Σάββατο, 22 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Mozart - The Magic Flute

Playbill for the premiere performance of the Magic Flute

 Divine and wondrous spirit of Eternity,
Thine herald of the Muses,
Whose harmonies have glorified the Creator,
 and preserved our sacred rights
 as Man: truly, honestly and dearly;
Give us thy sacred offering!

The Magic Flute (German: Die Zauberflöte, K. 620
is an opera in two acts composed in 1791 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. The work is in the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue.

Premiere and reception :
The opera was premiered in Vienna on 30 September 1791, at the suburban Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden.Mozart conducted the orchestra, Schikaneder himself played Papageno, while the role of the Queen of the Night was sung by Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer.
On the reception of the opera, Mozart scholar Maynard Solomon writes:
Although there were no reviews of the first performances, it was immediately evident that Mozart and Schikaneder had achieved a great success, the opera drawing immense crowds and reaching hundreds of performances during the 1790s.
The success of The Magic Flute lifted the spirits of its composer, who had fallen ill while in Prague a few weeks before. Solomon continues:
Mozart's delight is reflected in his last three letters, written to Constanze, who with her sister Sophie was spending the second week of October in Baden. "I have this moment returned from the opera, which was as full as ever", he wrote on 7 October, listing the numbers that had to be encored. "But what always gives me the most pleasure is the silent approval! You can see how this opera is becoming more and more esteemed." … He went to hear his opera almost every night, taking along [friends and] relatives.
The opera celebrated its 100th performance in November 1792. Mozart did not have the pleasure of witnessing this milestone, having died of his illness on 5 December 1791.
Since its premiere, The Magic Flute has always been one of the most beloved works in the operatic repertoire, and is presently the most frequently performed opera world wide.
Background :
The Magic Flute is noted for its prominent Masonic elements; Schikaneder and Mozart were Masons and lodge brothers (see: Mozart and Freemasonry). The opera is also influenced by Enlightenment philosophy, and can be regarded as an allegory advocating enlightened absolutism. The Queen of the Night represents a dangerous form of obscurantism or, according to some, the anti-Masonic Empress Maria Theresa. Her antagonist Sarastro symbolises the enlightened sovereign who rules according to principles based on reason, wisdom, and nature. The story itself portrays the education of mankind, progressing from chaos through religious superstition to rationalistic enlightenment, by means of trial (Tamino) and error (Papageno), ultimately to make "the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals like the gods". ("Dann ist die Erd' ein Himmelreich, und Sterbliche den Göttern gleich." This couplet is sung in the finales to both acts.)
The opera was the culmination of a period of increasing involvement by Mozart with Schikaneder's theatrical troupe, which since 1789 had been the resident company at the Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart was a close friend of one of the singer-composers of the troupe, tenor Benedikt Schack (the first Tamino), and had contributed to the compositions of the troupe, which were often collaboratively written. Mozart's participation increased with his contributions to the 1790 collaborative opera Der Stein der Weisen (The Philosopher's Stone), including the duet ("Nun liebes Weibchen", K. 625/592a) and perhaps other passages. Like The Magic Flute, Der Stein der Weisen was a fairy-tale opera and can be considered a kind of precursor; it employed much the same cast in similar roles.
Mozart evidently wrote keeping in mind the skills of the singers intended for the premiere, which included both virtuosi and ordinary comic actors, asked to sing for the occasion. Thus, the vocal lines for Papageno and Monostatos are often stated first in the strings so the singer can find his pitch, and are frequently doubled by instruments. In contrast, Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer, who premiered the role of the Queen of the Night, evidently needed little such help: this role is famous for its difficulty. In ensembles, Mozart skillfully combined voices of different ability levels.
A particularly demanding aria is the Queen of the Night's "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart"), which reaches a high F6 (see Scientific pitch notation), rare in opera. At the low end, the part of Sarastro includes a conspicuous F in a few locations.
On 28 December 1791, 3½ weeks after Mozart's death, his widow Constanze offered to send a manuscript score of The Magic Flute to the electoral court in Bonn. Nikolaus Simrock published this text in the first full-score edition (Bonn, 1814), claiming that it was "in accordance with Mozart's own wishes" (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 13 September 1815)

Synopsis :

Act 1

Scene 1

After the Overture, we are introduced to Tamino, a handsome prince who is lost in a distant land and is being pursued by a serpent (quartet: "Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!"). He faints from fatigue and three ladies, attendants 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, in order to be alone with him. After arguing, they decide that it is best that they all leave together.

