The Magic Flute - Barbara Scheer

The Magic Flute - Barbara Scheer

The Magic Flute

By W.A.Mozart

The composer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (baptismal

name Johannes Chrysostomus

Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart) was

born on January 27, 1756 and died on

December 5, 1791 at the age of 35.

He was the son of composer Leopold

Mozart. Mozart was a prolific

and influential composer of the

Classical era. He composed over

600 works, many acknowledged

as pinnacles of symphonic,

concertante, chamber, piano,

operatic, and choral music and is

among the most enduringly popular

of classical composers.

Mozart showed prodigious

ability from his earliest childhood in

Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard

and violin, he composed from the age of five

and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a

court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search

of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting

Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose

to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial

security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his

best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the

Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of Mozart's death.

The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized.

He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a

brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and

graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent

Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early

compositions in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that

“posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”

Die Zauberflute, written for Emanuel Schikaneder's suburban

Theater auf der Wieden, was well under way by 11 June. Although the

opera was well received, contemporary opinion on the music was

universally favourable. Critics found the text unsatisfactory (the

Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung of Hamburg reported on 14 October that

“the piece would have won universal approval if only the text” had met

minimum expectation). One hotly disputed point concerns a possible

reshaping of the plot while composition was in progress. The opera begins

as a traditional tale of a heroic prince (Tamino) rescuing a beautiful

princess (Pamina) at the bidding of her mother (the Queen of Night) from

her wicked abductor (Sarastro).

In the Orator's scene, however, it transpires that the abductor is

beneficent and that it is the princess' mother who is wicked. Although it

is tempting to think that this shift can only represent a change in plan by

Schikaneder and Mozart, the moral ambiguities that demand explanation if

it does not “Sarastro's employment of the evil Monostatos, for example, or

the Queen and her Ladies' gifts of the benevolently magical flute and bells

to Tamino and Papageno, or Pamina's fear of Sarastro“ are not out of line

with Viennese popular theatrical traditions, nor with symbolic

interpretations of the work.

History of The Magic Flute


The Magic Flute

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder

World premiere: Vienna, Theater auf der Wieden, September 30, 1791

A mythical land between the sun and the moon. Three ladies

in the service of the Queen of the Night save Prince Tamino from a

serpent. When they leave to tell the queen, the birdcatcher Papageno

appears. He boasts to Tamino that it was he who killed the creature. The

ladies return to give Tamino a portrait of the queen's daughter, Pamina,

who they say has been enslaved by the evil Sarastro. Tamino

immediately falls in love with the girl's picture. The queen, appearing in a

burst of thunder, tells Tamino about the loss of her daughter and

commands him to rescue her. The ladies give a magic flute to Tamino

and silver bells to Papageno to ensure their safety on the journey and

appoint three spirits to guide them.

Sarastro's slave Monostatos pursues Pamina but is frightened

away by Papageno. The birdcatcher tells Pamina that Tamino loves her

and is on his way to save her. Led by the three spirits to the

temple of Sarastro, Tamino learns from a high priest that it is

the Queen, not Sarastro, who is evil.

Hearing that Pamina is safe, Tamino charms the wild animals

with his flute, then rushes off to follow the sound of Papageno's

pipes. Monostatos and his men chase Papageno and

Pamina but are left helpless when Papageno plays his magic

bells. Sarastro enters in great ceremony. He punishes

Monostatos and promises Pamina that he will

eventually set her free. Pamina catches

a glimpse of Tamino, who is led into the

temple with Papageno. Sarastro tells the

priests that Tamino will undergo initiation

rites. Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping

Pamina, but is surprised by the appearance

of the Queen of the Night. The Queen gives

her daughter a dagger and orders her to

murder Sarastro.

Sarastro finds the desperate

Pamina and consoles her, explaining that

he is not interested in vengeance. Tamino

and Papageno are told by a priest that they

must remain silent and are not allowed to

eat, a vow that Papageno

immediately breaks when he

takes a glass of water from a flirtatious old lady. When he asks

her name, the old lady vanishes. The three spirits appear to guide

Tamino through the rest of his journey and to tell Papageno to be

quiet. Tamino remains silent even when Pamina appears.

Misunderstanding his vow for coldness, she is heartbroken.

The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more

trials to complete his initiation. Papageno, who has given up on

entering the brotherhood, longs for a wife instead. He eventually

settles for the old lady. When he promises to be faithful she turns

into a beautiful young Papagena but immediately disappears.

Pamina and Tamino are reunited and face the ordeals of water

and fire together, protected by the magic flute.

Papageno tries to hang himself on a tree but is saved by

the three spirits, who remind him that if he uses his magic bells

he will find true happiness. When he plays the bells, Papagena

appears and the two start making family plans. The Queen of the

Night, her three ladies, and Monostatos attack the temple but are

defeated and banished. Sarastro blesses Pamina and Tamino as all

join in hailing the triumph of courage, virtue, and wisdom.

The second largest opera company in North America, San

Francisco Opera was founded by Gaetano Merola (1881-1953) and

incorporated in 1923. The Company’s first performance took place on

September 26, 1923 in the City’s Civic Auditorium (La Boheme, with

Queena Mario and Giovanni Martinelli, conducted by Merola). Originally

presented over two weeks, San Francisco Opera’s season now contains

approximately 75 performances of ten operas between September and


San Francisco Opera inaugurated its current home, the War

Memorial Opera House, with a performance of Tosca on October 15, 1932

(Claudia Muzio, Dino Borgioli, and Alfredo Gandolfi sang the principal

roles in a production conducted by Merola). The venerable beaux arts

building holds the distinction of being the first American opera house

that was not built by and for a small group of wealthy patrons; the

funding came thanks to a group of private citizens who encouraged

thousands of San Franciscans to subscribe.

Since 1923, San Francisco Opera has presented the United States

debut performances of numerous artists, including Vladimir Atlantov,

Piotr Beczala, Inge Borkh, Boris Christoff, Marie Collier, Geraint Evans,

Mafalda Favero, Tito Gobbi, Sena Jurinac, Mario del Monaco, Anna

Netrebko, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Margaret Price, Leonie

Rysanek, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Giulietta Simionato, Ebe Stignani,

Renata Tebaldi, and Ingvar Wixell; conductors Marco Armiliato, Gerd

Albrecht, Valery Gergiev, Charles Mackerras, Georg Solti, and Silvio

Varviso; and directors Francis Ford Coppola, Harry Kupfer, and

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

The SF Opera

301 Van Ness Avenue | San Francisco | CA 94102

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines