno, who identifies himself as “a man like you”, exchanges birds for food
and drink in the temple in which the Queen of the Night lives: whom nobody may
see, as she always wears a veil over her face. Tamino tells him he is the son
of a king who has vast domains far from this place; this surprises Papageno
since he had not imagined the existence of anywhere beyond the fields where he
traps his birds. Tamino had already heard of the Queen of the Night and at
first imagines that it was the bird catcher who killed the serpent. Papageno,
who is terrified at the sight of the serpent, makes sure it is really dead
before going along with the notion that it was he who slew the monster. While
he is engaging in this deception, the Three Ladies come out from the temple,
reward Papageno with water and a stone instead of the usual wine and cake for
his deceit and —for good measure— place a padlock on his mouth in place of the
customary figs. They inform Tamino that they were the ones who killed the
serpent and that their “sovereign” sends him a portrait of her daughter who has
been abducted, promising that happiness can be his if he is “not indifferent to
her features”. The Three Ladies return to the temple.
goes into an ecstasy looking at the portrait and sings his Aria No.3, ‘Dies Bildniss ist bezaubernd schön’ (This portrait is
bewitchingly beautiful), larghetto in E flat major, the opera’s principal key,
for sensual clarinets, bassoons, horns and strings. In this aria, Tamino
expresses the overwhelming feelings of love the portrait has awoken in him. The
music here is typical of Die Zauberflöte,
although Mozart had already used a similar structure in Idomeneo. The subject of sentiments awoken by a portrait had also
appeared in Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s first duet in Cosi fan tutte and previously in another German opera, the
unfinished Zaide, K 344.
finishing his aria, Tamino prepares to leave, but the Three Ladies return and
tell him that the Queen of the Night has been observing him and, in view of the
emotions he has expressed, she has decided to ask him to rescue her daughter
—the original of the portrait— whose name is Pamina. The Three Ladies then
relate how an evil sorcerer has abducted the girl. This inspires in Tamino the
determination to go to her rescue. To an accompaniment of thunder and
lightning, the Three Ladies announce the arrival of the Queen of the Night.
bassoons, horns and strings begin an allegro maestoso in the aristocratic —or
royal, in this case— key of B flat major, with a crescendo as the stage darkens
and the mountains separate revealing to us the sumptuous dwelling of the Queen
of the Night, who is seated on a throne decorated with stars. The Queen of the
Night begins a Rezitativ followed by
a memorable Aria, No.4 ‘O zittre nicht, mein lieber
Sohn!’ (Do not tremble my dear son!). In the recitative —the only accompanied
recitative of the opera –the work is, strictly speaking, a Singspiel, and
neither an opera buffa nor an opera seria— she tells him that his
innocence, wisdom and purity make him the ideal person to “bring consolation to
this mother’s grieving heart”. In the aria, ‘Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren’
(Suffering is my destiny), which begins andante, in an almost pathetic, though
somewhat false, G minor, she explains that the cause of her suffering is the
loss of her daughter, abducted by an “evil man”; she still sees in her mind’s
eye the terrified girl, whom she was “too feeble” to save, and hears her
screams as she was carried away. With the words ‘Du wirst sie zu befreien
gehen’ (You shall go to set her free), the music accelerates to allegro
moderato and returns to B flat major. Finally, she offers him her daughter’s
hand if he is able to save her. The singer reaches f’’’, the high F, after
executing some extraordinarily florid scales. The first impression is that the
Queen of the Night is the great victim of the opera; however, there is
something too artificial about the first part of the aria and too triumphantly
spectacular in the second part, and so we may well adopt an attitude of “wait
and see”. Ernest Newman described the Queen in this aria as a “vulture with the
throat of a nightingale”. After Mozart, only Richard Strauss, 121 years later,
was to demand such high notes from one of his singers, Zerbinetta, in Ariadne auf Naxos.
the end of this aria, the mountains close again —once more to the sound of
thunder— and the Queen of the Night disappears with her Three Ladies, leaving
Tamino and Papageno in astonishment. The Prince wishes to begin the search for
Pamina but Papageno stops him, pointing to the padlock on his mouth.
orchestra, with bassoons, horns and strings, begins, allegro, in the same key
of B flat with which the Queen of the Night ended the previous aria, the Quintett No.5 ‘Hm, hm, hm...!’, in
which Papageno, his voice doubled by the bassoons, tries to speak with the
padlock on his mouth; Tamino declares himself “too weak” to help him remove the
padlock and. just at that moment, the Three Ladies appear once again from the
temple and, singing in F major, inform Papageno that their sovereign has
graciously deigned to relieve the punishment. The quintet intones, with the
addition of oboes, one of the moralizing phrases that abound in the opera:
‘Bekämen doch die Lügner alle, ein Solches Schloss vor ihren Mund...!’ (If all
liars were to get a padlock like this on their mouths...!) The orchestra takes
up once again the key of B flat major as the First Lady presents the Prince
with a flute which the Queen of the Night has commanded her to give him, ‘O
Prinz! Nimm dies Geschenk von mir’ (O Prince! accept this gift from me), and
upon whose virtues the Three Ladies comment, contributing another sweetly moralizing
verse to the quintet: such a flute is priceless; through its magic the
happiness of mankind will be increased. For some mysterious reason Mozart
desists from including the flute in his orchestration at this moment. Papageno
decides that now is the time to take his leave of the Three Ladies, ‘Nun ihr
schönen Frauenzimmer’ (Now, lovely ladies...), but the music falls into a
quasi-pathetic G minor as the Three Ladies tell him that the Queen of the Night
has ordered him to accompany the Prince to Sarastro’s castle. Finally the name
of the evil sorcerer has been spoken: Sarastro is quite obviously a corruption
of Zoroaster or Zarathustra. “No!” exclaims Papageno, who has been told by the
Three Ladies themselves that the merciless Sarastro would have him roasted and
served to his dogs, ‘Nein, dafür bedank’ ich mich...!’ (No, thank you very
much...!) The music returns to E flat major as the Three Ladies tell him that
the Prince will protect him, but Papageno is not convinced: ‘Dass doch der
Prinz beim Teufel wäre’ (The devil take the Prince) Finally, Papageno is
persuaded when they offer him the set of bells —the “glockenspiel”—, also a
present from the Queen of the Night and the inspiration of another tinkling
verse, ‘Silberglöckchen, Zauberflöten’ (Silver bells, magic flutes). Tamino,
before taking his leave, asks for instructions on how to find Sarastro’s
castle. The Ladies tell him that the pair will be guided by three boys, ‘Drei
Knaben, jung, schön, hold und weise’ (Three boys, young, pretty, good and
wise). With these words, the clarinets take the place of the oboes, and the
music, now andante, returns to the initial E flat. Mozart gives a very special color,
almost ethereal, to the orchestra, which returns every time the Three Boys
appear. Finally the five characters take leave of each other, ending the
quintet, which is of extraordinary beauty, and in which the Papagenesque tones
that predominate at the beginning are replaced by those associated with the
Three Boys, who only later make their appearance on stage.
