AZOpera Learn About Opera
Home | 1999/2000 Season | Learn | Look Backstage | Purchase | Get Involved | Index | Updates

Opera Perspectives Lectures
Opera Synopses
Composer Bios
Opera Etiquette
Pronunciation Guide
Opera Terminology
Opera or Not?
Sound Clips
Other Opera Sites

Opera Look-In

The Magic Flute

An opera in two acts
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

First performed at the Theater aud Der Wieden, Vienna, September 30, 1791.


Tamino endeavors to escape from a huge snake. He falls unconscious. Heeding his cries, the black garbed Ladies-in-Waiting of the Queen of the Night appear and kill the snake. The ladies sing of their joy in foiling the snake and of the good looks of the man they have rescued. They hesitantly leave him. He awakes to see a man covered in feathers dancing towards him. It is Papageno, the Queen's bird catcher. Papageno tells the stunned Tamino that he is in the realm of the Queen of the Night. Upon seeing the dead snake, he boasts of his defeat of the snake. Upon utterance of the lie, the three ladies reappear and punish him by putting a padlock on his mouth. They show Tamino a miniature of a maiden, Pamina the Queen of the Night's daughter, whose beauty fills Tamino's heart with love. They tell him she is a prisoner of Sarastro. No sooner does Tamino vow to free the beauty than the Queen herself materializes from the clouds. She reinforces his determination with her depiction of her desolation now that she has lost her daughter. She promises Pamina to Tamino when he sets her free. The ladies reappear and remove the padlock from Papageno's mouth and give him a set of chimes. To Tamino they give a golden flute. These instruments will enable them to escape the perils of their journey. They will also be accompanied by three Genii.

The scene changes, a richly furnished apartment in Sarastro's palace is disclosed. A brutal Moor, Monostatos is pursing Pamina with unwelcome advances. The bird catcher appears, Monostatos takes flight. Papageno recognizes Pamina. He advises her not to fear. She will soon be rescued by someone who has fallen in love with her. He laments that nothing like this ever happens to him. Pamina assures him that he will one day be loved.

The finale takes place in a grove. On three sides stand Temples which are dedicated to Wisdom, Reason, and Nature. This is where the three Genii have led Tamino. They leave him there with the advice to be patient, silent and preserving. Tamino decides to enter the Temples. He is refused admittance to the first two. At the third temple a priest tells him that Sarastro is not a tyrant as he has been told but a noble character of wisdom. The solemn atmosphere awakens Tamino's desire for knowledge. He plays his flute. Wild animals come out from their lairs and lie at his feet. Before he can finish his aria, he hears the sound of Papageno's pan pipe and rushes off to find him. Papageno comes on from the other side of the stage leading Pamina who he intends to unite with Tamino. They are overtaken by Monostatos, who send for chains to complete the capture.

Papageno remembers a last remedy. By playing on his magic chimes, he sets the Moor and his slaves dancing. Pamina and Papageno rejoice at their escape. Trumpets and the sound of a chorus are heard. They sing praise to Sarastro. Papageno wonders what they are saying, 'the truth, friend' replies Pamina. Sarastro enters with a procession, Pamina kneels at his feet. She explains that she was trying to escape from the moor. Sarastro comforts her and assures her that he understands her predicament. Monostatos drags Tamino in, denounces him to Sarastro. Instead of reward, he is sentenced to flogging. This is the first meeting of Pamina and Tamino. They are in love. Sarastro commands them to the Temple of Ordeal where they must prove they are worthy of higher happiness.


In a grove outside the Temple, Sarastro informs the Priests of his plans. The gods have ordained that Pamina shall become Tamino's bride, but only if he is worthy of admission to the Temple. Sarastro takes Pamina, under his protection. The couple must go through severe ordeals in order to be worthy of entering the Temple of Light, thus thwarting the sinister schemes of the Queen of the Night. Sarastro prays to Isis and Osiris that the two may be worthy of their goal.

The Porch of the Temple. The ordeals of Tamino and Papageno are about to begin. They are warned that they may perish in their search for the Truth. The Priests warn them of what will happen if they fail in their vow of silence. They are left alone in the darkness. The three Ladies of the Queen of the Night appear. the Ladies try to get them to abandon their quest, but they remain silent. The priests reappear and congratulate them on having passed the first test.

The scene changes to a garden. Pamina is discovered lying asleep. The Moor steals towards her doing a suggestive dance. The Queen of the Night appears and flings a dagger to her daughter with the command to take the dagger and kill Sarastro. Monostatos threatens to reveal this plot (that Pamina never agreed to) if she will not give him her love. Sarastro enters just in time to hurl the Moor from the defenseless Pamina. The Moor departs with the hope that he will have better luck with the mother. Pamina pleads for mercy for her mother. Sarastro assures her that vengeance is not on his mind.

In a hall, Tamino and Papageno are again urged to keep their vigilant silence. Papageno chatters to himself, only to find himself soon involved in a conversation with an old crone who introduces herself to him as the sweetheart he is yet to meet. There is a clap of thunder, the old crone disappears, the three Genii appear. They bring with them the flute, the chimes and a table spread with food and drink. Pamina appears, unaware of the vow of silence, and is overjoyed to see Tamino again. She is distraught over his lack of response.

The scene changes to a vault. The Priests sing a solemn chorus of praise to Isis and Osiris. Sarastro confronts Pamina with Tamino and tells them to take their last farewell of each other. Papageno is told he may have one wish granted. He is left dissatisfied when he has drunk the wine he asked for. The old crone comes back to him and threatens him with dire consequences if he does not swear to be true to her. When he does swear, she reveals herself to be young and attractively feathered. Poor Papageno is warned off her by a Priest who says he is not worthy of her yet.

The three Genii are discovered in a garden singing of the symbolical joys of the rising sun, whose rays drive away the fears of the night. Not knowing she is being observed Pamina contemplates suicide. She is restrained and comforted by the Genii. Two men in armor guard the door. Tamino is brought in by the priests for the last stage of his initiation, the test of fire and water. Tamino proclaims his resolution, but for the final ordeals, he is accompanied by Pamina. He is not only overjoyed at being joined with her again but that he may speak with her freely. Pamina's sufferings have produced a maturity about her. She acts as Tamino's guide as they undergo successively the ordeals of fire and water. At the end, they are welcomed into the Temple by Sarastro and the Priests. Papageno's great scene of mock suicide occurs at this point, a comic trial that parallels the serious trials of Tamino and Pamina.

Before the Temple, Monostatos leads the Queen and her Ladies who are making their last bid at revenge on Sarastro. Their appearance coincides with a flood of light that drives away the forces of the night. There is a final chorus extolling the initiates.

[Top of the page]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Bio)
Review of the 1996 AZOpera production of The Magic Flute


More Sound Clips

Copyright © 1996 - 1999, Arizona Opera & Evermore Enterprises, All Rights Reserved
- -