From Academic Kids

Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) is an opera in two acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. This opera is in the form of a singspiel, a popular form which included both singing and spoken dialogue. It premiered in Vienna on September 30, 1791.

The premiere was at an out of town but not obscure theater. Schikaneder himself played Papageno, while the Queen was played by Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer. The opera was an immediate success, and it remains one of the most-performed works in the repertoire.

The opera is often noted for its Masonic elements, which are rife and often elaborate. Both Schikaneder and Mozart were Masons and lodge brothers. In the political climate of the times, Freemasonry was considered a dangerous organization. Many of the opera's ideas and motifs also echo those of Enlightenment philosophy.

Many of the melodies are highly familiar, and include the Papageno/Papagena duet and the coloratura aria, "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("The vengeance of Hell is in my heart"), often referred to as the "Queen of the Night" aria.



Overview:Sarastro, the wise priest of Isis, has taken Pamina to the temple for the humane purpose of releasing her from the influence of her mother, the Queen of the Night. The queen induces the young Prince Tamino to go in search of her daughter and free her from the power of Sarastro; Tamino accomplishes his end, but becomes the disciple of Sarastro, whose mildness and wisdom he has learned to admire. The prince and Pamina are united.

Act I

Tamino, who is lost in the forest, is pursued by a serpent. He faints from fatigue and three ladies, attendants of the queen, in black robes, appear and kill the serpent with their lances. They all fall in love with the prince and each plans to possess him.

Tamino recovers, and sees before him Papageno, arrayed entirely in the plumage of birds. This strange being explains to Tamino that the Queen of the Night is near and boasts that he himself has killed the serpent, but the three ladies punish his lie by placing a padlock over his mouth. They show to the prince a miniature of a young maiden, upon which he gazes in ecstasy. (Aria)

The Queen of the Night now appears, demanding that Tamino shall free her daughter, the original of the picture, from the hands of Sarastro. (Recitative and aria) The ladies give Tamino a magic flute, remove the padlock from Papageno and present him with a chime of bells. Papageno accompanies Tamino, and they set forth, guided by three boys. They escape all danger by the use of the magic instruments. (Quintet.)

Change of scene (this scene forms Act II when the opera is divided into three acts): A room in Sarastro's palace.

Pamina is dragged in by the Moor Monostatos, who is persecuting her. Papageno arrives and announces to her that her mother has sent Tamino to her aid. Monostatos is terrified by Papageno's strange appearance and takes to flight. (Duet: Monostatos, Pamina; Appearance of Papageno and duet with Pamina)

Change of scene: Grove and entrance to the temples.

The three boys lead in the prince. As Tamino reaches the temple he is denied entrance at the Gates of Nature and Reason, but at the Gate of Wisdom a priest appears, who reveals to him the noble character of Sarastro. When Papageno appears with Pamina all three are about to escape, but are prevented by Monostatos. Sarastro enters. (Chorus) Pamina falls at his feet and confesses that she was trying to escape because the Moor had demanded her love. Sarastro receives her kindly and tells her that he will not force her inclinations, but cannot give her freedom. He punishes the Moor for his insolence and leads Tamino and Papageno into the temple of Ordeal.

Act II

Grove of palms. The council of priests determine that Tamino shall possess Pamina if he succeeds in passing through the ordeal, as they do not wish to return her to her mother, who has already infected the people with superstition. (Aria and chorus)

Change of scene: The courtyard of the temple of Ordeal.

The first test is that Tamino and Papageno shall remain silent under temptation. (Duet, Speaker and Priest) The three ladies appear, and tempt them to speak. (Quintet) Tamino and Papageno remain firm.

Change of scene: A garden. Pamina asleep.

Monostatos approaches and gazes upon her with rapture. (Aria) When the Queen of the Night appears and gives Pamina a dagger with which to kill Sarastro (Aria), Monostatos retires and listens. He tries to force Pamina's love by using the secret, but is prevented by Sarastro, who allays Pamina's alarm. (Aria)

Change of scene: A hall in the temple of Ordeal.

Tamino and Papageno must again suffer the test of silence. Papageno can no longer hold his tongue, but Tamino remains firm, even when Pamina speaks to him. Since Tamino refuses to answer, Pamina believes he loves her no longer. (Aria, Pamina) Change of scene (sometimes used as Act III): The pyramids. (Chorus) Sarastro parts Pamina and Tamino. (Trio) Papageno also desires to have a little wife. (Aria) At the first ordeal, an old woman had appeared to him and declared herself his bride. She now again appears and changes herself into the young and pretty Papagena.

Change of scene: An open country.

The three boys prevent Pamina from committing suicide because she believes Tamino to be faithless. Papageno also wishes to take his life, but dances merrily when the boys advise him to use his magic bells to summon the image of Papagena. (Duet: "Papageno! Papagena!")

Change of scene: Rocks with water and a cavern of fire.

Men in armor lead in Tamino. Pamina arrives and is overcome with joy to find Tamino, who is now allowed to speak to her. Both pass unscathed through the final ordeal of fire and water with the help of the magic flute. The scene now changes to the entrance of the chief temple, where Sarastro bids the young lovers welcome and unites them. (A scene in which the traitorous Monostatos appears with the Queen of the Night and her ladies to destroy the temple was frequently omitted but is now usually incorporated.)


It is one of the most frequently performed German language operas, and the libretto has also been translated for performance in numerous other languages. In Trollflöjten, Ingmar Bergman's 1975 highly acclaimed film version, the opera is sung in Swedish, although the sound was not actually recorded in synch with the photography. Bergman daringly made a major change in the plot: Sarrastro is Pamina's father, and has as good a claim, morally and legally, to her custody.

Inspiration of other composers

The theme "March of the Priests" (MIDI file ( is very similar to, and may have inspired, Calixa Lavallée's music for the Canadian national anthem "O Canada".


  • Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

External links

de:Die Zauberflöte es:La flauta mágica fr:La Flûte enchantée nl:Die Zauberflöte ja:魔笛 no:Tryllefløyten pl:Czarodziejski flet pt:Die Zauberflöte sv:Trollflöjten zh:魔笛


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