Inside this issue:
P. 2 Letter From the Editor
P. 3 4-Step Opera Prep
The Magic Flute
P. 4 - The Story of an Opera
P. 8 A New Musical Form Sweeping the Land
P. 9 Mozart Speaks - An Interview with the Composer
P. 11 How to Write a Libretto
P. 12 Everyone’s a Critic - Writing your Own Review of
an Opera Performance
P. 13 Opera? Singspiel? - What is the difference?
The Magic Flute
P. 14 - An Operatic Allegory
P. 15 The Enlightenment
Authors: Jason A. Helfer and Stephen T. Schroth, Educational Studies Department, Knox College
Photos: Dan Rest
See Backstage Pass! in color at www.lyricopera.org/education/opera-in-the-neighborhoods.aspx
The Magazine of
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s
Opera in the Neighborhoods
Welcome to the latest edition of
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s student magazine!
is your ticket to the world of
opera – where you’ll learn about the history,
mystery, and splendor of this timeless art form.
The first operas were written in Italy over 400 years ago.
Since then, composers from around the world have
used opera to combine the power of the written word,
the expressiveness of the human voice and orchestral
instruments, and the drama of the theater. This unique combination of singers, orchestra, drama, costumes,
dance, staging, sets, and lighting offers something for everyone to enjoy. This issue of Backstage Pass! will
prepare you to experience Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Opera in the Neighborhoods production of The Magic Flute (or
Die Zauberflöte in the original German).
Backstage Pass! will help you enjoy this funny and heartwarming performance by introducing you to:
• the story of The Magic Flute
• the way operas are constructed
• the composer of the opera, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
• the historical setting of The Magic Flute
• how to be a great audience member
I like opera well enough; I think the sets, costumes, and lighting are really cool. What do you think is more
important: the music and words or what is on stage?
Sort of an opera fan
Dear Sort of,
ASK THE IMPRESARIO
That is a difficult question that composers and people who think about music have been asking for centuries. There
is no doubt that the sets, costumes, and so forth add visual beauty and drama. At the same time, think about how
the staging supports the music and words, and how the words and music support the staging. The combination
of music, literature, theatre, and visual arts is what makes opera so powerful. A good balance between these elements
is essential for a successful production. Consider how you might respond to a production of The Magic Flute
if it was set in the year 2000 in Chicago, or in prehistoric times?
“I am the queen of the night!
Read this book....if you know
what’s good for you!”
Understanding opera is not that difficult – even
though there are people singing really loud, without
microphones, often in a different language. Here is a
brief introduction to opera with four simple steps to
help you follow along.
Operas can be grouped into two very broad
categories: comic and serious. The Magic Flute
is unique because it contains both comic and
The plots, or stories, of many operas center on
love, with characters falling in love, out of love, or
both. In The Magic Flute, noble characters like a
prince and a princess fall in love just like anyone
In most operas, either a soprano (soh-PRAHno),
the highest female voice range or a mezzosoprano
(MET-zo soh-PRAH-no), the middle
female voice range, are in or out of love with a
tenor (TEH-nohr), the highest male voice range.
If someone tries to help the soprano and tenor
(or tries to make things difficult), it is usually a
baritone (BEAR-ih-tone), the middle male voice
range. And, in many operas, the bad guy (or
father figure, or silly man, or wise person) is
played by the lowest male vocal range – a bass
eh hem.....me me me me me
The Magic Flute also includes a character named
The Queen of the Night. The Queen of the Night
is a coloratura soprano (co-loh-rah-TOO-rah soh-
PRAH-no). A coloratura soprano must have great
vocal agility and might be frivolous, funny, or even
crazy. In The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night
is crazy for revenge!
So, how will this help you understand the plot of
Mozart’s The Magic Flute?
• The Magic Flute is a love story.
• The tenor (Tamino) falls in love with a soprano
(Pamina). The baritone (Pagageno) is a kind
man who helps the tenor and the soprano while
searching for his own true love (Papagena – a
soprano). The bass is a wise priest (Sarastro) who
helps the tenor, soprano, and baritone throughout
the opera. The coloratura soprano (The Queen of
the Night) simply wants revenge.
• The Magic Flute is both funny (when Papageno is
on stage) and serious (when Tamino, Pamina, The
Queen of the Night, and Sarastro are on stage).
Confused? Keep reading and the story of The Magic
Flute will give you more details.
