"The Magic Flute" is a two-act opera composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791, the last year of his life, with a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. The opera includes both sung and spoken parts. It is often considered one of the most important operatic pieces ever written and has been produced all over the world. It is currently the eighth most played opera in North America.
"The Magic Flute" premiered in Vienna in September of 1791. On its opening night, Mozart himself conducted the orchestra in the pit. The opera was well received in Vienna, and by December of the following year there had been a hundred performances of the opera. Over the next few years, the opera continued to be a success and was played all over Europe. Unfortunately, Mozart could not witness his own success as he died in December of 1791.
Although "The Magic Flute" contains references to enlightenment philosophy and the freedom of reason, it is noted particularly for its strong Masonic themes. The Free Masons is an organization that originated in the 16th and 17th centuries and remains intact today. The Masons advocate for freedom and civil liberties. Many of Mozart's friends and contacts were Masons, so it is not surprising that their philosophy made its way into his opera through his characters and general plot.
The play opens as Prince Tamino is chased through a forest by a serpent. After he collapses, he is visited by three ladies of the "Queen of the Night," who at first reprimand him but then show him a picture of the Princess Pamina, who is being held by the evil Sarasto. They ask Tamino to save Pamina, and he agrees. He is given a magic flute to aid him in his quest. Upon arriving at Sarasto's palace, he defeats the evil Monastatos, a guard who attempts to seduce Pamina and finds out that the Queen is Pamina's evil mother and that Sarasto merely wishes to protect her from him. After he frees Pamina, Sarasto says she can marry Tamino but not see her mother.
Sarasto tells Tamino that he may marry Sarasto after completing initiation rites. Meanwhile, Pamino begs Sarasto to forgive the Queen, which he does. Tamino's first initiation is silence, but Pamino believes he is silent because he does not love her and attempts to commit suicide. The three spirits save Pamino and take her to Tamino, and the two complete the final trial. Meanwhile, Papegano, Tamino's best friend, falls for Papagena and plays his magic bells to win her love. Monastatos and the Queen attempt to kill Sarasto, but they are stopped by Tamino and his magic flute, and all celebrate their victory over evil.
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