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Die Zauberflöte

The Magic Flute

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791

Grand Opera in two acts KV 620
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder

With no surtitles at all. Please read detailed synopsis.
Introduction, in German, in the Holzfoyer half an hour before performances begin

Prince Tamino faints at the sight of an enormous serpent. The Queen of the Night's attendants slay the serpent. Tamino comes to, sees Papageno, a bird catcher, and assumes that he rescued him. Papageno boasts that it was easy to kill the serpent. The ladies return and put a padlock on his mouth to punish him for lying. They give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, and tell him that she has been abducted by Sarastro. He immediately falls in love with her. The Queen of the Night appears and tells Tamino that he can marry Pamina if he rescues her. Papageno tries to leave, but the ladies tell him that he must help Tamino. Papageno is scared, but reluctantly agrees. The ladies give Tamino a magic flute and Papageno some magic bells to protect them. Three boys will guide them to Sarastro’s castle. Monostatos, a servant of Sarastro, tries to seduce Pamina. She faints. Papageno appears. He and Monostatos flee from one another in fright. Pamina awakes to see Papageno, who explains that he and Tamino have come to rescue her. They set off to find Tamino. The boys lead Tamino to the temples of Wisdom, Reason and Nature. He asks if he will be able to save Pamina, but they are not allowed to tell him. He approaches two of the temples but is told to go back. He tries the third and a priest appears, asking him what he wants. He says he has come to rescue Pamina from evil Sarastro. He is told that he has been deceived, that Sarastro is a good and wise priest. Voices tell him that Pamina still lives. Papageno and Pamina hear Tamino’s flute and try to leave the castle. Monostatos and his slaves try to arrest them but Papageno plays his magic bells, which make them dance and sing instead. Sarastro appears and tells Pamina that her happiness would be destroyed forever if he should deliver her into her mother’s hands. Monostatos enters with Tamino. At last he and Pamina come face to face. Monostatos prevents them from embracing and Sarastro orders him to be punished. Act 3 Sarastro tells his priests that he wants to initiate Tamino into their order, to strengthen it against the wicked Queen of the Night. They consent and Tamino and Papageno are led off to undergo trials so that they may be admitted to the brotherhood. Tamino will be rewarded with Pamina’s hand, and Papageno is promised a wife, if they both withstand trials of virtue, silence and courage. They pass the first test by resisting the seductive lures of the three ladies. Meanwhile Monostatos creeps up on the sleeping Pamina, intending to ravish her, but is stopped by the Queen of the Night. She gives Pamina a dagger telling her that that she must kill Sarastro. The Queen disappears. Monostatos tells Pamina that he will save her life if she will love him, she refuses and he attempts to stab her but Sarastro comes to the rescue. Papageno and Tamino’s second trail is one of silence, which Papageno immediately breaks by talking to an old woman. Tamino keeps silent, even when confronted by a heartbroken Pamina, who cannot understand why he will not talk to her. Tamino is congratulated on passing this test. Pamina is brought to him to take her final farewell before he leaves for the final test. Papageno longs for a wife. An old woman appears, who says he must either accept her or die alone. When he reluctantly agrees to marry her she is transformed into Papagena, a beautiful girl. who is chased away by a priest because Papageno has not yet proved himself worthy of her. The three boys prevent Pamina from committing suicide and lead her to Tamino. Together they endure the last trial, of fire and water, protected by the magic flute. Papageno, miserable, tries to hang himself but the boys stop him. The Queen, her ladies, and Monostatos make a last attempt to destroy Sarastro and rescue Pamina but fail. Papageno eventually gets his Papagena and Sarastro unites Tamino and Pamina, who receive the gifts of Beauty and Wisdom. All sing the praises of Isis and Osiris.

Alfred Kirchner and Michael Sowa's production of Die Zauberflote, which has charmed audiences in Frankfurt since 1998, is a real fairy tale opera: »Prince Tamino's Dream« makes sense of the riddles in this popular comedy in a very touching way. The Queen of the Night doesn't float down from the sky, but emerges from the underworld, Sarastro and his priests study in an enormous, dusty, badly lit library. Papageno parodies the difficult tests, which Tamino must undergo. He finds Pamina first, the child-like bird catcher and sad princess have healthy hearts: they feel what is important and right. Prince Tamino passes the tests, but not without help: his magic flute enchants all beings, even frighteningly large insects. Pamina joins him in the third test. The lovers overcome symbolic death in fire and water, together. Mozart and Shikaneder were ahead of their times »Man and Woman and Woman and Man attain a level of divinity« - power is granted to equals.