The Magic Flute
Music by Mozart
The story of "The Magic Flute" opens Act I, with Tamino endeavoring to escape from a huge snake. He trips in running and falls unconscious. Hearing his cries for help, three black-garbed Ladies-in-Waiting of the Queen of the Night appear and kill the snake with their spears. Quite unwillingly they leave the handsome youth, who, on recovering consciousness, sees dancing toward him an odd-looking man entirely covered with feathers. It is Papageno, a bird-catcher. He tells the astonished Tamino that this is the realm of the Queen of the Night. Nor, seeing that the snake is dead, does he hesitate to boast that it was he who killed the monster. For this lie he is immediately punished. The three Ladies-in-Waiting reappear and place a padlock on his mouth. Then they show Tamino the miniature of a maiden, whose magical beauty at once fills his heart with ardent love. Enter the Queen of the Night. She tells Tamino the portrait is that of her daughter, Pamina, who has been taken from her by a wicked sorcerer, Sarastro. She has chosen Tamino to deliver the maiden and as a reward he will receive her hand in marriage. The Queen then disappears and the three Ladies-in-Waiting come back. They take the pad-lock from Papageno’s mouth, give him a set of chimes and Tamino a golden flute. By the aid of these magical instruments they will be able to escape the perils of their journey, on which three youths or genii will accompany them.
Change of scene. A richly furnished apartment in Sarastro’s palace is disclosed. A brutal Moor, Monastatos, is pursuing Pamina with unwelcome attentions. The appearance of Papageno puts him to flight. The bird-catcher recognizes Pamina as the daughter of the Queen of the Night, and assures her that she will soon be rescued. In the meantime the Three Youths guide Tamino to a grove where three temples stand. He is driven away from the doors of two, but at the third there appears a priest who informs him that Sarastro is no tyrant, no wicked sorcerer as the Queen had warned him, but a man of wisdom and of noble character.
The sound of Papageno’s voice arouses Tamino from the meditations inspired by the words of the priest. He hastens forth and seeks to call his companion by playing on his flute. Papageno is not alone. He is trying to escape with Pamina, but is prevented by the appearance of Monostatos and some slaves, who endeavor to seize them. But Papageno sets the Moor and his slaves dancing by playing on his magic chimes.
Trumpet blasts announce the coming of Sarastro. Pamina falls at the feet of the High Priest and explains that she was trying to escape the unwelcome attentions of the Moor. The latter now drags Tamino in, but instead of the reward he expects, receives a sound flogging. By the command of Sarastro, Tamino and Pamina are brought into the Temple of Ordeals, where they must prove that they are worthy of the higher happiness.
|The above summary is based on material in Kobbe's The Complete Opera Book (in the public domain in the United States of America).|
|The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) in full score