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An opera in two acts
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
First performed at the Theater aud Der Wieden,
Vienna, September 30, 1791.
Tamino endeavors to escape from a huge
snake. He falls unconscious. Heeding his
cries, the black garbed Ladies-in-Waiting of
the Queen of the Night appear and kill the
snake. The ladies sing of their joy in foiling
the snake and of the good looks of the man
they have rescued. They hesitantly leave
him. He awakes to see a man covered in
feathers dancing towards him. It is
Papageno, the Queen's bird catcher.
Papageno tells the stunned Tamino that he
is in the realm of the Queen of the Night.
Upon seeing the dead snake, he boasts of
his defeat of the snake. Upon utterance of
the lie, the three ladies reappear and punish
him by putting a padlock on his mouth. They
show Tamino a miniature of a maiden,
Pamina the Queen of the Night's daughter,
whose beauty fills Tamino's heart with love.
They tell him she is a prisoner of Sarastro.
No sooner does Tamino vow to free the
beauty than the Queen herself materializes
from the clouds. She reinforces his
determination with her depiction of her
desolation now that she has lost her
daughter. She 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. They will also be
accompanied by three Genii.
The scene changes, a richly furnished
apartment in Sarastro's palace is disclosed.
A brutal Moor, Monostatos is pursing
Pamina with unwelcome advances. The bird
catcher appears, Monostatos takes flight.
Papageno recognizes Pamina. He advises
her not to fear. She will soon be rescued by
someone who has fallen in love with her. He
laments that nothing like this ever happens
to him. Pamina assures him that he will one
day be loved.
The finale takes place in a grove. On
three sides stand Temples which are
dedicated to Wisdom, Reason, and Nature.
This is where the three Genii have led
Tamino. They leave him there with the
advice to be patient, silent and preserving.
Tamino decides to enter the Temples. He is
refused admittance to the first two. At the
third temple a priest tells him that Sarastro is
not a tyrant as he has been told but a noble
character of wisdom. The solemn
atmosphere awakens Tamino's desire for
knowledge. He plays his flute. Wild animals
come out from their lairs and lie at his feet.
Before he can finish his aria, he hears the
sound of Papageno's pan pipe and rushes
off to find him. Papageno comes on from the
other side of the stage leading Pamina who
he intends to unite with Tamino. They are
overtaken by Monostatos, who send for
chains to complete the capture.
Papageno remembers a last remedy.
By playing on his magic chimes, he sets the
Moor and his slaves dancing. Pamina and
Papageno rejoice at their escape. Trumpets
and the sound of a chorus are heard. They
sing praise to Sarastro. Papageno wonders
what they are saying, 'the truth, friend'
replies Pamina. Sarastro enters with a
procession, Pamina kneels at his feet. She
explains that she was trying to escape from
the moor. Sarastro comforts her and assures
her that he understands her predicament.
Monostatos drags Tamino in, denounces
him to Sarastro. Instead of reward, he is
sentenced to flogging. This is the first
meeting of Pamina and Tamino. They are in
love. Sarastro commands them to the
Temple of Ordeal where they must prove
they are worthy of higher happiness.
In a grove outside the Temple, Sarastro
informs the Priests of his plans. The gods
have ordained that Pamina shall become
Tamino's bride, 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 may be worthy of
The Porch of the Temple. The ordeals
of Tamino and Papageno are about to
begin. They are warned that they may
perish in their search for the Truth. The
Priests warn them of what will happen if they
fail in their vow of silence. They are left
alone in the darkness. The three Ladies of
the Queen of the Night appear. the Ladies
try to get them to abandon their quest, but
they remain silent. The priests reappear and
congratulate them on having passed the first
The scene changes to a garden.
Pamina is discovered lying asleep. The
Moor steals towards her doing a suggestive
dance. The Queen of the Night appears and
flings a dagger to her daughter with the
command to take the dagger and kill
Sarastro. Monostatos threatens to reveal
this plot (that Pamina never agreed to) if she
will not give him her love. Sarastro enters
just in time to hurl the Moor from the
defenseless Pamina. The Moor departs with
the hope that he will have better luck with
the mother. Pamina pleads for mercy for her
mother. Sarastro assures her that
vengeance is not on his mind.
In a hall, Tamino and Papageno are
again urged to keep their vigilant silence.
Papageno chatters to himself, only to find
himself soon involved in a conversation with
an old crone who introduces herself to him
as the sweetheart he is yet to meet. There is
a clap of thunder, the old crone disappears,
the three Genii appear. They bring with
them the flute, the chimes and a table
spread with food and drink. Pamina
appears, unaware of the vow of silence, and
is overjoyed to see Tamino again. She is
distraught over his lack of response.
The scene changes to a vault. The
Priests sing a solemn chorus of praise to Isis
and Osiris. Sarastro confronts Pamina with
Tamino and tells them to take their last
farewell of each other. Papageno is told he
may have one wish granted. He is left
dissatisfied when he has drunk the wine he
asked for. The old crone comes back to him
and threatens him with dire consequences if
he does not swear to be true to her. When
he does swear, she reveals herself to be
young and attractively feathered. Poor
Papageno is warned off her by a Priest who
says he is not worthy of her yet.
The three Genii are discovered in a
garden singing of the symbolical joys of the
rising sun, whose rays drive away the fears
of the night. Not knowing she is being
observed Pamina contemplates suicide.
She is restrained and comforted by the
Genii. Two men in armor guard the door.
Tamino is brought in by the priests for the
last stage of his initiation, the test of fire and
water. Tamino proclaims his resolution, but
for the final ordeals, he is accompanied by
Pamina. He is not only overjoyed at being
joined with her again but that he may speak
with her freely. Pamina's sufferings have
produced a maturity about her. She acts as
Tamino's guide as they undergo
successively the ordeals of fire and water. At
the end, they are welcomed into the Temple
by Sarastro and the Priests. Papageno's
great scene of mock suicide occurs at this
point, a comic trial that parallels the serious
trials of Tamino and Pamina.
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.
There is a final chorus extolling the initiates.