The Magic Flute
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto: In German by Emanual Schikaneder
First Performed: Theater aud Der Wieden, Vienna, 1791
Traditional Setting: Ancient Time
Tamino, a prince in a strange, deserted land, is being chased by a huge serpent and narrowly escapes death. He falls unconscious and is saved at the last moment by the three Ladies-in-Waiting of the Queen of the Night, who appear and kill the creature. Tamino awakes to see a man dancing towards him: Papageno, the Queen's bird catcher. Papageno tells the disoriented Tamino that he is in the realm of the Queen of the Night, and boasts that he has killed the dead serpent. This lie prompts the three ladies to reappear and punish Papageno by putting a padlock on his mouth. The Queen of the Night also appears, and shows Tamino a portrait of her daughter, Pamina, whose beauty fills Tamino's heart with love. The Queen tells Tamino that Pamina is a prisoner of Sarastro, and 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, as will the Three Spirits that will accompany them.
Tamino arrives at Sarastro's temple. He learns that Pamina is alive. Meanwhile, Papageno finds Pamina, who is kept prisoner by Monostatos, a strange, ugly man in the service of Sarastro. Papageno tells Pamina about Tamino and the two try to flee and join him, but Monostatos recaptures them and brings them before Sarastro.
The three spirits lead Tamino to a grove with three temples dedicated to Wisdom, Reason and Nature, and leave him, telling him to be patient, silent and constant. As Tamino enters the third temple after being refused admission into the first two, he learns that Sarastro is not a tyrant, but a noble guardian who has dedicated his life to furthering the Brotherhood of Man. Tamino plays his flute, and hears the sound of Papageno's pan pipe. Papageno enters, leading Pamina, who he intends to unite with Tamino, but all three are captured by Monostatos.
When Monostatos drags his prisoners before Sarastro, they learn that Sarastro is already aware of what has transpired. In fact, he has taken Pamina from the evil Queen of the Night to save her. Instead of reward, Monostatos is sentenced to flogging. In the meantime, Pamina and Tamino fall in love at first sight. Sarastro commands Tamino and Papageno to the Temple of Ordeal, where they must prove they are worthy of higher happiness and seek purification.
In a grove outside the Temple, Sarastro informs the Priests that the gods have willed Pamina and Tamino's marriage, 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 will prove worthy.
Tamino and Papageno are warned that they may perish in their search for the Truth. They are exposed to various temptations and trials as they move about the Temples.
Eventually, as the three Spirits sing a song of praise to the rising sun in a beautiful garden, Tamino is brought in by the priests for the last stage of his initiation: the test of fire and water. Tamino proclaims his resolution, and is overjoyed to learn that in the final stage, Pamina, who will act as his guide, will accompany him. Protected by the tones of the Magic Flute, the two transcend both fire and water, and are welcomed into the Temple by Sarastro and the Priests.
Papageno, meanwhile, has failed in keeping his vow of silence, and is so despondent that he threatens suicide. The gods show him mercy and bring him Papagena, a pretty young girl, who will serve as his life companion.
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. Sarastro and his priests celebrate their victory over the Queen of the Night. They rejoice in Tamino's induction into the priesthood and in the union of the prince with Pamina.