Tamino recovers, and Papageno enters, arrayed entirely in the plumage of birds. He sings of his job as a bird catcher and the fact that he is longing for a wife, or, at least, a girlfriend (aria: "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja"). Papageno tells Tamino that he, Papageno, strangled the serpent with his bare hands. At this moment, the three ladies appear and punish his lie by placing a padlock over his mouth. They tell Tamino that they were responsible for saving him, and show to the prince a portrait of a young maiden, Pamina, with whom he falls instantly in love (aria: "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" / "This image is enchantingly lovely").

The Queen of the Night now appears. She tells Tamino that the girl in the portrait, Pamina, is her daughter, who has been captured by her enemy, Sarastro. She demands that Tamino go to Sarastro's temple and rescue Pamina, promising that he can marry Pamina in return. (Recitative and aria: "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn" / "Oh, tremble not, my dear son! You are innocent, wise, pious".) After the Queen leaves, the ladies give Tamino a magic flute that can change men's hearts, remove the padlock from Papageno, and present him with a chime of bells to protect him. Papageno is ordered to accompany Tamino on his rescue-mission, and together they set forth. (Quintet: "Hm hm hm hm".) The ladies introduce three child-spirits, who will guide Tamino and Papageno to Sarastro's temple.
Scene 2: A room in Sarastro's palace

Pamina is dragged in by Sarastro's moorish slave Monostatos. (Trio: "Du feines Täubchen, nur herein!".) Papageno, sent ahead by Tamino to help find Pamina, enters. Monostatos and Papageno are each terrified by the other's strange appearance and both flee the stage. But Papageno soon returns and announces to Pamina that her mother has sent Tamino to her aid. Pamina rejoices to hear that Tamino is in love with her, and then offers sympathy and hope to Papageno, who longs for a wife to love. Together they sing an ode to love (duet: "Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen"), then depart.
Scene 3: Grove and entrance to the temples

The three child-spirits lead Tamino to Sarastro's temple, promising that if he remains faithful and steadfast, he will succeed in rescuing Pamina. As Tamino reaches the temple, he is denied entrance at two of its three gates, by invisible voices singing "Go back!". But when he tries the third gate, an old priest appears and gradually convinces him that Sarastro is benevolent, not evil, and that women's opinions should not be taken seriously. After the priest leaves him, Tamino plays his magic flute in hopes of summoning Pamina and Papageno. The tones summon a group of magically tamed beasts, which listen in rapture to Tamino's music. Then Tamino hears Papageno's pipes, which Papageno, offstage, is blowing in response to the sound of Tamino's flute. Ecstatic at the thought of meeting Pamina, Tamino hurries off.

Papageno appears with Pamina, following the distant sound of Tamino's flute. The two are suddenly captured by Monostatos and his slaves. Papageno then works an enchantment on the slaves using his magic bells, and they dance, mesmerised by the music of the bells, off the stage.

Papageno now hears the approach of Sarastro and his large retinue. He is frightened and asks Pamina what they should say. She answers that they must tell the truth. Sarastro and his followers enter.

Overcome by Sarastro's majesty, Pamina falls at his feet and confesses that she was trying to escape because Monostatos had demanded her love. Sarastro receives her kindly and tells her that he will not force her inclinations, but cannot give her freedom nor return her to her mother, because she must be guided by a man.

Monostatos then enters with Tamino captive. The two lovers see one another for the first time and instantly embrace, causing indignation among Sarastro's followers. Monostatos tries to point the finger of blame at Tamino. Sarastro, however, punishes Monostatos for his lustful intentions toward Pamina, and leads Tamino and Papageno into the temple of ordeal. The Brotherhood send them off in a glorious chorus.
Act 2

Scene 4: A grove of palms

The council of priests of Isis and Osiris, headed by Sarastro, enters to the sound of a solemn march. They determine that Tamino and Pamina shall be married, and that Tamino will succeed Sarastro as leader, if he succeeds in passing the priests' trials. Sarastro explains that the Queen of the Night has attempted to bewilder the people with superstition and groundless fears. He then sings a prayer to the gods Isis and Osiris, asking them to protect Tamino and Pamina and to take them into their heavenly dwelling place should they die in the course of their trials (Aria: "O Isis und Osiris").
Scene 5: The courtyard of the temple of Ordeal

Tamino and Papageno are led into the temple. A priest cautions Tamino that this is his last chance to turn back, but Tamino boldly promises that he will undergo every trial to win his Pamina. Papageno declines the trials at first, saying that he doesn't care much about wisdom or enlightenment, and only wants food, wine, and a pretty woman. The priest tells Papageno that Sarastro may have a woman for him if he undergoes the trials, and that she is called Papagena. Reluctantly, Papageno agrees to undergo the trials.