scene changes to a splendid room in an Egyptian palace. Two slaves bring
cushions, rugs and a delicate Turkish-style table. A third slave joins them, in
a good mood because Monostatos, their master, is surely going to lose his head,
since Pamina, who was being guarded by him, has escaped, most probably after he
attempted to rape her. While the slaves laugh, Monostatos appears dragging
behind him Pamina, whom he has just recaptured.
The Terzett No.6, ‘Du Feines Täubchen nur
herein!’ (My little dove, come in!) begins in G major, allegro molto for
flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns and strings, in which Monostatos threatens
Pamina, who says she is not afraid to die; the only thing that worries her is
her mother’s sorrow. Monostatos has the slaves leave and Pamina swoons. With a
beautiful orchestral transition, Papageno appears in the window and then enters
the room with his eyes on Pamina, until finding himself face to face with
Monostatos. Each looks at the other, a bird-man and a black man, and imagines
that the person he sees before him is the devil in person. Both leave the stage
running in opposite directions, singing ‘Das ist der Teufel sicherlich’ (This
is surely the devil) and begging for mercy, a great opportunity for Schikaneder
recovers from her fainting fit, crying in vain for her mother. Papageno
returns, reasoning that, if black birds exist, then why not black men? He sees
Pamina and recognizes her likeness to the portrait. He compares each feature to
make sure: skin color, eyes, lips; everything agrees, except that the girl in
the portrait has neither hands nor feet. Papageno tells Pamina that he and
Tamino have come to rescue her and that he found his way without the help of
the Three Boys. She tells him that he risks facing torture and death just by
being there. They are about to leave, when Pamina begins to doubt his
intentions, accusing him of being an evil spirit in the service of Sarastro.
Papageno answers that he is the “best spirit in the world” and Pamina begs his
forgiveness, saying she can see he has a tender heart. Papageno replies saying
that his tender heart is of little use to him since he has still not found his
advises him sweetly to be patient and she begins the Duett, No.7 ‘Bei
Männern welche Liebe fühlen...’ (Men who feel the power of love...), andantino
in E flat major for mellifluous clarinets, bassoons, horns and strings. The
second stanza, ‘Die Lieb’ versüsset jede Plage’ (Love sweetens every trouble),
ends in a vocal line in which Pamina’s voice becomes ever more florid and
ecstatic, as she considers this ideal emotion. The duet, about the
inevitability of the perfect human love, is sung by a man and a woman who not
only does not love each other, but also have actually only just met. It is
typical of this opera and, according to William Mann, very German. Papageno
accompanies Pamina in this love duet, not as her lover, but as another person
searching for love: Pamina and Papageno are, after all, on different planes of
existence. This duet was the piece that found most favor among its Viennese
audience on the day of its first performance, and this is perfectly
scene changes to a wood in which we find three temples —dedicated to Wisdom,
Reason and Nature— connected by rows of pillars.
orchestra, with flutes, clarinets, bassoons, muted trumpets, trombones, muffled
timpani, and strings, begins the introduction to No.8 Finale, larghetto in C major. The Three Boys, each one with a
silver palm branch, and transported through the air in a gondola, have brought
Tamino, who has the magic flute hanging round his neck, to this place. ‘Zum
Ziele führt dich diese Bahn’ (This road leads you to your goal), they sing, and
give him some final advice of a moral nature on how to achieve his aim: ‘Sei
standhaft, duldsam und verschwiegen... Dann, Jüngling, wirst du männlich
siegen’ (Be steadfast, patient and silent... Then, youth, you will conquer like
a man). The color of the orchestra is provided by the clarinets, giving a
similar effect to that at the end of No. 5, and the trombones make the scene
even more mysterious. Normally the Three Boys move in a basket suspended
overhead as if from a hot-air balloon, which increases the air of mystery. It
is at this point that a change of orientation may have taken place during the
writing of the libretto and the opera, since the music is totally innovatory,
including the orchestration.
then sings a solo recitative with strings, in which he acknowledges the truth
of the teachings of the Three Boys and wonders at the place to which they have
brought him: a sacred place where skill, labor and the arts reside, where there
is no room for idleness and vices, ‘Die Weisheitslehre dieser Knaben...’ (The
wise teachings of these boys...). Flutes, oboes and bassoons are added, and the
music changes to allegro assai as Tamino gathers the courage to carry out his
task of saving Pamina; ‘Erzitt’re, feiger Bösewicht! Paminen retten ist mir
Pflicht’ (Tremble, craven blackguard! It is my duty to rescue Pamina).
approaches, with the music in D major, the temple to the right, the Temple of
Nature, but before knocking at the door he is surprised by a voice, a chorus,
declaiming ‘Zurück! (Back!). Perplexed, he decides to approach the door to the
left-hand temple, that of Reason —the music in a cautious G minor—, obtaining
the same result, ‘Zurück!’. With the music now in C minor, he approaches the
door of the Temple of Wisdom and this time is met by an old priest, who is
nowadays referred to as Der Sprecher (The Speaker).
following scene is of extraordinary importance not only dramatically –since we
will now begin to learn the true story– but also musically; in it the old
priest must achieve a distillation of the grandiose music Mozart wrote for this
Speaker, accompanied by strings alone, with some occasional chords on the
flutes, oboes and bassoons, asks, in A flat major, adagio, ‘Wo willst du kühner
Fremdling hin? Was suchst du hier im Heiligtum?’ (Where are you going, bold stranger?