Book your next birding adventure with me!
With bread to share, and flute in hand
my tour’s unlike anything in the land!
experienced guide and owner
TIME: A Mythical Time PLACE: A Mythical Place
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
(pah-MEE-nah) – a princess (soprano)
(tah-MEE-noh) – a prince (tenor)
(pah-pah-GAY-noh) – a bird catcher (baritone)
(zah-RAHS-troh) – a priest (bass)
Queen of the Night (coloratura soprano)
(pah-pah-GAY-nah) – Papageno’s sweetheart (soprano)
Ladies – attendants to the Queen of the Night (soprano, soprano, mezzo soprano)
This is a story of Prince Tamino and how he met the
beautiful Princess Pamina. Once upon a time, Tamino
was attacked by a scary monster. Magical servants of
the Queen of the Night appear and save him. They send
Tamino and his friend Papageno on a quest. Together
they set out to save Princess Pamina from Sarastro,
enemy of the Queen of the Night.
One day, while walking through the forest, Tamino
becomes lost. No matter where he turns, he cannot find
his way home. He becomes more frantic and scared
that he is lost. Suddenly, he turns a corner and runs into
a scary monster. The monster lunges after Tamino.
Tamino runs as fast as he can, but the monster is still
at his heels. Finally, Tamino faints from fear. As the
monster prepares to strike, Three Ladies suddenly
appear and use their magic to kill the monster. The
monster folds, gasps, and dies.
These ladies are attendants of the Queen of the Night,
and they soon find the unconscious prince. Each lady
speaks of how handsome, noble, and kind he appears.
They begin to argue over who will stay with him and
who will report to the Queen of the Night. Eventually, all
Three Ladies leave, still talking about the unconscious
and handsome prince.
Soon, Tamino awakens and isn’t sure if he is alive,
dead, or just dreaming. The monster lies dead near
him. After pinching himself to prove he really is alive, he
wonders how he survived such a terrible experience.
The Story of an Opera
Gazing at the horrible creature, Tamino is surprised by
music coming from the forest. He quickly hides behind
a tree and a man – dressed as a bird – comes into the
The man is singing about catching birds and maybe
even catching a wife! Tamino cautiously approaches
this strange looking person and asks who he is. The
strange man tells Tamino that his name is Papageno.
He catches birds for the Queen of the Night in
exchange for food and drink.
Tamino thinks it was Papageno who killed the monster
and thanks him for saving his life. Papageno does not
tell the truth, but instead makes up a story describing
how he killed the monster with his bare hands. Before
he brags anymore, the Queen of the Night’s Three
They relieve Papageno of his catch of birds. In return,
Papageno receives only water and a rock instead of
wine and food! The magical ladies place a lock on his
mouth to punish him for lying about killing the monster.
Turning to Tamino, the Three Ladies tell him that their
Queen wishes to ask a favor. The Queen would like
Tamino to rescue her daughter, Princess Pamina. They
hand Tamino a picture of the princess. Looking at her
picture, Tamino falls in love. She is so beautiful!
Suddenly, the Queen of the Night appears. In case the
picture did not convince Tamino, the Queen tells her
own sad tale. Her daughter was stolen from her by the
evil Sarastro. Only a noble and true prince like Tamino
can save Pamina.
Tamino agrees to bring Pamina back to her mother.
The Three Ladies present him with a magic flute to
protect him from harm while on this journey.
Meanwhile, Papageno returns with the lock still on
his mouth. All he can do is hum. After the Three
Ladies tell him he was wrong for lying about the
monster, they remove the lock. They order him to
help Tamino search for Pamina, and he halfheartedly
agrees. They give him magic bells for protection.
Tamino gives Papageno the picture of Pamina, and
they begin to search for her.
Pamina sits alone in her cell. Papageno appears
and frees Pamina from her bonds. He compares the
picture of Pamina to the woman beside him. They
are one and the same! He tells Pamina that there is a
prince who loves her very much.
Pamina is surprised to hear about this prince and
wonders if Papageno is trying to trick her. Papageno
pleads with her to believe him and she can tell he is
Then Papageno becomes sad: Tamino and Pamina
each have someone to love; poor Papageno has no
one. Pamina tells him to have patience as he, too,
will find someone to love.
The Three ladies are here!!”
“Whew! These are some
Tamino is searching for Pamina in Sarastro’s realm.
