by Wolfgang Amadé Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Posthumous portrait of W.A. Mozart
by Kraft (1819)
|Tamino, a prince||Tenor|
|Papageno, a bird-catcher||Baritone|
|The Queen of the Night||Soprano|
|Pamina, her daughter||Soprano|
|Sarastro, High Priest of Isis||Bass|
|Monostatos, chief slave of the Temple||Baritone|
|Three Ladies||Sopranos, Mezzo-Soprano|
|Three Spirits||Treble, Alto, Mezzo-Soprano (boys)|
|Speaker of the Temple||Bass-baritone|
|Three Priests||Tenor, Basses|
|Two Armored Men||Tenor, Bass|
|Three Slaves||Tenors, Bass|
Priests, priestesses, slaves, populace, animals.
Prince Tamino is lost and being pursued by a giant Serpent. He collapses. Three Ladies appear and kill the monster. They find Tamino attractive and argue over him, then leave to tell the Queen of the Night. Papageno the bird-catcher enters, singing of the joys of his profession and his desire for a wife. Tamino recovers, and Papageno claims to have strangled the Serpent himself. The Three Ladies reappear and put a padlock over his mouth. They show Tamino a portrait of Pamina; he falls in love at first sight. The Queen appears. She tells Tamino that Pamina is her daughter, captured by the evil Sarastro. She convinces Tamino to rescue Pamina, promising him Pamina’s hand in return. The Three Ladies give Tamino a Magic Flute and Papageno a set of magic bells to protect them on their journey. Three Spirits will guide them to Sarastro’s temple.
Sarastro’s slave Monostatos is trying to molest Pamina when Papageno appears. Monostatos and Papageno are terrified by each other and flee. But Papageno returns and reassures Pamina that her mother has sent Tamino to help her. She is overjoyed to learn that Tamino loves her, and sympathizes with Papageno’s longing for a wife. They leave together.
The Three Spirits lead Tamino to Sarastro’s temple. Tamino is at first rebuffed, but a Speaker informs him that Sarastro is good, not evil. Tamino plays his Magic Flute to summon Pamina and Papageno; its sounds tame the animals. Finally, Papageno answers with his pipes, and Tamino rushes off to find them.
Papageno and Pamina are making their way toward Tamino when they are captured by Monostatos and his cohorts. Papageno uses his magic bells to enchant his enemies, making them dance away. Sarastro and his entourage approach; Pamina reassures Papageno and tells him that they must tell Sarastro the truth. She confesses to Sarastro that she tried to escape because of Monostatos’s attentions. Sarastro is kind, but he cannot grant her freedom, because she needs a man’s guidance. Monostatos now enters with Tamino as his prisoner. Tamino and Pamina see each other for the first time and rush into each other’s arms, shocking Sarastro’s followers. Monostatos seeks a reward, but instead Sarastro punishes him for lusting after Pamina. Sarastro leads Tamino and Papageno to the temple.
Sarastro and his council decide that Tamino and Pamina should marry, and that Tamino should succeed Sarastro as their leader, if he passes the trials. Sarastro prays to Isis and Osiris, asking them to protect Tamino and Pamina.
A priest warns Tamino that this is his last chance to turn back, but Tamino is determined. Papageno is not interested in trials; all he wants is food, wine, and a wife. The priest replies that he will get a wife only if he undergoes the trials. In the first trial, Tamino and Papageno must not speak to anyone. The Three Ladies arrive and try to get them to speak. Papageno cannot resist answering, but Tamino remains steadfast. The priests praise Tamino but scold Papageno, who does not understand why he has to undergo these trials if Sarastro already has a wife for him.
Monostatos approaches the sleeping Pamina and is about to kiss her when the Queen frightens him away. She awakens Pamina and gives her a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro. After the Queen leaves, Monostatos tries to blackmail Pamina by threatening to reveal the murder plot, but Sarastro drives him off. Sarastro comforts Pamina.
In another trial of silence, an old woman enters and offers Papageno water. She says that she is eighteen years and two minutes old. Papageno at first believes she means eighty, but the old woman insists she is eighteen. Papageno inquires if she has a sweetheart. She replies that she does, and that his name is Papageno. She then disappears. Pamina enters and tries to talk to Tamino, but he refuses to answer. She leaves in despair.
The priests celebrate Tamino’s success. Sarastro separates Pamina and Tamino for their final trial.
Papageno, still longing for a wife, plays his magic bells. The old woman reappears and demands that he promise to marry her, or else he will be alone forever. Papageno reluctantly agrees. She is immediately transformed into a pretty girl – Papagena. As Papageno runs to embrace her, the priests frighten her away.
The Three Spirits come upon Pamina trying to kill herself because she thinks Tamino has abandoned her. They promise that she will see him soon.
Two armored men lead Tamino to his next trials, reciting the credo of Isis that he who overcomes fear will achieve enlightenment. Tamino is reunited with Pamina. They exchange loving words and enter the trials together. They are unharmed by the water and fire thanks to the Magic Flute’s protection. The priests laud their success.
Papageno has given up hope of ever finding Papagena again, so he tries to hang himself. But the Three Spirits remind him of the magic bells. He plays them, and Papagena appears. The happy pair celebrate their union.
Meanwhile, Monostatos, the Queen, and the Ladies attempt to destroy the temple, but are vanquished and cast into eternal darkness. All ends happily when Sarastro unites Tamino and Pamina in marriage. Sarastro’s followers praise the couple and give thanks to the gods.
© 2012 Linda Cantoni