What do you seek in this holy place?). With the music now andante in E flat
major, Tamino answers that he is seeking “that which belongs to love and
virtue”. The Speaker replies, telling him that he is not guided by love and
virtue, but that death and revenge are seeking to inflame him. Tamino answers that he is seeking “revenge on
the villain alone”, to which the Speaker retorts that he will not find any such
person “in our midst”. Tamino asks whether it is true that Sarastro rules in
this place, and the Speaker answers in the affirmative. Is this the Temple of Wisdom? asks Tamino, to
which the reply is “Yes”. Then this is all a sham, exclaims the youth. The old
priest, who knows the whole story, including the fact that Tamino arrived with
the Three Boys, keeps up the conversation, speaking of Sarastro, whom Tamino
claims to hate, and telling him that a woman has deceived him; he is not authorized
to tell him more since he has been sworn to silence. Then Tamino asks when the
veil of mystery will be lifted, and the Speaker answers, majestically, in A
minor – no flats for the moment– ‘Sobald dich führt der Freundschaft Hand ins
Heiligtum zum ew’gen Band’ (As soon as the hand of friendship guides you into
the sanctuary to the eternal bond), before disappearing through the doors into
the Temple of Wisdom.
is now alone and, to the accompaniment of solemn trombones and strings, andante
in A minor —key of eternal night, according to William Mann—, exclaims, ‘O ew’ge
Nacht! Wann wirst du schwinden? Wann wird das Licht mein Auge finden?’ (O,
endless night, when will you vanish? When will my eye again see light?), to
which a mysterious chorus answers from inside the temple: ‘Bald, bald,
Jüngling, oder nie’ (Soon, young man, or never!). Tamino then asks whether
Pamina is still alive, and the chorus intones, ‘Pamina lebet noch’ (Pamina is
still alive). Ingmar Bergman tells us that this is the scene that most
impressed him in Die Zauberflöte,
since he identified Pamina with Love; he thus interpreted Tamino’s question as
“Does love still exist?” and the chorus answer as “Yes love still exists”.
with the reply, Tamino takes his flute and plays a hymn of thanksgiving to the
gods, andante in C major, with strings accompanying the flute, plus the
discreet support of the oboes, bassoons and horns. ‘Wie stark ist nicht dein
Zauberton...’ (How powerful is your magic sound...), he sings. The orphic sound
of the instrument summons animals of all kinds, real and fantastic, to approach
Tamino, enchanted by the power of his flute.
was hoping, perhaps, to attract Pamina too –the psychoanalysts could write a
whole chapter on this– but the time is not ripe. The music, now presto,
accompanies Tamino in the lines, ‘Pamina, höre, höre mich! Umsonst, umsonst!
Wo? Ach wo find’ ich dich?’ (Pamina, hear me! In vain, in vain! Where, oh where
can I find you?). We hear the sound of Papageno’s panpipes in response to the
call of the magic flute. Tamino enthusiastically calls again and leaves the
stage running towards where he thinks he hears Papageno’s reply.
the opposite direction, with the music andante in G major, Papageno’s key,
Pamina and Papageno enter, running, looking for Tamino; Pamina calls him,
‘Holder Jüngling’ (charming young man), but Papageno tells her he can “do it
better” and plays his panpipes again; the flute answers from offstage. Then
Pamina and Papageno say that Tamino has heard them and that they will be happy
when they find him, so they try to follow the sound of the magic flute, singing
‘Nur geschwinde, nur geschwinde...’ (we must hurry...).
in an allegro tempo, charges on stage making fun of the pair, repeating their
‘Nur geschwinde...’ and ordering his slaves to set them in chains. Papageno
remembers that he too has a magic instrument and, playing his Glockenspiel, has
the effect of making Monostatos and his slaves want only to dance, which they
then do to something that sounds like a march, disappearing from the stage.
Pamina and Papageno remain alone and intone another moralizing ditty, similar
to those of the quintet with the Three Ladies, ‘Könnte jeder brave Mann...’ (If
only every valiant man...), in which they observe that, with chimes such as
these, any man’s enemies could be made to disappear, leaving him to live in
perfect harmony with his neighbors: a harmony without which there can be no
happiness on earth.
and timpani and a large off-stage chorus announce the arrival of Sarastro,
allegro maestoso in C major. Papageno is so afraid that wishes he was a mouse
and could hid himself in a hole; he asks Pamina what they will say when the
priest arrives. Pamina, to the accompaniment of bassoons and strings, answers
with one of the most grandiose musical statements of the whole history of
music: ‘Die Wahrheit, die Wahrheit, sei sie auch Verbrechen!’ (The truth, the
truth, even if it means confessing to a crime!).
makes his triumphant entry with a great march in C major for oboes, bassoons,
trumpets, timpani and strings. The chorus, the men being the initiates and the
women the wives of those of second category I guess, sing ‘Es lebe Sarastro!
Sarastro soll leben!’ (Long live Sarastro!). When the procession has come to an
end, Sarastro enters in a coach drawn by two teams of lions —a difficult thing
to achieve in a conventional theatre, as it happens— and he alights as, once
again, the triple chord from the beginning of the opera is played, this time in
F major for flutes, bassoons, strings and the Masonic bassethorns, that continue
to be used until the end of the act.
in a very beautiful larghetto, kneels and admits her transgression in trying to
escape, ‘Herr! Ich bin zwar Verbrecherin’ (I admit my guilt), but the real
culprit is Monostatos, who wanted to have his way with her. Sarastro —with
music that, according to George Bernard Shaw, could have been put into the
mouth of God without blasphemy— tells her to get up, that she need not say
anything, he knows she is in love, but he will not give her her freedom.
Pamina, in C major, says she longs to be with her mother, which provokes
Sarastro to say that, if he sends her back to her mother, that will be the end
of her happiness; Pamina, her voice doubled by the wind parts, sings “how
sweetly sounds my mother’s name...”, to which Sarastro replies firmly: ‘Und ein
Stolzes Weib’ (An arrogant woman). What every woman needs is a man to guide
her: without that guiding hand any woman “will step beyond her bounds” –another
notion that has incited the feminists’ wrath).
music suddenly accelerates to an allegro in F major, as Monostatos enters
leading Tamino. The Prince and the Princess recognize each other –one of
Schikaneder’s theatrical effects! – and embrace to the surprise of the
multitude, that exclaims, ‘Was soll das heissen?’ (What does this mean?). Monostatos pulls them apart and, kneeling
before Sarastro, protests his loyalty and accuses Tamino, who with the help of
a “strange bird”, tried to abduct Pamina. Sarastro, after telling him that his
vigilance deserves laurels, orders the other slaves to give him just
seventy-seven strokes on the soles of the feet. Monostatos protests that he was
not expecting that, and Sarastro tells him he is only doing his duty. The slaves, smiling, lead Monostatos away.
accompanied recitative, Sarastro says that Tamino and Papageno will be
initiated. For this purpose, the two
priests cover their heads with hoods and lead them to one of the two side
temples for their purification. The act ends with a chorus, ‘Wenn Tugend und
Gerechtigkeit...’ (If virtue and uprightness...), in C major, presto, for the
whole orchestra (bassethorns instead of clarinets), while Sarastro takes Pamina
by the hand and they enter the Temple of Wisdom.