The first test requires that Tamino and Papageno remain silent while being tempted and threatened by women. (Short duet by two priests: "Bewahret euch von Weibertücken") The three ladies appear, and tempt them to speak. (Quintet: "Wie, wie, wie") Papageno cannot resist answering the ladies, but Tamino remains aloof, speaking only to Papageno, and then only to tell him to be quiet. Seeing that Tamino will not speak to them, the ladies withdraw in confusion.

One priest congratulates Tamino for successfully passing the first test. Another priest scolds Papageno for his weakness, and tells him that he will never know the enlightened bliss of the gods. Papageno replies that there are a great many people in the world like himself, unenlightened but happy, and asks why he must undergo tests if Sarastro already has a woman selected for him. The priest says that it is the only way.
Scene 6: A garden, Pamina asleep

Monostatos approaches and gazes upon Pamina with rapture. (Aria: "Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden") He is about to kiss her sleeping face, when the Queen of the Night appears and frightens him away. She wakes Pamina and gives her a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro with it. (Aria: "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" / "Hell's vengeance boileth in mine heart"). After she leaves, Monostatos returns and tries to force Pamina's love by threatening to reveal the murder-plot, but Sarastro enters and drives him off. Sarastro forgives and comforts Pamina (Aria: "In diesen heil'gen Hallen").
Scene 7: A hall in the temple of Ordeal

Tamino and Papageno must again suffer the test of silence, a more difficult variation this time: An old woman enters and offers Papageno a drink of water. Although it is forbidden, he engages her in conversation and asks her how old she is. She replies that she is eighteen years and two minutes old. Papageno bursts into laughter and teases her that she must have a boyfriend. She replies that she does and that his name is Papageno. Then she disappears without telling him her name. Pamina enters and tries to speak with Tamino. Since Tamino silently refuses to answer, Pamina believes he no longer loves her. (Aria: "Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden") She leaves in despair.
Scene 8: The pyramids

The Priests of the Temple celebrate Tamino's successes so far, and predict that he will succeed and become worthy of their order (Chorus: "O Isis und Osiris"). Sarastro separates Pamina and Tamino. (Trio: Sarastro, Pamina, Tamino – "Soll ich dich, Teurer, nicht mehr sehn?") They exit and Papageno enters. Papageno plays his magic bells and sings a ditty about his desire for a wife. (Aria, Papageno: "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen"). The elderly woman reappears and demands that he pledge engagement to her, warning that if he doesn't, he will remain alone forever. Reluctantly, Papageno promises to love her faithfully. She immediately transforms into the young and pretty Papagena. As Papageno rushes to embrace her, however, the priests drive her away with thunder and lightning.
Scene 9: An open country

The three child-spirits see Pamina attempting to commit suicide because she believes Tamino has abandoned her. They restrain her and take away her dagger, promising that she will see him soon. (Quartet: "Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkünden").

Scene 10: A hall or room with two doors: one leading to a chamber of trial by water and the other to a cavern of fire.

Two men in armour lead Tamino onstage. They recite, in unison, one of the formal creeds of the goddess Isis, promising enlightenment to those who successfully overcome the fear of death ("Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerden"). This recitation takes the musical form of a Baroque chorale prelude, to the tune of Martin Luther's hymn Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (Oh God, look down from heaven). Tamino declares he is ready to be tested, but Pamina, offstage, calls for him to wait for her. The men in armour assure Tamino that the trial by silence is over and he is free to speak with her. She enters, and exchanges loving words with Tamino ("Tamino mein, o welch ein Glück!"). United in harmony, they enter the trial-caverns together. Protected by the music of the magic flute, they pass unscathed through fire and water. Offstage, the priests hail their triumph.

Papageno, having given up hope of winning Papagena, tries to hang himself (Aria/Quartet: "Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!"), but at the last minute the three child-spirits appear and remind him that he should use his magic bells to summon her, instead. Papagena reenters, and the happy couple is united, stuttering at first in astonishment (Duet: "Pa … pa … pa ...").

The traitorous Monostatos appears with the Queen of the Night and her ladies, plotting to destroy the temple ("Nur stille, stille"), but they are magically cast out into eternal night.

The scene now changes to the entrance of the chief temple, where Sarastro bids the young lovers welcome and unites them. The final chorus sings the praises of Tamino and Pamina in enduring their trials and gives thanks to the gods.

The opera may sometimes be divided into three acts in which case, the third act typically begins with scene 8. Even in the two-act version, the scenes in Act 2 are sometimes rearranged, with the Sarastro-Tamino-Pamina trio occurring earlier and Sarastro's prayer occurring later.


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