14 March - 30 March
Opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"Die Zauberflöte" is Mozart's last opera and one of the most performed works on the opera stage. It was based on a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder and was written in the form of a Singspiel, a popular musical form at the time that combined singing and speaking.
"Die Zauberflöte" is known for its prominent Masonic elements, although some scholars believe that the Masonic influence has been exaggerated. Schikaneder and Mozart were Freemasons, as was Ignaz Alberti, engraver and publisher of the first libretto. The opera was also influenced by Enlightenment philosophy and can be seen as a defence of Enlightenment absolutism. The Queen of the Night is seen by some as a dangerous form of obscurantism, by others as representative of the Roman Catholic Empress Maria Theresia, who banned Freemasonry in Austria. Still others see the Roman Catholic Church itself as strongly anti-Masonic. However, the literature repeatedly draws attention to the fact that the central theme of the work is not only "love" but also becoming a better person by overcoming hardships (like Parsifal in Wagner's later opera).
"Die Zauberflöte" was premiered in Vienna on 30 September 1791 – two months before Mozart's death. The composer conducted the orchestra, Schikaneder himself performed Papageno, and the role of the Queen of the Night was performed by Mozart's wife's sister, Josepha Hofer. Although reviews of the first performances are lacking, it is immediately clear that Mozart and Schikaneder were a huge success. The opera attracted huge audiences and reached hundreds of performances in the last years of the 18th century.
"Die Zauberflöte" was first performed in Sofia in 1931 under the baton of German maestro Hermann Stange and the direction of Hristo Popov.
Tamino, a handsome prince lost in a distant land, is chased by a snake and begs the gods to save him (aria: “Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!”). He faints and three ladies, servants of the Queen of the Night, appear and kill the serpent. They find the unconscious prince extremely attractive and each tries to convince the other two to leave her alone with him. After arguing, they reluctantly decide to leave together. Tamino wakes up and is surprised to find that he is still alive and the snake is dead. Papageno enters dressed as a bird. He describes his life as a bird hunter, lamenting that he has no wife or girlfriend (aria: “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja”). Tamino introduces himself to Papageno, thinking Papageno killed the snake. Papageno happily took credit – claiming he strangled it with his bare hands. Here come the three ladies again, who, instead of giving Papageno wine, cake and figs, give him water and a stone and lock his mouth with a padlock as a warning not to lie. They show Tamino a portrait of Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, with whom Tamino instantly falls in love (aria: “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön”). The ladies explain to Tamino that Pamina has been captured by Sarastro, whom they describe as a powerful, evil demon. Tamino vows to save Pamina. The Queen of the Night appears and promises Tamino that Pamina will be his if he saves her from Sarastro (“O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn”). The queen and the ladies leave, and Papageno can only hum because of the padlock on his mouth. The ladies return and remove the padlock with a warning to lie no more. They give Tamino a magic flute that has the power to change sorrow to joy and give Papageno magic bells for protection, telling him to go with Tamino. The ladies tell of three boys who will take Tamino and Papageno to Sarastro’s temple. Tamino and Papageno embark on the adventure together.
A room in Sarastro’s palace
Pamina is dragged away by Sarastro’s slaves after trying to escape. The Moor, Monostatos, chief of the slaves, orders them to chain her and leave her alone with him. Papageno, sent ahead by Tamino to help find Pamina enters. Monostatos and Papageno are horrified by the other’s strange appearance and both flee, each thinking the other is the devil. Papageno returns and tells Pamina that her mother has sent Tamino to rescue her. Pamina is happy to hear that Tamino is in love with her. She offers sympathy and hope to Papageno, who longs for a wife. Together they reflect on the joys and sacred value of conjugal love (duet: “Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen”).
Grove in front of the temple
The three boys lead Tamino to Sarastro’s temple, promising that if he is patient, wise and steadfast, he will be able to save Pamina. Tamino approaches the right entrance (Temple of Reason) but is denied entry. The same thing happens when he goes to the entrance on the left (Temple of Nature). But from the entrance in the middle (Temple of Wisdom) a priest appears. He tells Tamino that Sarastro is benevolent, not evil, and that he should not trust the Queen of the Night. Voices are heard telling Tamino that Pamina is alive. A happy Tamino plays his magic flute. Animals appear and dance in delight to his music. Tamino hears Papageno’s trumpets sounding offstage and rushes to find him (aria: “Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton”). Pamina appears on the left, Papageno on the right. Papageno and Pamina enter, looking for Tamino. They are recaptured by Monostatos and his slaves. Papageno plays his magic bells, causing Monostatos and his slaves to dance off the stage, mesmerized by the beauty of the music (“Das klinget so herrlich”). Papageno and Pamina hear Sarastro’s retinue approaching. Papageno is scared and asks Pamina what to say. She replies that they should tell the truth. Enter Sarastro with a group of followers. Pamina falls at Sarastro's feet and confesses that she tried to escape because Monostatos had treated her roughly. Sarastro welcomes her kindly and assures her that he only desires her happiness, but refuses to return her to her mother. He describes her as a proud, wayward woman and a bad influence on those around her. Pamina, he says, must be led by a man. Monostatos brings in Tamino. The two lovers see each other for the first time and embrace, causing outrage among Sarastro’s followers. Monostatos tells Sarastro that he caught Papageno and Pamina trying to escape and demands a reward. Sarastro ironically “rewards” Monostatos with a beating and sends him away. He announces that Tamino and Pamina must pass trials to be purified. The priests declare that virtue and righteousness would sanctify life and make mortals like gods.