II starts in a grove of palm trees whose trunks are of gold and whose branches
are of silver. In the grove there are eighteen seats made of palm branches,
with a pyramid and a black and gilded horn on each of them. In the center there
is a seat that stands out amongst the tallest palms.
A March No.9, accompanies the entry of
Sarastro and the other seventeen priests of the Temple of Wisdom, each one with
a palm in his hand; the eighteen priests represent another Masonic symbol,
being “twice three times three”. The march, marked as sotto voce, is an andante
in F major, orchestrated with a flute, bassethorns (indispensable in the
Masonic rites), bassoons, horns, trombones and strings, the latter being added
by Mozart who ignored Schikaneder’s specific instructions: “march with wind
instruments”. As has already been mentioned, Mozart completed this march at the
same time as the overture, two days before the opening. He used a melody that Paul Wranitsky had
employed in a march in his opera Oberon
- to a libretto by Giesecke - that Schikaneder had produced in 1789.
seated, Sarastro addresses his fellow Masons –or, as I ought better to say,
priests consecrated in this Temple to the gods Isis and Osiris– telling them
that the young man Tamino, at twenty years of age, has decided to throw off the
veils of ignorance and be initiated in the Order of the Temple of Wisdom, and
that their task will be to help him to achieve this initiation.
First Priest asks whether he is a virtuous young man and Sarastro answers in
the affirmative. The Second Priest inquires about his discretion and the Third
whether he is charitable, each receiving likewise an affirmative reply. All the
priests take hold of their horns, and the wind instruments, bassethorns
included, play the same chords that were heard in the middle of the overture.
thanks those present for their willingness to allow Tamino to begin his
initiation and tells them that Pamina has been promised by the gods to the
young man, for which reason he has taken her away from her arrogant mother, who
had nursed the intention of destroying the Temple and its brotherhood by
deceiving the ignorant with superstitions.
Once again we hear the triple chords.
priest identified as Sprecher in the libretto, who is not the same one who
speaks to Tamino in the first act, doubts that Tamino, as a prince, will pass
the trials of initiation. Sarastro says
that Tamino is more than just a prince: he is a man. The Speaker replies that
Tamino may die in the tests, to which Sarastro retorts that in that case he
will go to Isis and Osiris before the rest of them, which is also a blessing.
The chords are repeated once more.
orders Tamino and his companion to be taken to the patio in front of the Temple
in order to begin the rites of initiation and tells the Speaker, who kneels, to
demonstrate the power of the gods to those who are about to be initiated. The
Speaker and another priest abandon the stage in search of Tamino and Papageno.
begins a hymn, Arie mit chor No.10,
‘O Iris und Osiris’, in which the other initiates join, begging the gods to
help those who are about to begin the tests and, should they die in the course
of the initiation, to take them to their bosoms. The tempo of the aria and
chorus is a very solemn adagio, once again in F major, for basset horns,
bassoons, trombones, violins and one cello, really a very peculiar
orchestration, in which Sarastro’s schwarz bass transmits a great sense of
tranquillity to his co-initiates. When the chorus finishes, the priests follow
Sarastro in his exit from the stage.
scene, with its extremely solemn musical items and extended speech sections,
may represent a whole initiation process for audiences, especially those who do
not have a fair understanding of German. It is really a religious ceremony. It
needs fair to good actors who do not merely recite their lines but pronounce
them as if they really meant them; otherwise it can become tremendously boring.
scene changes to a small Temple patio in which there are pyramids, columns and
prickly shrubs. At the sides we see Egyptian-style doors that communicate with
other buildings. Night has fallen.
Speaker and the other priest introduce Tamino and Papageno, taking off their
hoods and then immediately abandoning the stage.
asks Papageno where he thinks they are; the latter is about to answer when a
peal of thunder is heard. The terrified Papageno says he has icy shivers
running down his spine. Tamino tells him to be a man, to which Papageno answers
that he would prefer to be a girl.
priests return with torches and ask the two to explain their motives for being
there. Tamino says he is impelled by wisdom and love. Even if it should turn
out to be a battle for life and death? asks the First Priest. Yes, answers
Tamino. The priest warns him that, after the next step, there is no turning
back. Tamino replies that wisdom shall be his victory and Pamina his reward,
and for this he is willing to undergo every trial. The priest then offers him
his hand in a typical Masonic handshake.
Priest asks Papageno whether he too is prepared to fight for the love of
wisdom; Papageno answers that fighting is not his style, nor does he need
wisdom since he is a child of nature who is satisfied with sleeping, eating and
drinking, and his only remaining wish is that he might find a pretty wife...
“You will never find her if you do not pass our trials”, says the Second
Priest. “What trials?” asks Papageno. “You must accept all our laws and not
fear death”, answers the Priest. “I’ll stay single”, says Papageno. The Priest
then tries to arouse his appetite with “But what if Sarastro had a girl lined
up for you whose color and garments were just like yours?” “Is she young?” asks
Papageno. “Young and beautiful,” answers
the Priest... “and her name is Papagena... You can see her, but not talk to
her”. Papageno also receives the Masonic handshake. The First Priest then tells
Tamino that he is enjoined to the same vow of silence. He may see Pamina but
not speak to her. The trials have begun.
two priests intone a Duett No.11,
‘Bewahret euch vor Weibertücken: dies ist des Bundes erste Pflicht’ (Beware of
women’s wiles: this is the first rule of our brotherhood). The duet, andante in
C major, is oddly for the whole orchestra, since neither the characters nor the
situation seem to call for it; it is rather bland, except for the last
sentence, ‘Tod und Verzweiflung war sein Lohn’ (Death and despair were his
reward), sung sotto voce. This sentence reappears later, in a totally different
context; in the Queen of the Night’s second aria. The priests withdraw, leaving
the postulants alone.