He does not know if she is alive or dead, and he
wonders if Papageno has found her. He plays his
magic flute to let Papageno know where he is. To
his surprise, birds, bears, and lions come out from
the forest and begin to dance. Soon, Papageno and
Tamino embraces Pamina. Pamina explains that
Sarastro is not evil and that he took her away
because it is really the Queen of the Night who is
evil. The Queen of the Night is trying to destroy truth
and goodness in Sarastro’s realm.
Sarastro joins them and explains that they will need
to work together to take away the Queen’s power.
Pamina suggests that she visit her mother alone.
Maybe she can help the Queen see that what she is
doing is wrong.
Sarastro leads Tamino and Papageno away.
Meanwhile, Pamina leaves the safety of Sarastro’s
realm and prepares to confront her mother.
You’d be in a bad mood too
if you had to live in
this pile of dirty laundry!!
These words are scrambled for real,.
Suddenly the Queen appears in a flash of light! She
insists that Sarastro is the one trying to destroy
wisdom, reason, and nature. The Queen places a
dagger into Pamina’s hand and demands that Pamina
kill Sarastro. Pamina runs away feeling very confused
Pamina rushes into the arms of Sarastro. She tries to
explain what the Queen, her mother, has asked her
to do. Sarastro quietly interrupts them. He reminds
Pamina that in his realm there is no room for hatred or
anger. The search for a better world is the goal. While
the Queen cannot be harmed, she must not be allowed
to hurt Pamina or others. Sarastro explains that she and
Tamino must overcome fear and face death to protect
the realm from the Queen’s evil plans.
Poor Papageno! Tamino has found his Pamina, and
Sarastro has helped everyone but Papageno. Papageno
wishes to have a wife and some children; that is all he
asks of this life.
As Papageno walks through the forest, he sees an
old lady who knows his name! She tells him that even
though she looks old, she is only 18. She then surprises
him by saying she is his bride. Papageno is confused.
How can this old woman say she is only 18 and be his
Magically, the old lady changes into a young woman!
With twinkling eyes and a merry smile, she announces
that her name is Papagena. Papageno is speechless –
here is a Papagena just for him! They spend their first
day together thinking about their future and all of the
little children they will love one day.
Sarastro leads Tamino and Pamina into a great hall. He
explains that there is one thing the Queen cannot live
with: the light that shines from a fearless mind.
Pamina is confused. What is meant by such an idea?
Sarastro tells Pamina and Tamino that they will be
tested in a series of trials. If they show fear, they will be
destroyed and the Queen of the Night will destroy truth
A T Q U E E N Z Y I R X S L M
I P B C U O O D H O A S I I A
A A T A M I N O W J X E N M G
Z M G X Z U D Y A J I N G S I
Z I T R L A I Q H C P L S C C
S N J U T U Y H P R A I P H B
A A C F R M F R A A P G I I E
R Z E J B A K E P P A H E K L
A R B B R G L N A A G T L A L
S R C U A I G A G L E E F N S
T S E P V C I I E L N N E E C
R U A N O F I S N E A M H D X
O E N B G L R S O G V E Q E W
H Y I H B U T A M O L N W R M
I Y G K Z T N N A R U T E D Y
B X H X V E T C O Y T T W X G
B U T I D Y W E C K U L M V D
Magic Flute Magic Bells Singspiel Enlightenment Renaissance Tamino
Pamina Papageno Papagena Sarastro Queen Night
Allegory Schikaneder Bravo
conquered the trial
Pamina and Tamino promise to undergo the trials
together. They have each other for protection and
security. And, they also have the magic flute to help
them. Together, Pamina and Tamino conquer the trial of
fire and the trial of water.
Pamina and Tamino return to the great hall where they
meet Papageno and Papagena. Sarastro congratulates
them on their courage and patience as the rising sun
glows upon the group. Suddenly, the Queen of the
Night and the Three Ladies appear. They want to take
Pamina away. But, as the light of the sun shines on
them, the four evil women shrink in its brightness and
disappear. Wisdom has prevailed!
May 6, 2012
Temple of Wisdom seeking new members.
Must possess honesty, goodness, and
bravery. Apply in person.
Ask for Sarastro.
ahhhh...good to know! :)
Opera is a complex art form with many different parts.
