Full of charming, magical melodies and fantastic creatures, Mozart’s beloved tale follows Prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno on an adventure to rescue Princess Pamina. As they face unexpected trials and challenges on their journey, audiences will delightas the genius and imagination of the composer unfolds before their eyes. Mozart’s final masterpiece is a light-hearted but profound look at man’s search for love and his struggle to attain wisdom.
Sung in German with English Supertitles
Illustration courtesy of Emiliano Ponzi.
Pursued by a serpent, Prince Tamino falls faint from exhaustion. Three Ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night slay the monster, then admire Tamino’s beauty. They fight over who will remain with him while the others fetch the Queen. Not coming to any resolution, all three depart.
Tamino revives and observes the approach of Papageno, who catches birds for the Queen. In the course of becoming acquainted, Papageno claims he killed the serpent. The Three Ladies return and seal his mouth for telling the lie. They show Tamino a portrait of the Queen’s daughter, Pamina, and Tamino immediately falls in love with her visage. The Queen of the Night appears and asks him to rescue Pamina from the temple of the tyrant Sarastro, where she is being held captive. As a reward, the young couple will be wed. Tamino agrees enthusiastically, and the Three Ladies give him a magic flute for protection. Restoring Papageno’s power of speech, they order him to accompany Tamino. He receives a set of magic bells. Three Spirits will guide their journey.
At Sarastro’s temple, Monostatos is charged with guarding Pamina, whom he treats harshly. Papageno enters, and both men startle one another with their unusual appearance and momentarily flee. Papageno is the first to return, recognizes Pamina as the Queen’s daughter and tells her of the ardent young prince who has been sent to her rescue. She takes pleasure in the prospect of love, and Papageno too pines for his perfect mate.
Elsewhere in the temple, Tamino comes upon the inner sanctuary, but is barred entrance. A priest tells him he has been deceived by a mother’s tears – Sarastro is not the evil person she described. Feeling lost, Tamino plays his magic flute and hears Papageno’s pipe in response; he then follows its sound. Back in Monostatos’s lair, Pamina and Papageno face recapture, but Papageno plays his magic bells, charming Monostatos and his slaves and allowing their escape.
Sarastro enters magnificently, and Pamina admits that she tried to flee, but only to escape Monostatos’ amorous advance. She misses her mother, but Sarastro proclaims there is still much for her to learn from his tutelage. Tamino is brought in and embraces Pamina, while Monostatos is punished for his dereliction.
Sarastro announces before the Speaker and the priests Tamino’s wish to enter the sanctuary of wisdom and his willingness to undergo the trials of initiation. Papageno is more reluctant, but is promised a pretty wife, Papagena, as his reward. The first test is one of silence, a task Papageno has some difficulty achieving, especially when tempted by the Three Ladies.
Elsewhere, Monostatos continues his lusty pursuit of Pamina, but is deterred by the arrival of the Queen of the Night. The Queen pleads with her daughter – the seat of power rests with the all powerful Circle of the Sun, which was wrongly taken from her and given to Sarastro. Pamina must kill him and take the Circle back – if she doesn’t, her mother will disown her. After the Queen’s angry departure, Monostatos offers to help in exchange for Pamina’s love. When she refuses, Monostatos again threatens her but is interrupted by Sarastro, who knows of the Queen’s plot. He forgives Pamina’s part in it, and Monostatos is banished from the Brotherhood.
Tamino and Papageno continue to wait out their oath of silence, augmented by thirst and fasting. An old woman offers Papageno water and soon admits that her boyfriend’s name is “Papageno.” Before her identity is revealed, she is sent away with a clap of thunder. The Three Spirits then pay a visit and offer refreshments. Papageno eats heartily while Tamino plays his flute. The music brings forth Pamina, who is distressed when Tamino does not respond to her inquiries. She fears his love has vanished and considers taking her own life.