complains that it is always dark when there are no priests at hand, to which
Tamino tells him to be patient.
the Three Ladies appear from the stage trap-doors, and begin the Quintett No.12, ‘Wie? Wie? Wie? Ihr an
diesem Schreckensort?’ (What? what? what? You in this place of dread?), allegro
in G major for flutes, oboes, horns and strings, in which they come across as real
chatterboxes, whose aim is clearly to make the two novices fail in their first
test: that of silence. The reason why they have come, so they say, is to save
the two from certain death, which, of course, Papageno believes. Tamino,
however, persuades him to keep his mouth shut; the women tell them that the
Queen of the Night is already in the vaults under the temple and is going to
rescue them; Tamino resists despite Papageno’s empty-headedness. The women
finally accept defeat and begin their retreat in a passage in which all five
sing in harmony, in the case of Tamino and the bird-man, of course, as an
aside, since they are forbidden to speak to the women. Once again, the text is
a moralizing sententia: ‘Von festem Geiste ist der Mann, er denket, was er
sprechen kann!’ (A man is firm in spirit, he thinks before he speaks!),
obviously a joke as far as Papageno is concerned. At this moment an invisible
chorus of priests, to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning and with the
addition of trumpets, trombones and timpani, exclaims in C minor: ‘Entweiht ist
die heilige Schwelle! Hinab mit den Weibern zur Hölle!’ (The holy threshold is
profaned; away with the women to Hell). The Three Ladies disappear through the
trap-doors crying O weh! (Alas!), an exclamation taken up by the awe-struck
Papageno as well.
we hear the triple chords of the overture as the Speaker and another priest
enter to tell the initiates that they have passed the first test. The Speaker
puts the hood on Tamino and leads him away for a further test. The other priest
encourages Papageno, who pretends to have fainted, but the priest puts his hood
on and leads him away too, as the bird-man wonders aloud whether love is really
worth so much fuss.
scene changes to a garden with trees forming the shape of a horse-shoe and, in
the middle of them, a rose bush and Pamina sleeping amid the roses under the
light of the moon. In front there is a bench.
appears and, after a pause, he sits down on the bench. The object of his desire
is there before his eyes and the two of them are alone; his face is glowing and
he fans himself with his hands. Ah! if he could only give her a kiss! He makes sure there is no one else there
before beginning his Arie No.13,
‘Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden’ (Every creature feels the joy of love), allegro
in C major. This aria, with piccolo and flute, clarinets, bassoons and strings,
consists of two verses to the same music, in which the blackamoor laments that
everyone apart from him has access to the pleasures of love. “It must be
because I’m black”, he muses, and finishes asking the moon to shut its eyes
while he kisses this beautiful creature.
just about to satisfy this desire when a burst of thunder announces the arrival
of the Queen of the Night from out of a trap-door beside Pamina’s bed of roses
and repels Monostatos with a single word, ‘Zurück!’. Monostatos recognizes the
Queen and decides to retreat to a point where he can eavesdrop on the
conversation between mother and daughter.
Queen of the Night, in a dialogue that is very important for one’s
understanding of the opera, asks about Tamino, and Pamina tells her that he has
begun his initiation in the Temple of Wisdom. The Queen, very annoyed, informs
her daughter that her father, the former Sovereign, has taken away her power
upon appointing Sarastro Regent, which was a terrible affront to her. The Queen
is now ready to recover power for herself and so Pamina must either persuade
Tamino to flee with her or kill Sarastro with the dagger she has sharpened
especially for the occasion and now places in her daughter’s hand. At last it
becomes clear that the opera is about a struggle for power.
with a heavy heart, tries to answer, but is interrupted by the Queen, who
refuses to hear another word and begins a furious Arie No.14, ‘Der Hölle Rache kocht in Meinem Herzen’ (Hell’s
revenge burns within my heart). The
aria, allegro assai in an ominous D minor is orchestrated with flutes, oboes,
bassoons, trumpets, timpani and strings. In it she tells Pamina that death and
desperation –Tod und Verzweiflung– will fall upon her if she does not destroy
Sarastro and, in an attempt at moral blackmail, she condemns her to be no
longer her daughter if Sarastro is not made to feel the pain that she now
feels, invoking the gods as witnesses to her oath: ‘Hört..., Rachegötter! Hört
der Mutter Schwur!’ (Hear me, ye gods of vengeance! Hear the mother’s curse).
The Queen finishes her tender message of love and disappears through the
trap-door. If the aria in Act I gave rise to doubt, now we can be absolutely
certain who the villain is; we also know what motivates her: the old story of
power. This aria is probably the most difficult of all those written by Mozart,
since it requires the singer repeatedly to reach high F: a note which actually
falls outside the range of most sopranos. It has thus become the vehicle par
excellence for those singers whose range extends that far to show off their
prowess while avoiding confusing indignation and fury with an exhibition of
is astounded, unable to believe that her mother can be obliging her to commit
such a vile act. Monostatos then approaches telling her that he has heard
everything, and so she had better favor him with her love or else he will tell
everything he has heard to Sarastro, who will probably summon up the
subterranean waters to drown the Queen of the Night. Pamina refuses to bestow
her favors upon the blackamoor, who takes the dagger from her hand and
threatens to kill her with it. Just at that moment Sarastro makes his entry.
The High Priest detains Monostatos, who protests his innocence, but Sarastro
tells him he has witnessed everything that has happened and knows that
Monostatos’ heart is as black as his face. At this point all the objections of
the Anglo-Saxon producers give way: Monostatos is indeed black, and in every
sense. The slave driver leaves, shouting that he is going to join the Queen of
the Night. Goethe wrote an unfinished sequel to Die Zauberflöte in which Monostatos marries the Queen.
announces his intentions to Pamina: Tamino will pass the tests and the Queen
will return to her circular temple since there is no room for vengeance among
the initiated. He intones his Arie No.15, ‘In diesen heil’gen
Hallen...’ (In these sacred halls...), larghetto in E major with flutes,
bassoons, horns and strings. This aria is the creed of the initiated at the
Temple of Wisdom –and that of the Viennese Freemasons. In two verses resembling
those of a religious hymn, repeated to the same music —as in Papageno’s aria in
Act I or that of Monostatos moments before—, the aria speaks of the qualities
of love and fraternity, without which nobody can be regarded as truly human.
This aria marks a complete contrast with that of the Queen, and not only in so
far as content is concerned; opposing love and fraternity to vengeance.
