"The Magic Flute" ("Die Zauberflote"), one of the world's most famous operas, was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791 and enjoyed immediate success. Influenced heavily by the Enlightenment, the story is about a prince who, aided by a magic flute, is charged with saving a princess from captivity.
The Love Story
The story of this opera centers around the prince Tamino and his efforts to claim and win the love of Pamina. Tamino starts the opera with a less-than-impressive showing, fainting in the face of a serpent. He must pass through several trials in order to achieve Pamina, and his learning and evolution over the course of the play is meant symbolize the dawning of mankind into the Age of Enlightenment. Pamina begins the play as a prisoner, and it is after Tamino is shown a picture of her -- with her blonde hair and dark eyes -- that he falls in love and vows to save her. She loves her mother deeply, but is later torn because of her love of Tamino; she has a disappointing first encounter with him, but whom nevertheless she adores throughout the opera.
Good and Evil
The aptly named Queen of the Night begins the opera as a seeming friend to both Tamino and the audience, but she actually has cruel intentions. Her character is given many dramatic arias to sing, and she represents ignorance and evil, keeping the young characters in the play unawares of the true nature of the world. At the beginning of the opera Sarastro is depicted as "the bad guy" by the Queen, who says he is holding Pamina hostage. However, he helps the young couple understand the truths of life and nature, revealing his benevolence.
Important Supporting Characters
Papageno is often used in the advertising of the opera, as he cuts the most striking figure, covered in feathers and with a birdcage on his back. A birdcatcher by trade, he is the librettist's character and provides comic relief. He begins the opera by telling a lie, for which he has his mouth padlocked, and at one point considers suicide. By the end of the story, however, he finds happiness. Monostatos is the slave of Sarastro and originally appears to be in concert with him in wicked doings. The audience discovers, however, that he is obsessed with Pamina and he is eventually chastised for his evil by Sarastro. By the opera's end, he joins with the Queen of the Night before they meet their demise.
Papagena appears near the end of the opera; she become a wife for Papageno whom he summons using his magic bells and who brings him great happiness. They set up house in a bird's nest. The Queen of the Night's ladies appear early in the play, assisting Tamino and showing him the portrait of Pamina. Later it is revealed that they are the Queen's evil servants, and they seal their fate with the Queen after an ill-fated attack on the temple housing Sarastro, Tamino and Pamina.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images