Seeing a live performance can be exciting and fun,
especially if you understand how all of the different parts
Opera composers of the 18 th and 19 th centuries followed
some guidelines for organizing an opera story. These
guidelines helped them reveal the plot, showcase singers’
vocal talents, and provide musical variety for the audience.
So, here are the basics....
ARIA: One person sings alone.
The Magic Flute has several examples...
• Papageno: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja (I am a bird
catcher) and Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen (A girlfriend
• Tamino: Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön (The
portrait is enchantingly beautiful)
• Pamina: Ach, ich fühl’s (Oh, I feel)
• The Queen of the Night: O zittre nicht (Tremble not)
and Der Hölle Rache (Evil revenge)
•Sarastro: O Isis und Osiris (Isis and Osiris) and In
diesen heil’gen Hallen (In these holy halls)
DUET: Two people sing at the same
time or take turns singing to one
The Magic Flute has a number of duets...
• Pamina & Papageno: Bei Männern (Among men)
• Papageno & Papagena: Pa-pa-pa
TRIO: Three people sing at the same
time or take turns.
The Magic Flute contains a number of trios. One of
them opens the opera with the Three Ladies killing
• Three Ladies: Stirb, Ungeheu’r (Die, monster)
Sweeping the Land
An opera composer uses musical forms such as the aria,
duet, trio, ensemble, and chorus to show characters’
feelings or ideas. Different forms may also be used to
slow or stop the action to highlight an important part of
the plot. Arias, duets, trios, or ensembles are performed
by named characters (such as Tamino, Papageno, and
Pamina). Choruses are performed by unnamed groups
(like the guards). Arias, duets, trios, and ensembles are
often separated by recitative. During the recitative, a
character may speak his thoughts aloud or have a sung
conversation with other characters.
ENSEMBLE: A group of more than three
people are singing. Ensembles often
occur at the end of an act to help build
dramatic intensity before ending the
The Magic Flute contains a number of ensembles.
• Tamino, Papageno, Three Ladies: Hm! Hm! Hm! Hm!
• Papageno, Tamino, Three Ladies, Chorus: Wie?
Wie? Wie? (How? How? How?)
CHORUS: A large group of people
(characters without names) singing the
same words at the same time.
Short musical statements that move
the action forward. They are sung
by one or more characters and they
have quiet accompaniment to support
conversational-type of singing.
Recitatives introduce or connect larger
musical forms (arias, duets, trios, and
The Magic Flute contains very little recitative. For
most of the opera, the action between musical
numbers is delivered through speech. An example
occurs when Tamino meets Papageno (and
Papageno gets in trouble bragging about slaying the
• Tamino & Papageno He da! (Hey there!)
Because opera is a very old art form, many of the
operas performed today were created by composers
who lived long ago. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the
composer of The Magic Flute, lived from 1756 until
1791. But what if we could talk to him today? In this
imaginary interview, Backstage Pass! correspondent,
Joseph Grün, asks Mozart some questions about his
life and work.
Joseph Grün: Can you tell us about your childhood?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I was born in
Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756. My mother
and father had seven children. Sadly, only my sister
and I survived. My father was a gifted composer and
violinist. He also wrote a very popular book on how to
play the violin.
JG: How did you learn to compose music?
WAM: Luckily, I was raised in a musical family. My
musical gifts appeared when I was very young. At
an early age I learned to play the piano, harpsichord,
and violin. My sister also played the piano. When I
was young my father helped me write the notes on
the page for my compositions. While it is difficult to
remember what I did when I was five or six years old, I
do know that my father took my sister and me on trips
so we could perform for nobility. Though these trips
were exhausting, they helped me learn about different
JG: Can you tell us more about how your travels
helped you as a composer?
WAM: I have read that some people think I am a
“genius.” I don’t know if I am, but I do know that music
has always come easily for me. Working with my father
and listening to my sister play the piano helped my
music. Traveling during my childhood allowed me to
perform for people and listen to the music of many
different composers in many different countries. I think
all of this helped my musical abilities.
JG: Can you describe your compositional style?
WAM: I will try, but remember that a composer’s
style changes within his or her lifetime. And, also
remember, that I began composing at a VERY young
age. To answer this question, I’ll use opera, which I
worked with for most of my life.
I composed my first opera, Bastien and Bastienne,
when I was 12. My last opera, The Magic Flute, was
composed when I was 35. They are similar in that both
contain arias and duets. So what is different?