Musically, the two arias contrast too, Sarastro’s –larghetto with its deep E–
being at the opposite pole to that of the Queen – allegro assai with its
ultra-high Fs. It is a sublime aria that, if badly conducted or sung, can sound
extremely boring. At the end of the aria Sarastro and Pamina leave the stage
scene now changes to a room with roses, benches and a door. Two priests lead in
Tamino and Papageno without hoods. The first addresses Tamino, telling him to
maintain his silence; when he hears the triple chords, he will be submitted to
further tests. The Second Priest asks Papageno to be silent. Both priests then
leave the stage.
always, Papageno starts talking, despite Tamino’s attempts to quieten him. The
bird-man complains of his hunger and thirst, and at that moment in comes an old
woman carrying a jug of water. Papageno asks her to give him water and then, in
jest, asks her how old she is. She gives him water, telling him she is eighteen
years and two minutes old. To Papageno’s ironic question of whether she has a
boyfriend, she says yes: his name is Papageno and he is sitting by her side.
Papageno, in astonishment, throws the water in the old woman’s face and asks for
her name as she disappears through a trap-door in the stage.
gondola appears again floating in the air with the Three Boys in it, bearing
the magic flute and Papageno’s glockenspiel, plus a table set for a meal. The
Boys alight and sing a Terzett No.16,
‘Seid uns zum zweiten Mal willkommen’ (Welcome once again), allegretto in A
major for flutes, bassoons and strings, in which they say that Sarastro sends
them the flute and the bells and that the next time they meet joy will be their
reward; they then take their leave, telling Tamino to have courage and Papageno
to keep his mouth shut. They depart once more in their airborne gondola. This
trio was one of the pieces repeated as an encore at every performance of the
opera during Mozart’s lifetime on account of its great beauty. It is the scene that also lends support to
the idea that a change took place during the writing of the libretto, since
initially the Boys appeared as vassals of the Queen of the Night, whereas now
it is clear that they are on the side of Sarastro.
immediately begins to eat while Tamino plays the flute. Pamina arrives,
attracted by the sound and expresses her happiness at finding the Prince, but
he, honoring his vow of silence, does not answer her questions. Pamina then
addresses Papageno, who is busy stuffing his mouth and so not only fails to
speak but actually signals with his hand for her to go away.
feels deeply hurt and breaks into a great Arie
No.17, ‘Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden! Ewig hin der Lieben Glück!
(Ah, I feel it, all is lost! Love’s joy is gone forever!), andante in a very
sad G minor. This is one of the pieces we are waiting for from the moment the
opera begins: one that we always want to listen to over and over again, since
it is of the most sublime beauty. In my opinion, when we think of G minor in
Mozart, ‘Ach ich fühl’s’ must take the predominant place, eclipsing even the
first movement of the Symphony No.40 K 550. It is also evident, after hearing
this aria, that Nanette Gottlieb, at her seventeen immature years, was already
a great singer. If this were not so, Mozart would hardly have written this
musical gem for her.
leaves the stage while Papageno continues to enjoy, in total abandonment, the
culinary delights left by the Three Boys; his only words are to praise
Sarastro’s chef and his cellars. The three chords are heard and six lions
appear, terrifying Papageno. Tamino makes the lions withdraw to the sound of
his flute and after hearing the three chords played twice, he leaves the stage
taking Papageno with him.
scene is now the interior of a pyramid into which Sarastro and several priests
enter, carrying small lanterns of pyramidal shape. The priests are intoning the
Chor, No.18 ‘O Isis und Osiris, welche Wonne!’ (O Isis and Osiris, what
joy!), adagio in D major for the whole orchestra except for the clarinets and
the timpani. The chorus is a quasi-religious hymn which prophesies the triumph
Prince is brought in. Sarastro tells him that he has behaved like a man, but
that there are still dangers to be faced and that the gods will keep him
company if his heart still beats for Pamina and if he still wishes to govern.
In some way, both forces, darkness and light, have chosen Tamino to be the next
sovereign. Pamina is next brought in, wearing a hood as if she too were to be
initiated; she is frightened and wants to see Tamino. Sarastro tells them to
bid each other farewell.
begins a Terzett, No.19 ‘Soll ich dich, Teuerer! nicht
mehr sehn?’ (Shall I see you, dear one, no more?), in which she expresses her
fear for the dangers Tamino must face.
Sarastro says that they will meet again in joy and Tamino asks for the
protection of the gods, avoiding addressing Pamina directly. Sarastro urges
them to say goodbye, as the time has arrived for the tests: ‘Die Stunde schlägt
nun müsst ihr scheiden’ (The hour has arrived, now you must part). The trio
ends with Sarastro’s optimistic words, ‘Wir sehn uns wieder!’ (We shall meet
again!), as all leave the stage. The trio, allegro moderato in E flat major,
has a very simple orchestration –oboes, bassoons and strings– and is a piece
showing a considerable change of style: already Beethovenian, according to
some. I would have said rather that the
influence of this trio on the Prisoners’ Chorus in Fidelio makes that chorus a Mozartean piece. The new style
displayed in this trio was not, unfortunately, to be continued by Mozart, who
was already at death’s door when he finished Die Zauberflöte.
lost and in a bad mood, enters blaming Tamino for his misfortunes, and tries to
enter a door, from which he is repulsed with the familiar ‘Zurück!’ accompanied
by thunder and lightning. He tries another door and receives the same response,
which leaves him confused. The Speaker returns, carrying one of the pyramidal
lanterns, to tell Papageno he will not be initiated. The only thing Papageno
longs for is a glass of wine: a desire that is immediately fulfilled, a glass
appearing magically from a trap-door in the stage. In a very good mood now,
Papageno expresses his one remaining wish: a wife.
then sings what is the most popular melody of the opera, the Arie, No.20 ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ (A girlfriend or a wife), with
flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, strings and the glockenspiel. The aria, in F major, has three stanzas,
andante the first two lines of each stanza, and allegro the following ones. The
words expound the simple philosophy of the bird-man with a very simple melody
in which the accompaniment of the glockenspiel is the most notable element. In
one of the performances during October 1791, Mozart played the instrument
himself, varying the tune, thus showing up Schikaneder who was pretending to
play on stage. The melody had such a popular impact that even today in
German-speaking countries, certain radio stations use it as their identifying
answer to Papageno’s prayer, the old woman reappears, dancing with the help of
her walking stick. She has heard the aria and she offers him a deal: he must
either promise to love her for ever as his wife, or he will be condemned to a
diet of bread and water for the rest of his life. Papageno, appalled at the
idea of such a thing, consents, in a spirit of pragmatism and without much
enthusiasm. The old woman is then transformed into a beautiful young woman
dressed exactly like himself. Papageno, in ecstasy, pronounces her name,
“Papagena”, but the priests lead her away immediately, since he is still not
worthy of her. “Zurück!”, says the First Priest once again. Papageno protests
in desperation “I’d sooner be swallowed up by the earth than stand back”, and
immediately the trap-door in the stage opens to receive him.
