The Magic Flute was performed over 100 times in its first year, but Mozart died just over a month after the first performance…
In 1790, the tragic news from France created a heavy, tense atmosphere in the Austrian capital. Freemasonry, which Mozart enthusiastically participated in and was attracted to by virtue of its brotherhood spirit, was under particular scrutiny. Mozart was going through a difficult period: his health was declining, his financial situation was becoming more precarious despite his recent successes and his friend and collaborator Lorenzo Da Ponte had been evicted from the court theatre.
In 1791, at a particularly difficult time both financially and psychologically, Mozart received a commission from Schikaneder, the impresario of a small theatre in Vienna, to compose the music for a singspiel (a German opera). Schikaneder was a unique individual: as an impresario, he loved spectacular theatre with complicated scenarios and machinery, as an actor, he was considered an excellent performer of Shakespeare…he also led a free and unconventional life. For all these reasons, Mozart had great sympathy for him. Schikaneder was also the author of the libretto proposed to Mozart, inspired by the tale Lulu oder die Zauberflöte, published in Wieland’s famous collection of Eastern tales, Wieland’s Dschinnistan. However, the text—born from the collection of broadly happy and popular fairytales—was profoundly transformed by the introduction of rites and ideas from masonry, enriching its deeper meaning.
The singspiel was a fairly new genre which consisted of a blend of different elements, ranging from the French Romance to the Italian aria and the German lied. Mozart succeeds in giving a wonderful unity to the work and calls for human love, virtue, and good-will. Mozart composes the song of the 18th-century’s declining dream: he proposes the discovery of an immense treasure that lies within everyone’s reach: the universal human happiness. He does this through the pranks of the birdcatcher Papageno, the inconsistencies of the Queen of the Night, the three ladies, the high obstinate wisdom of the great Sarastro, the contradictions of the young men Pamina and Tamino…Goethe, impressed by The Magic Flute, declared that only this music could have accompanied his Faust.
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The curtain rises and a fire-breathing dragon pursues prince Tamino: the end is near, but three fairy ladies—the assistants of the Queen of the Night—arrive to help him! In the form of a fairytale (but also borrowing elements from the Alexandrian novel, from Egyptian symbolism, and Eastern gnosis!), Mozart's The Magic Flute is an unsolvalbe enigma, a fountain of illusions and allusions. However, despite this apparent halo of mystery, Mozart’s opera knew how to win over the public with its unforgettable arias: just think of the Queen of the Night’s aria (the unparalleled Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen) or the singing of the bubbling Papageno! Through the ordeal of fire, the sands of Egypt, and the four elements, The Magic Flute sings the victory of Good over Evil. Follow Tamino on his spiritual voyage to enter the reign of the Sun, and you will emerge transformed!