An Interview with the Composer
First, my interest in opera changed over time. I don’t
know that I could have written The Magic Flute when
I was 12. The themes within the opera, (the search for
wisdom and truth) are more serious than the themes
of Bastien and Bastienne (childhood jealousy and
Second, as I grew older, I better understood the voice,
text, and the orchestra. Listen to the overtures of
Bastien and Bastienne and The Magic Flute and you’ll
hear differences in the way I wrote for the orchestra.
Third, I learned more about the differing musical styles
throughout Europe, as well as what my audience
enjoyed. Unlike other composers like Franz Joseph
Haydn, I did not receive regular pay from a patron.
I had to sell my works. Sometimes wealthy people
would pay me to write music, but I made money most
often by requiring audience members to pay to see my
operas. As a composer, I had to write operas about
ideas my audience wanted to see, not just my own
JG: Do you mean that you will write whatever you think
an audience will like, even if it isn’t best for the story?
WAM: Not quite. You have brought up an interesting
problem. What the audience wants is important, but a
composer must stay true to his or her own creativity.
Perhaps composers must balance new musical ideas
with familiar ones.
For example, The Magic Flute contains two
contrasting musical ideas. Let’s describe them as the
sublime and the ridiculous. To be sublime means to
be great; to be ridiculous means to be stupid or funny.
The idea of the sublime is seen in the text and music
of Tamino, Pamina, and Sarastro. The ridiculous is
demonstrated by the music of Papageno, the Three
Ladies, and even the Queen of the Night.
The movement between these two ideas gives
the opera excitement, balance, and interesting
composition. The decision to use these two ideas
makes a good story for the stage. I also had to
consider the capabilities of my singers, and what my
audience would like to see in this opera.
JG: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your
WAM: Well, I also use the standard musical forms
in my operas: arias, duets, trios, ensembles, and
choruses. These help me create the structure for an
For example, a “typical” Mozart opera begins with the
orchestra playing the overture, which is the instrumental
introduction to the opera. The curtain rises to reveal
a singer or two. Each solo singer is introduced with
an aria. Between arias I write choruses, duets, trios,
ensembles and recitatives. Recitatives are sung
conversations between characters. While solos, duets,
trios and ensembles freeze the action and highlight
important plot details, recitatives quicken the pace and
move the story along.
JG: Your use of melody in The Magic Flute is very
interesting. In Papageno’s first aria, (Der Volgerfänger
bin ich ja or in English: I am a bird catcher) the melody
moves in a stepwise fashion. His second aria (Ein
Mädchen oder Weibchen or in English: A girlfriend
or wife) is like this, too. It seems the text is most
important, even though the tunes are wonderful. In
other compositions, like the aria Tamino sings to
Pamina’s picture (Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön or
in English: The portrait is enchantingly beautiful), the
melody jumps around a bit more. How do you make
WAM: This is an easy answer! In the case of The
Magic Flute, these choices partly depend on who is
singing the role. The first Papageno was my friend,
Emanuel Schikaneder. Schikaneder was an experienced
stage actor, but he did not have a singing voice trained
for opera. So, I needed to compose music for him that
he could sing. Our first Tamino, Benedikt Schack, was a
stronger singer who could sing more difficult music.
JG: Thank you very much for your time, Maestro
Mozart. I have learned a lot from you.
WAM: My pleasure.
EXTREME SEARCHING OF WORDS, DUDE.
A T P L O T H Z Y I R X T L O
T E N O R O O R C H E S T R A
A S C O E I Y R D U E T O M F
L U A X Z U D Y A H I E G A L
I Y C R L A S Q T C L M O D Q
B B H U I S Y N T B C O G U T
R O O F A A E L M A Y Z T X E
E Z R B U E K E R P A A H N K
T R U B T G S S W K V R O Z H
T T S H I N G Y Q G L T F L M
O R G P E R I U M W I Q E I C
W I A N Q A I Q D R L Q H L X
E O A B G X R J A R V G Q A W
G E R M A N Y B M J L R W A M
I Y K K Z Y N A A Q U X E D Y
B X S O P R A N O U T T W X G
B U D I D Y W M E Z Z O M V D
Germany Eighteenth Mozart Soprano Mezzo Tenor Baritone Bass
Libretto Orchestra Aria Duet Ensemble Trio Chorus Plot
Notice the characters do
not have to be human
Librettos (the book or script of an opera) often transform
existing stories, plays, or poems into words that can be
sung on the opera stage. Think of the story of a bestselling
book that is turned into a blockbuster movie. This
transformation can be subtle (changing a word or two) or
obvious (rewriting or excluding entire parts of the story).