scene now changes to a narrow garden in front of the proscenium arch. This is
how the libretto specifies it, since the stage is now being prepared for the
scene of the initiation tests. The Three Boys arrive in their gondola and the Finale No.21, begins, with an andante
in E flat major, which in this case reflects emotional conflict, not Masonic
brilliance, accompanied only by clarinets, bassoons and horns, which give it
the ethereal quality proper to the Three Boys. They alight from the gondola as
the strings join in, singing ‘Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkünden, die Sonn
auf gold’ner Bahn...’ (Soon, to announce the morning, the sun on its golden
way...). They see Pamina, who approaches “tormented by the pains of rejected
love” in the belief that Tamino no longer loves her, since he has not spoken to
her. She carries the dagger given to her by her mother and has every intention
of using it on herself. She speaks to it as if it were her betrothed, ‘Du also
bist mein Bräutigam...!’ (You then are my bridegroom...!). As the flutes join
in, the Three Boys tell her that suicide is a crime, but Pamina, abandoned by
both her mother and her beloved, does not hear them. The Three Boys stop her,
as the music changes to allegro, ‘Sollte dies dein Jüngling sehen...’ (If your
young man should see this...), and assure her that Tamino does indeed love her,
although they are not allowed to divulge the reasons for his strange behavior.
They offer to take her to him, to which she gladly agrees. Another moralizing
verse ends the quartet: ‘Zwei Herzen, die von Liebe Brennen, Kann
Menschenohnmacht niemals trennen’ (Two hearts that burn with love can never be
set apart by human frailty). Pamina’s melodic line, lovely throughout the whole
scene, becomes even more delightful at the end, as she holds onto a long high
b’’ followed by a descending scale of rare beauty. The Three Boys lead Pamina,
now transfigured by joy, away with them.
scene changes again. Now we behold a place where two mountains meet. Within one
mountain we see a waterfall, while the other contains fire, glimpsed between
iron bars. On the side of the fire mountain, the sky is red and on the other
side, black with menacing clouds. In the middle we see a pyramid with a
translucent inscription; to either side a rocky landscape with sheer crags.
Tamino, barefoot and lightly dressed, as in a Masonic initiation, is led in by
two men with black armor –zwei geharnischte Männer– with lighted torches on
music, adagio in an ominous C minor, begins with three chords like those that
begin the Overture, on the trombones and strings, answered by the flutes,
oboes, bassoons and cellos. Then the strings introduce a fugato in the style of
J.S. Bach, which will accompany the two armed men as they begin to sing, to the
accompaniment of flutes, oboes, bassoons and trombones, the words of the
inscription they read on the pyramid: ‘Der welcher wandert diese Strasse voll
Beschwerden, wird rein durch Feuer, Wasser, Luft und Erden’ (He who treads this
road full of care is purified by fire, water, air and earth). The tune is that
of the Lutheran choral ‘Ach Gott, von Himmel sie darein’, based on Psalm XI.
worthy of note that the Men in Armor mention the four elements, which
correspond to four tests; however, we only witness two.
music of the Men in Armor must have sounded doubly strange to the audience of Die Zauberflöte; the music of Bach is
much better known to us today than to the audiences of Mozart’s Vienna –setting
aside Mozart himself, who had studied Bach at the suggestion of Baron van
Swieten– while, for religious reasons, the Lutheran chorales were almost
unknown in Catholic Vienna.
Men in Armor finish their lines and Tamino reiterates his faith in his ability
to achieve victory. He asks them to begin the tests. The voice of Pamina is
heard off-stage, allegretto, without trombones. Tamino asks whether it is
Pamina, and this is confirmed by the Men in Armor. Tamino receives their authorization
to speak to her and is told that she too will undertake the tests. This
inspires Tamino and the two men to take up another moralizing verse: ‘Ein Weib,
das Nacht und Tod nicht scheut, ist würdig, und wird eingeweiht’ (A woman who
fears neither night nor death is worthy and shall be initiated). Pamina enters
and the two embrace, while they express their happiness and their resolve to
face all the tests together. The music is andante in F major. Pamina sings
another glorious piece that ends with her asking Tamino to play his flute,
which had been carved by her father “in a magic hour” from the heart of a thousand-year-old
oak, during a thunderstorm. Tamino, Pamina and the two men sing a brief quartet
in which they say they will “wander gladly through death’s dark night” guided
by the power of the flute. No commentator has satisfactorily explained the fact
that Pamina should finally have been initiated, when women were expressly
forbidden to enter the Viennese lodges.
the sound of the flute, accompanied by horns, trumpets, trombones and timpani,
a march, adagio in C major, accompanies Pamina and Tamino into the mountain of
fire and we see them pass behind the iron bars. On coming out again, they
express their satisfaction at having survived that trial unscathed, before
entering the mountain of water, once again protected by the sound of the magic
flute. They come out again victorious and, after a brief pause during which a
door is opened allowing us to glimpse the brilliantly lit interior of a temple,
the trumpets and timpani strike up a beautiful chorus in C major, in which the
oboes and horns join in, to welcome the neophytes: ‘Triumph..., du edles
Paar...!’ (Triumph... you noble couple...!).
scene changes once again to the narrow garden. Papageno is desperately trying
to find Papagena, and playing his panpipes to announce his presence. Papagena!
Papagena! Papagena! sings the bird-man, allegro in G major for flutes, oboes,
bassoons, horns and strings. Nobody answers his call and he recognizes it is
his fault for not bridling his tongue as was required. He addresses Papagena,
among other endearments, as Herzensweibchen, (“little wife of my heart”,
literally), which apparently was Mozart’s way of addressing Constanze.