Papageno tries to catch up to Tamino but is denied entry to the inner temple. The Speaker denounces him, stating that he will never know true enlightenment, yet Papageno is hardly bothered for all he wants is a wife. He plays his bells, and the old woman reappears. Under threat of imprisonment, he begrudgingly agrees to be her husband. She is immediately transformed into a beautiful young woman, Papagena, but is whisked away by the Speaker – Papageno is not yet worthy.
Demented by Tamino’s seemingly broken vow, Pamina wanders aimlessly, dangerously clutching a dagger. The Three Spirits take her to Tamino, who is about to undergo the trials of water and fire. Pamina and Tamino reaffirm their love, and she resolves to go through the ordeals at his side.
Missing Papagena terribly, Papageno is about to hang himself, but is saved by the Three Spirits. He is told to play the magic bells, and to his great joy, Papagena is soon restored to him. They rejoice in a future together.
Now in league with the dark side, Monostatos leads the Queen and her ladies in one last attempt against Sarastro, but all are vanquished. Dressed in priestly robes, Tamino and Pamina usher in a new era of truth, beauty and wisdom.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27th, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a minor composer and an experienced teacher, and Mozart’s early musical education came courtesy of Leopold.
During Mozart’s youth, the family travelled extensively throughout Europe, while he and his sister, Nannerl, performed as child prodigies. During his family’s journey, Mozart met a plethora of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of a variety of other composers. A particularly important influence was that of Johann Christian Bach, whom Mozart visited in London in both 1764 and 1765.
While in Bologna, Mozart was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica after meeting Josef Mysliveček and Giovanni Battista Martini. In Rome, he heard Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere twice in performance at the Sistine Chapel and then transcribed the piece from memory, producing the first unauthorized copy of the closely guarded Vatican property.
In Milan, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), which was performed with great success, leading to further operatic commissions. Milan proved creatively rewarding for Mozart, and he returned with his father twice for the composition and premieres of Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772).
In 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo upon his homecoming to Salzburg. The great number of friends and admirers the composer had in Salzburg allowed him the opportunity to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and a few minor operas. By 1776, he had turned his efforts to piano concertos, a move which culminated in the E-flat concerto K. 271 of early 1777, considered by many critics to be a breakthrough work.
Despite these artistic successes, Mozart grew increasingly discontented with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find employment elsewhere. Mozart longed to compose operas, and Salzburg provided only rare occasions for these.
In January 1781, several years after resigning from his position in Salzburg, Mozart’s opera Idomeneo premiered with “considerable success” in Munich. The following March, Mozart was summoned to Vienna. Mozart was offended when Archbishop Colloredo treated him as a mere servant, despite the adulation he had earned in Munich. The offense deepened when Mozart attempted to resign and was refused. Permission was eventually granted, but in a grossly insulting way: the composer was dismissed with a literal kick in the rear administered by the archbishop’s steward, Count Arco. Mozart then decided to settle in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.
From 1782 to 1785 Mozart mounted concerts with himself as the soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. The concerts were quite popular, and the concertos which premiered during this period are still firmly entrenched staples in musical history.
Toward the end of 1785, Mozart moved away from keyboard writing and began his famous operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. The Marriage of Figaro premiered with great success in Vienna in 1786. The opera’s reception in Prague later that year was even warmer, and this led to a second collaboration with Da Ponte: the opera Don Giovanni, which received acclaim in both Prague and Vienna. The two operas are among Mozart’s most important, though at their respective premieres the musical complexity of the works caused difficulty for both listeners and performers.
Mozart’s last year of life was a time of great productivity. He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works: The Magic Flute; the final piano concerto (K. 595 in B-flat); the Clarinet Concerto K. 622; the last in his great series of string quintets (K. 614 in E-flat); the motet Ave verum corpus K. 618; and the unfinished Requiem K. 626.
Mozart fell ill while in Prague for the September 1791 premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito, written in that same year on commission for the Emperor’s coronation festivities. His health deteriorated such that by November he became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting. Mozart died in his home on December 5, 1791 at the age of 35. The cause of his death is still unknown.