Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte
Sunday, October 22, 2017, 2:00 pm
COMPOSER: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LIBRETTIST: Emanuel Schikaneder
Sung in GERMAN
Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts the full-length German version of Mozart’s magical fable, seen in Julie Taymor’s spectacular production, which captures both the opera’s earthy comedy and its noble mysticism.
Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, Vienna, 1791. Die Zauberflöte—a sublime fairy tale that moves freely between earthy comedy and noble mysticism—was written for a theater located just outside Vienna with the clear intention of appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The story is told in a Singspiel (“song-play”) format characterized by separate musical numbers connected by dialogue and stage activity, an excellent structure for navigating the diverse moods, ranging from solemn to lighthearted, of the story and score. The composer and the librettist were both Freemasons—the fraternal order whose membership is held together by shared moral and metaphysical ideals—and Masonic imagery is used throughout the work. The story, however, is as universal as any fairy tale.
The libretto specifies Egypt as the location of the action. Egypt was traditionally regarded as the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity, whose symbols and rituals populate this opera. Some productions include Egyptian motifs as an exotic nod to this idea, but many more opt for a more generalized mythic ambience to convey the otherworldliness that the score and overall tone of the work call for.
Die Zauberflöte was written with an eye toward a popular audience, but the varied tone of the work requires singers who can specialize in several different musical genres. The comic and earthy are represented by the baritone, Papageno, while true love in its noblest forms is conveyed by the tenor, Tamino, and the soprano, Pamina. The bass, Sarastro, expresses the solemn and the transcendental. The use of the chorus is spare but hauntingly beautiful, and fireworks are provided by the coloratura Queen of the Night.
A mythical land between the sun and the moon. Prince Tamino, pursued by a serpent, is saved by three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night. After they have left, the birdcatcher Papageno enters. He explains to Tamino that he is given food and drink by the Queen’s ladies in return for his birds and claims that it was he who killed the serpent. The ladies return to give Tamino a portrait of the Queen’s daughter, Pamina, who they say is being held prisoner by the evil Sarastro. Then they padlock Papageno’s mouth for lying. Tamino falls in love with Pamina’s portrait at first sight. The Queen appears. She grieves over the loss of her daughter and asks Tamino to rescue her. The ladies hand Tamino a magic flute to ensure his safety on the journey. Papageno, who is to accompany him, is given magic silver bells. Three spirits are appointed to guide them.
In Sarastro’s palace, the slave Monostatos pursues Pamina. He is frightened away by the arrival of Papageno, who tells Pamina that Tamino loves her and is on his way to save her.
Led to Sarastro’s temple, Tamino learns from a priest that it is the Queen who is evil, not Sarastro, and that Pamina is safe. He plays on his flute, charming the animals with the music and hoping that it will lead Pamina to him. When he hears the sound of Papageno’s pipes, he rushes off to follow it. Monostatos and his men chase Papageno and Pamina but are rendered helpless by Papageno’s magic bells. Sarastro, entering in ceremony, promises Pamina eventual freedom and punishes Monostatos. Pamina is enchanted by a glimpse of Tamino, who is led into the temple with Papageno.
Sarastro tells the priests that Tamino will undergo initiation rites. Papageno and Tamino are sworn to silence. The three ladies appear and have no trouble derailing Papageno from his course of virtue, but Tamino remains firm.
Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina but is chased away by the arrival of the Queen of the Night. She gives her daughter a dagger and orders her to murder Sarastro. Pamina is left alone in tears and consoled by Sarastro who explains that he does not seek vengeance against the Queen.
Papageno is quick to break a new oath of fasting and jokes with a flirtatious old lady, who vanishes when he asks for her name. Tamino remains steadfast, breaking Pamina’s heart: she cannot understand his silence.
The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more trials to complete his initiation. Papageno, who has broken his oath, is eliminated from the trials. Pleading for a wife he eventually settles for the old lady. When he promises to be faithful to her she turns into a young Papagena but immediately disappears.
Despairing over Tamino’s apparent indifference, Pamina is about to commit suicide but is saved by the three spirits. She finds Tamino and walks with him through the ordeals of water and fire, protected by the magic flute. Papageno also is saved from a halfhearted attempt at suicide by the spirits, who remind him that if he uses his magic bells he will find true happiness. When he plays the bells, Papagena appears and the two are united.
The Queen of the Night, her three ladies, and Monostatos attack the temple but are defeated and banished. Sarastro joins Pamina and Tamino as everybody praises the gods Isis and Osiris and the triumph of courage, virtue, and wisdom.
Conductor: James Levine
Production: Julie Taymor
Set Designer: George Tsypin
Costume Designer: Julie Taymor
Lighting Designer: Donald Holder
Puppet Designer: Julie Taymor, Michael Curry
Choreographer: Mark Dendy
Pamina: Golda Schultz
Queen of the Night: Kathryn Lewek
Tamino: Charles Castronovo
Papageno: Markus Werba
Speaker: Christian Van Horn
Sarastro: René Papa