When constructing a libretto, the librettist tries to describe
both the characters and the dramatic situation.
Let’s use the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk to explain
how to transform a story into a libretto. First, a librettist
identifies the characters that will make the plot come to life.
In Jack and the Beanstalk, we find:
o Jack’s mother
o The cow Jack sells at market
o The stranger who sells Jack the magic beans
o The giant
o The giant’s wife
o The goose that lays the golden egg
o The magic harp
Which characters are central to the plot?
o Jack’s mother
o The giant
o The giant’s wife
The other characters are important too. But at this point,
Jack, his mother, the giant, and his wife are essential to
moving the plot forward.
Next, the librettist identifies the essential elements of the
plot. What elements are needed to tell the story? If an
element is left out, would the story still make sense?
o Jack and his mother are poor
o Jack goes to the market and trades the cow
for magic beans
o Jack climbs up the beanstalk three times and
takes objects belonging to the giant and his
o The giant’s wife helps Jack two times
o The last time that Jack tries to escape, the
giant follows him down the beanstalk and falls
to the ground
Now the librettist and composer choose which musical
forms (aria, duet, trio, ensembles, chorus, or recitatives)
help tell the story. A librettist might divide the plot into
scenes and identify musical forms within each scene.
Notice how general the ideas
are at this point.
ACT ONE – Scene one
Mother (Aria): sing about being poor
Mother and Jack (Recitative): talk about what to do
Mother and Jack (Duet): decide to sell the cow at
ACT ONE – Scene two
Jack (Aria): walks the cow to market
Stranger (Aria): describes the magic power of the
Stranger and Jack (Recitative): talk about trading
the beans and the cow
Stranger and Jack (Duet): agree to trade the beans
for the cow
ACT TWO – Scene one
Jack (Aria): climbs the beanstalk and visits the
giant’s castle for the first time
Giant (Aria): Fee-fi-fo-fum – the giant confronts Jack
Jack and giant’s wife (Recitative): Jack takes the
gold purse and the giant’s wife helps him escape
ACT TWO – Scene two
Jack and Giant (Duet): confrontation over stealing
the coin purse, goose, and harp
Jack and Giant (Recitative): Giant chases Jack
down the beanstalk
Giant (Aria): “Death scene” after he falls off the
Jack and Mother (Duet): The “moral” of the story
Next, the librettist rewrites the text from the original story
so it fits the various music forms. The librettist sends the
libretto to the composer who then sets the words to music.
Often, the composer will send sections of the libretto back
to the librettist for changes. After a time, the librettist and
composer work out details and changes and the libretto is
turned into an opera! 11
Writing Your Own Review of an Opera Performance
A music reviewer, also called a music critic, writes for
a newspaper, magazine, website, blog, or other media
outlets. The reviewer’s job is to provide readers with a
description of a performance and opinions about it.
Here’s an example of a review
After attending the opening night
performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Opera
Theater of Timbuktu, I am reminded of what a
lovely composition it is. In this performance of
The Magic Flute, the singing was uniformly strong.
Each principal role was well cast considering the
vocal demands of the opera. Of special note was
the performance of Ross Jones as Papageno.
This reviewer had the sense that Papageno was
an “everyday” individual with a heart of gold. And,
Mr. Jones’ full and rich baritone made a marvelous
accompaniment for his characterization. The
orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Abbott,
nimbly accompanied the singers when necessary
and provided heft when required. The stage
direction, sets, and lighting were visually appealing
and never a distraction. The costume designs of
Martha Despina warrant special mention. The colors
of the costumes were vivid and the frequent costume
changes made for an exciting spectacle. The
wonderful balance achieved on this evening allowed
Mozart’s masterpiece to shimmer.
A good review does not judge the performance as only
“good” or “bad.” Instead, it helps readers understand
what to expect from a performance they may wish to
see. Would you like to be a critic? Here are four simple
guidelines to help you write your review:
1. Begin your review with information about the
performing arts company and the name of the
2. Describe what you heard and what you saw
in terms of the singing, the orchestra, stage
direction, lighting, costumes, and sets.
3. Point out strong elements of the performance
and also point out weaknesses.