Depressed, with the music now in G minor, he resolves to hang himself from a
tree, counting to three, in the hope that someone will appear to stop him –an
old trick of commedia dell’arte. He
counts very slowly and, as there is nobody in sight to prevent the act, he
sadly takes leave of the world with the words ‘gute Nacht, du falsches Welt!’
(good night, false world!).
Three Boys, experts in preventing suicides, alight rapidly from their gondola
and remind him, in allegretto in C major, that he has forgotten about magic.
Papageno then happily plays his glockenspiel, allegro, while asking for his
“little wife” to be brought: ‘Bringt mein Weibchen her’. The Three Boys tell
him to look around, and are gone.
lo and behold, there is Papagena! The bird-man and woman dance, singing the
syllable Pa to each other and then repeating it together, over and over again,
first Papageno, then Pagagena. They embrace and then move away together, happy
to have found each other in the end and expressing the desire to have many
little Papagenos and Papagenas. This scene is extremely popular and producers
have tried just about everything in order to exploit its humorous possibilities
to the maximum. According to Igor Stravinsky, it is proto-Broadway, except in
so far as the music is concerned.
the trap-doors in the stage appear the Queen of the Night and her Three Ladies,
plus Monostatos, with black torches in their hands. The music, in C minor, is
marked più moderato for flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons and strings. They
have come to destroy the inhabitants of the Temple of Wisdom, who are now
meeting in the temple’s principal room. Monostatos reminds the Queen that
Pamina is to be his reward and this is confirmed by the Queen and her Ladies.
With impressively constructed harmony, the Three Ladies and Monostatos kneel
together to swear loyalty to the Queen: ‘Dir, grosse Königin der Nacht, sei
unsrer Rache Opfer gebracht’ (To you, great Queen of the Night, we offer up the
sacrifice of our revenge!). At this moment a deafening chord is heard played by
the full orchestra; the stage darkens and we hear thunder as the conspirators
are swallowed up by the trap-doors.
scene is now a sun, according to the libretto. On a raised part in the center
is Sarastro, with Tamino and Pamina both dressed as priests. The Three Boys
also appear with flowers in their hands. The whole community is gathered.
Sarastro announces the victory of the forces of the Sun over those of the
Night, beginning a beautiful chorus, andante in E flat major, which forms the
triumphal ending to the opera: ‘Heil sei euch Geweihten!’ (Hail to you who are
Die Zauberflöte is more than
the swan song of a great composer. It is an opera that mixes elements of
extreme farce, in practically all Papageno’s appearances – which Schikaneder
must have enjoyed immensely– and even in some of the appearances of the Three
Ladies, with elements of deep religious seriousness – in Sarastro and in all
the initiated in general. It is both a
fairy tale and a parable of the Viennese Freemasons, being interpreted by some
as a cry from the heart of Austrian Masonry, which was refusing to die at the
hands of Leopold II.
and Mozart had just revealed what was in fact an open secret: the ceremonies
and values of the Freemasons. More through music than words, Mozart achieves
some mysterious, ethereal and sublime harmonies that lead us to meditate on
transcendental values while laughing at the adventures of Papageno.
the months of October and November of 1791, Mozart was writing a mass for the
dead, the Requiem. Nevertheless,
without in any way disparaging the extraordinary quality of this unfinished
masterpiece, it is in Die Zauberflöte
that the composer best expressed his religious preoccupations, transposed upon
his Masonic convictions.
the music of Die Zauberflöte, Stravinsky remarked ironically that Mozart openly
plagiarized Weber, Wagner and Mendelssohn –he had already plagiarized Schubert in Le nozze di Figaro– in the Trio No.19,
he shamelessly copied Wagner: everything from Tannhäuser to Tristan und
Isolde. In the chorus from Act I,
Bald, Bald, Jüngling, he used phrases from Rigoletto
and in Drei Knaben, jung, schön, hold und weise, he used what could well have
been music written by Ravel for a rainy afternoon.
Einstein claims that this opera is neither Italian, like Mozart’s three works
in collaboration with Da Ponte, nor German, as Die Entführung aus dem Serail had been. It is, rather, strictly Mozartean. It displays a new style, doomed to disappear
immediately due to the composer’s death.
needed a big success in the plebeian Theater auf der Wieden and he achieved it
to a degree undreamed of, despite having embarked on a change of style and
using new elements, such as the predominant place given to the trombones and
elements so foreign to the Viennese as the Lutheran choral from the finale of
the second Act.
think of what might have followed if Mozart had survived longer than the nine
weeks after the opening of Die
Zauberflöte is a pointless exercise, although it is hard to resist the
temptation of imagining the concerto for Piano, No.36, the Symphony, No.47, or
his collaboration with Goethe on the score for the opera of Faust.
Theater auf der Wieden was demolished not many years after the first
performance of Die Zauberflöte, and
Schikaneder moved the company to a new, more dignified theatre nearby, the
Theater an der Wien, at which a statue of Papageno was erected in a conspicuous
place, in homage to the success achieved by this character among the people of
Vienna. It was in this theatre, before
Papageno’s smiling face, that Beethoven was to stage the first performances of
most of his compositions between 1803 and 1807, of particular note being the Eroica Symphony and Leonore.
time we see a performance of Die
Zauberflöte, we experience the same old excitement when the Overture
heralds the opening of the work, the same wonder and admiration at the prowess
of the soprano capable of interpreting the arias of the Queen of the Night;
Sarastro and his priests arouse respect in us, especially the Sprecher and the
Men in Armour. We would like to help Tamino, that innocent hero, valiant and
pure, prototype of the German hero, Siegfried in Egypt. Once again we relish
the buffoonery of Papageno, who, we do not doubt for a moment, will come
through any danger alive and well. We delight in his duet with Papagena, this
elderly young woman of eighteen years and two minutes. The Three Ladies will
amuse us with their coquetry and the Three Boys will captivate us with their
ethereal harmonies. Monostatos and his blackness will embarrass us less than
the exaggerated preoccupations of those who find his blackness an
Die Zauberflöte is an opera of
contrasts – good and evil; light and darkness; high notes and low notes;
heroism and cowardice; largo and allegro– in which the music is uniform,
uniformly beautiful and intelligent. The ideal is an interpretation in which we
might see Sarastro as in a mirror that reflects back the smiling figure of
shows in Die Zauberflöte that the
general public is hungry for what we nowadays would call a “quality product”.
It was for this reason that he put all his genius to work to compose this
masterpiece that is both a climax of human intelligence and an opera for the
© Luis Gutierrez