The Magic Flute
In two acts by MOZART.
Text by SCHIKANEDER.
This last opera of Mozart's, written only a few months before his
death, approaches so near to perfection, that one almost feels in it
the motion of the spirit-wings which were so soon alas! to bear
away Mozart's genius from earth, too early by far, for he died at the
age of 35, having accomplished in this short space of time more than
other great composers in a long life.
The Magic Flute is one of the most remarkable operas known on the
stage. It is half fictitious, half allegorical.--The text, done by the
old stage-director Schikaneder was long mistaken for a fiction without
any common sense, but Mozart saw deeper, else he would not have adapted
his wonderful music to it.--It is true that the tales of old Egypt are
mixed up in a curious manner with modern freemasonry, but nobody,
except a superficial observer, could fail to catch a deep moral sense
in the naive rhymes.
The contents of the opera are the following: Prince Tamino, a youth as
valiant as he is noble and virtuous, is implored by the Queen of Night,
to save her daughter, whom the old and sage High-priest Sarastro has
taken from her by force. The bereaved mother pours forth her woe in
heart-melting sounds and promises everything to the rescuer of her
child. Tamino is filled with ardent desire to serve her.--On his way
he meets the gay Papageno, who at once agrees to share the Prince's
adventures. Papageno is the gay element in the opera; always cheerful
and in high spirits, his ever-ready tongue plays him many a funny
trick. So we see him once with a lock on his mouth by way of
punishment for his idle prating. As he promises never to tell a lie
any more, the lock is taken away by the three Ladies of the Queen
of Night. Those Ladies present Tamino with a golden flute, giving at
the same time an instrument made with little silver bells to Papageno,
both of which are to help them in times of danger. The Queen of Night
even sends with them three boy-angels. These are to point out to them
the ways and means by which they may attain their purpose.
Now the young and beautiful Princess Pamina is pursued by declarations
of love from a negro-servant of Sarastro. Papageno comes to her
rescue, frightening the negro Monostatos with his feathery dress.
Papageno, on the other hand fears the negro on account of his
blackness, believing him to be the devil in person. Papageno escapes
with Pamina, but the negro overtakes him with his servants. Then
Papageno shakes his bells, and lo, all forgetting their wrath forthwith
begin to dance.
Meanwhile Tamino reaches 'Sarastro's castle, and at once asks for the
High-priest, poor Pamina's bitter enemy. The Under-priests do not
allow him to enter, but explain that their Master Sarastro is as good
as he is sage, and that he always acts for the best. They assure
Tamino, that the Princess lives and is in no danger. Full of thanks,
the Prince begins to play on his flute; and just then he hears
Papageno's bells. At this juncture Sarastro appears, the wise Master,
before whom they al bow. He punishes the wicked negro; but Tamino and
his Pamina are not to be united without first having given ample proof
of their love and constancy. Tamino determines to undergo
whatever trials may await him, but the Queen of Night, knowing all,
sends her three Ladies, to deter Tamino and his comrade from their
purpose. But all temptation is gallantly set aside; they have given a
promise to Sarastro which they will keep.
Even the Queen of Night herself is unable to weaken their strength of
purpose; temptations of every kind overtake them, but Tamino remains
firm. He is finally initiated into the mysteries of the goddess Isis.
In the interval Pamina deems Tamino faithless. She would fain die, but
the three celestial youths console her, by assuring her that Tamino's
love is true, and that he passes through the most severe trials solely
on her behalf.
On hearing this Pamina at once asks to share in the trials, and so they
walk together through fire and water, protected by the golden flute, as
well as by their courage and constancy. They come out purified and
Papageno, having lost his companion, has grown quite melancholy and
longs for the little wife, that was promised to him and shown to him
only for a few moments. He resolves at last to end his life by hanging
himself, when the celestial youths appear, reminding him of his bells.
He begins to shake them, and Papagena appears in feathery dress, the
very counter-part of himself. All might now be well, were it not that
the Queen of Night, a somewhat unreasonable lady, broods vengeance.
She accepts the negro Monostatos as her avenger, and promises to
give him her daughter. But already Sarastro has done his work; Tamino
is united to his Pamina, and before the sunny light of truth everything
else vanishes and sinks back into night.
Next: The Maidens Of Schilda
Previous: The Maccabees