4. Conclude with a general statement
summarizing the performance.
Music reviewers attend many different types of
performances each and every week… and for free! If
you love classical music and opera, this could be the
job for you!
“The Soprano stole the show!!
The soprano always steals
“No. Way. It was
the Papageno character.
That baritone has mad skills!”
The first opera, titled Dafne, was created by Jacopo
Peri and performed in 1598. During the next 300
years, Italian opera developed into two types: comic
and serious. Comic opera, also called opera buffa
(OH-pear-ah BOO-fah), generally has a storyline that
is funny, lighthearted, or even silly. Serious opera, or
opera seria (OH-pear-ah SEH-ree-ah), contain tragic
plots or serious themes.
Although Italy was the birthplace of opera, other
countries also developed their own style of opera.
The first opera performed in Germany was a German
version of Dafne that premiered in 1627. German
composers of that time did not develop a uniquely
German form of opera. Instead they composed
operas in Italian.
German royalty preferred Italian opera. Since
composers were not wealthy, they depended on rich
people, like the royals, to pay them to create music.
Composers did not write German opera because
there were not many people willing to pay for one.
Mozart also composed operas in Italian that were
very popular (The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni,
and Così fan tutte). He explored a new form of
German opera called singspiel (ZING-shpeel), which
What is the Difference?
means “sung play.” One unique characteristic of the
singspiel is the inclusion of spoken text within the
opera. This means you will hear spoken dialogue,
singing, and orchestral music.
Mozart took the popular form of German
entertainment, the singspiel, and raised it to high art.
Most singspiel used simple music and spoken text to
tell a story. The plot lines were often simple as well.
In both The Abduction from the Seraglio and The
Magic Flute, Mozart made the plot more detailed by
including more interesting action for the characters.
In The Magic Flute, characters like Papageno are
contrasted with Sarastro. Papageno is a typical
singspiel character. There is nothing complicated
about his character, and he is able to easily explain
what he wants. Sarastro is more like an opera seria
character. He thinks about more complicated ideas
like truth and goodness.
The music that Mozart composed for The Magic
Flute was more interesting than the music in a typical
singspiel, too. He helped improve German opera
with his more sophisticated use of the orchestra and
the singer. He prepared the way for generations of
great German composers to come.
ASK THE IMPRESARIO
Help! I am going to the opera with my grandmother. I’ve never been to an opera before and I am worried
that I will not know how to act in the theater. I want to do the right thing when I attend the opera.
Helpless in Seattle
What a wonderful opportunity for you and your grandmother! There is no question that knowing how to
act at an opera can be a challenge. Often, the music and language are unfamiliar and there seem to be
unwritten rules about when to clap. So, I have a few bits of advice:
1. First, applaud when the conductor comes out to begin the opera and also at the beginning of every act.
If you find an aria, duet, or trio beautiful or well performed, clap (and even shout “Bravo” if you are so
moved) at its finish. If you are not sure if you should clap, just watch the other audience members and
you will know what to do. After watching a few operas, you will get the hang of it.
2. Make sure to notice everything on stage: the singing, music, staging, costumes, and lighting. If your
mind wanders, focus on something different for a while. If you were focusing on the singing, maybe
focus on the staging or set instead. Most operas have lots of changes; so it’s okay if you get distracted.
Just remember to stay quiet so others can enjoy the performance.
In many ways, The Magic Flute is a simple story of
two men who show us the importance of honesty
and the search for understanding. Tamino and
Papageno are not only characters in an opera, but
also show us different ways people should live.
The Magic Flute also includes characters that show
the goodness in both Tamino and Papageno. Pamina
makes goodness and honesty stronger in Tamino.
The Queen of the Night is the total opposite of
Tamino, Papageno, Pamina, and Sarastro.
The message of goodness and honesty is seen
throughout The Magic Flute. Other messages in The
Magic Flute are not so clear. Audience members
must draw conclusions from the drama. So, The
Magic Flute may be understood as an allegory.
Allegory is a method authors use to include different
meanings within a story and that readers use when
interacting with the story (be it a book, poem,
opera, painting, or sculpture). There are two types
of allegories: literary and symbolic. The Magic Flute
uses both types to deliver its deeper message.
An Operatic Allegory
Literary allegory describes events or ideas using
objects, persons, or actions. In The Magic Flute, for
example, ideas of truth, nature, and wisdom can be
found in the trials undertaken by Tamino and Pamina.
