The Magic Flute
Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Text by Schikaneder.
Prince Tamino, a youth as valiant as he is noble and virtuous, is implored by the Queen of Night to save her daughter, whom the old and sage high priest Sarastro has taken from her by force. The bereaved mother pours forth her woe in heart-melting sounds and promises everything to the rescuer of her child. Tamino is filled with ardent desire to serve her. On his way he meets the gay Papageno, who at once agrees to share the Prince’s adventures. Papageno is the gay element in the opera; always cheerful and in high spirits, his ever-ready tongue plays him many a funny trick. So we see him once with a lock on his mouth by way of punishment for his idle prating. As he promises never to tell a lie any more, the lock is taken away by the three ladies of the Queen of Night. They present Tamino with a golden flute, giving at the same time an instrument made with little silver bells to Papageno, both of which are to help them in times of danger. The Queen of Night even sends with them three boy angels. These are to point out to them the ways and means by which they may attain their purpose.
Now the young and beautiful Princess Pamina is pursued by declarations of love from a negro servant of Sarastro. Papageno comes to her rescue, frightening the negro Monostatos with his feathery dress. Papageno, on the other hand, fears the negro on ac-count of his blackness, believing him to be the devil in person. Papageno escapes with Pamina, but the negro overtakes him with his servants. Then Papageno shakes his bells, and all, forgetting their wrath, forth-with begin to dance.
Meanwhile Tamino reaches Sarastro’s castle and at once asks for the high priest, poor Pamina’s bitter enemy. The under priests do not allow him to enter, but explain that their master Sarastro is as good as he is sage, and that he always acts for the best. Theyassure Tamino that the Princess lives and is in no danger. Full of thanks the Prince begins to play on his flute; and just then he hears Papageno’s bells. At this juncture Sarastro appears, the wise master before whom they all bow. He punishes the wicked negro ; but Tamino and his Pamina are not to be united with-out first having given ample proof of their love and constancy. Tamino determines to undergo whatever trials may await him, but the Queen of Night, knowing all, sends her three ladies to deter Tamino and his comrade from their purpose. But all temptation is gallantly set aside; they have given a promise to Sarastro which they will keep.
Even the Queen of Night herself is unable to weaken their strength of purpose; temptations of every kind overtake them, but Tamino remains firm. He is finally initiated into the mysteries of the goddess Isis.
In the interval Pamina deems Tamino faithless. She would fain die, but the three celestial youths console her by assuring her that Tamino’s love is true and that he passes through the most severe trials solely on her behalf.
On hearing this, Pamina at once asks to share in the trials, and so they walk together through fire and water, protected by the golden flute as well as by their courage and constancy. They come out purified and happy.
Papageno, having lost his companion, has grown quite melancholy and longs for the little wife that was promised to him and shown to him only for a few moments. He resolves at last to end his life by hanging himself, when the celestial youths appear, re-minding him of his bells. He begins to shake them, and Papagena appears in feathery dress, the very counterpart of himself. All might now be well were it not that the Queen of Night, a somewhat unreasonable lady, broods vengeance. She accepts the negro Monostatos as her avenger and promises to give him her daughter. But already Sarastro has done his work. Tamino is united to his Pamina, and before the sunny light of truth everything else vanishes and sinks back into night.