Grove of palm trees.
The council of the priests of Isis and Osiris, led by Sarastro, enters to the sound of a solemn march. Sarastro tells the priests that Tamino is ready to undergo the trials that will lead to enlightenment. He invokes the gods, asking them to protect Tamino and Pamina (Aria “O Isis und Osiris”).
The courtyard of the Temple of Ordeal.
Tamino and Papageno are led by two priests for the first trial. The priests advise them of the dangers that await them, warn them of women’s wiles and swear them to silence (Duet: “Bewahret euch von Weibertücken”).
The three ladies appear and remind Tamino and Papageno of what the queen said about Sarastro, trying to tempt them to talk. Papageno cannot resist answering the ladies, but Tamino stands aside, angrily instructing Papageno not to listen to the ladies' threats and to keep quiet. Seeing Tamino not speaking to them, the ladies retreat in confusion. The speaker and a priest return and take Tamino and Papageno away.
In the garden
Pamina is sleeping. Monostatos sneaks in and looks at her. (Aria: “Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden”) He is about to kiss her when the Queen of the Night appears. Monostatos hides away. Waking up, Pamina tells her mother that Tamino is joining Sarastro’s brotherhood and that she is thinking of accompanying him. The queen is not happy. She explains that her husband, the previous owner of the temple, on his deathbed gave the property to Sarastro instead of her, rendering the queen powerless. She gives Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro and threatening to disown her if she doesn’t. (Aria: “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen”). Monostatos returns and tries to provoke Pamina’s love by threatening to reveal her plot with the queen, but Sarastro enters and chases him away. Pamina asks Sarastro to forgive her mother, and he assures her that revenge and cruelty have no place in his domain (Aria: “In diesen heil'gen Hallen”).
Hall in the Temple of Trial
Tamino and Papageno are led by priests who remind them to remain silent. Papageno complains of thirst. An old woman enters and offers Papageno a glass of water. He drinks and teasingly asks her if she has a boyfriend. She replies that she has and that his name is Papageno, then disappears. The three boys bring food, the magic flute and the bells sent by Sarastro (Trio: “Seid uns zum zweiten Mal willkommen”). Tamino begins to play the flute, summoning Pamina. She tries to speak to him, but Tamino, bound by his vow of silence, cannot answer her, and Pamina begins to believe that he no longer loves her. (Aria: “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden”). She leaves in despair.
By the pyramids
The priests celebrate Tamino’s past successes and pray that he will succeed and become worthy of their order (chorus “O Isis and Osiris”). They lead Pamina and Sarastro instructs Pamina and Tamino to say goodbye to each other before the greater trials come. They exit, but Papageno comes. The priests grant his request for a glass of wine and he shares with them his dream of finding a wife (Aria: “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen”). The old woman reappears and warns him that if he does not immediately promise to marry her, he will be imprisoned forever. When Papageno promises to love her faithfully (murmuring that he will only do so until something better comes along), she transforms into the young and beautiful Papagena. Papageno rushes to embrace her, but the priests push him away, telling him that he is not yet worthy of her.
In the garden
The three boys greet the dawn. They observe Pamina, who is considering suicide because she believes that Tamino has abandoned her. The boys restrain her and assure her of Tamino’s love. (Quartet: “Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkünden”).
On the mountains of trial
Two men in armour lead Tamino. They promise enlightenment to those who successfully overcome the fear of death ("Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden"). Tamino states that he is ready for the test. Pamina calls him from the stage. The men in armour assure him that the vow of silence is over and he is free to speak to her. Pamina enters and states her intention to undergo the remaining trials with him. She gives him the magic flute to help them on their way (“Tamino mein, o welch ein Glück!”). Protected by the melody of the magic flute, they pass through fire and water unscathed. The priests hail their triumph and invite the couple to enter the temple.
Garden with tree
Papageno is despondent that he has lost Papagena and decides to hang himself (Aria: “Papagena! Papagena! Papagena! Weibchen, Täubchen, meine Schöne”). He hesitates, counting to three, but getting slower. The three boys appear and stop him. They remind him that he can ring his magic bells to summon Papagena. She appears, the two are happy and planning their future when they will have many children (Duet: “Pa... pa... pa...”).
Rocky landscape outside the temple
Monostatos appears with the Queen of the Night and her three ladies. They conspire to destroy the temple (“Nur stille, stille”) and the Queen confirms her promise to give Pamina to Monostatos, but suddenly, with thunder and lightning, they are thrown into eternal night.
Temple of the Sun
Sarastro heralds the triumph of the sun over the night and the deceptive power of the hypocrites. The chorus welcomes the newly initiated Tamino and Pamina and thanks Isis and Osiris.