Symbolic allegory uses an individual or idea to
explain a deeper meaning, but still can stand alone
as a character. In The Magic Flute, Sarastro is a
symbolic allegory. Sarastro is the ruler of his realm
and his actions show reason, nature, and wisdom.
But, he is still a compassionate man who cares for all
Tamino loves Pamina and Papageno loves
Papagena. All of them are good people trying hard to
live a life of honesty and goodness. These characters
and the marvelous music Mozart composed make
for an entertaining night at the theater. However,
there are deeper meanings within The Magic Flute
including the importance of reason, nature, and
wisdom in living a good life. These lessons are
as relevant to audiences today as they were for
audiences over 200 years ago.
I am 12 years old and really love opera. I love to sing and act. How do I become an opera singer?
An Opera Hopeful
Opera singers are both born and created. In order to become an opera singer you need to know your voice classification.
There are six basic voice types, three for women and three for men. The women’s voice types from highest to lowest are
soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto. The men’s voice types from highest to lowest are tenor, baritone, and bass. It
takes a lot of hard work to become an opera singer. Not only do you need to have a pleasing voice, but it must be well
trained and it must project because there are no microphones in opera. You must also learn to act, move comfortably on
stage (sometimes while wearing heavy costumes), and sing in several languages. At your age, the most important thing to
do is continue to sing and act. If possible, join a children’s chorus (or better yet, a children’s chorus that sings with your
local opera company). As you grow older and are still interested in becoming an opera singer, I suggest attending summer
music camps and studying music in college. Good luck! Maybe I will see you on stage soon.
ASK THE IMPRESARIO
The Magic Flute was written during a period of history
known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment
was a cultural movement which changed religious,
scientific, and artistic thinking in 18 th century society.
Most scholars agree that the Enlightenment was born
during the Renaissance. The Renaissance (the 14 th
through 17 th century) was a time of great growth in art
and science. The discoveries made during this time
were of two types. First, people began to appreciate
the creativity of artists. People no longer believed that
all art came with help from God. Second, the same
thing happened with scientific discoveries. The work
of scientists like Galileo and Copernicus questioned
ideas about the world that people had believed for
The Enlightenment was an extension of the
Renaissance. The power of reason gave humans the
ability to make choices using information found in
the natural world. The Enlightenment showed that
people could make the world a better place. Great
thinkers, like Isaac Newton, believed the individual
was important in the world.
As you can imagine, this idea of individual importance
shocked monarchies in Western Europe. Before this
time, only royalty (chosen by God) had the power to
make laws and create a society for everyone else.
During the Enlightenment, the individual’s place in
society, the role of a monarch, and the role of the
How does the Enlightenment movement influence
the story of The Magic Flute? In The Magic Flute,
Sarastro’s realm contains three temples: nature,
reason, and wisdom. These are the three main parts
of Enlightenment thinking. During that time common
people did not think a prince like Tamino would prize
wisdom, reason, and nature. They thought someone
born into royalty would not care about these things.
Tamino (and Pamina’s) success in each of the trials
convinces Sarastro: even princes are human and use
reason, nature, and wisdom to see goodness in each
The Magic Flute shows the tension between power
(the monarchy), equality, and Enlightenment thinking.
Even though Sarastro is the leader of a group of men,
he values reason, nature, and wisdom. In the opera,
there are obvious questions about who is equal and
how they show it. For example, is Papageno equal to
Tamino? Tamino seeks reason, nature, or wisdom, but
Papageno would rather have a wife, good food, and
The values of the Enlightenment are still important
today. The art, music, literature, and scientific
discoveries help us understand the individual and his
or her place in the world.
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4 5 6
10 11 12
2. A wise man
5. Mozart played this instrument as a child
8. A serious or tragic opera
10. The highest female vocal range
11. A Prince
13. A friend and colleague of Mozart
15. The highest male vocal range
16. The wife of a bird catcher
18. The group that accompanies opera singers
19. Sung play
20. The book or script of an opera
1. Another word for proper behavior
3. A person who writes music
4. A bird catcher
5. A Princess
6. A funny or lighthearted opera
7. When more than tree people sing at the same
9. Composer of The Magic Magic Magic Flute Flute
12. A musical form in which one person sings
14. A musical form in which two people sing
together or separately
17. _____ of the Night