Mozart: The Magic Flute, February, 2017


POV's Best of Youtube

Discover Mozart's The Magic Flute through a variety of video selections that introduce the opera and its amazing range of musical styles.


San Diego OperaTalk! with Nick Reveles

Nicolas Reveles, host of San Diego OperaTalk! introduces The Magic Flute and its composer. He talks about the story and its meaning, the characters, and, of course, the music, and a selection of recordings.


Act 1. Papageno's Aria: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja

Papageno sings about his job as a birdcatcher and adds that he'd really like to catch a girl to have for a wife.

This is essentially a folk song in the Singspiel tradition – direct, appealing, and tuneful – in keeping with Papageno's character, which is perhaps the most engaging in the opera.

Papageno is not particularly heroic, and his human failings get him into constant trouble. As he explains later in the opera,

Fighting isn't my thing. I don't basically want any wisdom either. I'm a kind of child of nature, taking pleasure in sleep, food and drink; and if it were possible, sometime to capture a pretty little wife.

But somehow he's dragged into this heroic epic; despite himself he rescues a princess, undergoes trials of courage, and wins a girl of his own in the end. His music is like his character – folksy, charming, warm-hearted, down to earth, braver than he realizes, and utterly irresistible.

Simon Keenlyside is Papageno in this 2003 production by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Colin Davis conducting.


Act I. Queen of the Night's Recitative and Aria:
O zittre nicht ... Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren

This is the first of the two great coloratura arias sung by the Queen of the Night. Coloratura singing is full of elaborate florid ornamentation and is usually associated with a very high soprano voice.

In keeping with his habit of writing music to suit his singers, Mozart wrote this aria specifically for the first Queen of the Night, his sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer. The brilliant coloratura suits the vengeful, passionate, otherworldly dark force represented by the star-blazing Queen. In this first aria, the Queen comes across as a sorrowing mother who enlists Tamino's sympathy. She will appear far dangerous later in the opera.

In the opening recitative, the Queen tells Tamino not to be afraid, and that she, a sorrowful mother, needs his help.

O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn (Oh, do not tremble, my dear son!)
You are innocent , wise, and pious.
Only a young man like you will be able
to comfort the deeply distressed heart of a mother.

The aria proper follows as the Queen recounts how her daughter was kidnapped from her by an evil scoundrel.

Zum Leiden bin ich auserkoren (Suffering is my lot)
for my daughter is not with me.
Through her I have lost all my happiness;
a villain made off with her.
I still see her trembling with alarm and shock,
quivering with anxiety, struggling timidly.
I had to see her stolen from me,
"Ah help!" was all she said;
but her pleading was in vain,
for my power was too feeble.

At first the aria is slow, sad, and gentle, telling of a mother's grief. It then it gives way to a more intense, faster pace as she bursts into the fiery coloratura, enlisting Tamino's help and promising that Pamina will be his if he frees her:

Du, du, du wirst sie zu befreien gehen
You, you, you, will go to set her free.
you will be the man to save my daughter.
And if I see you triumph, then she will be yours for ever.

Natalie Dessay is the Queen of the Night at Aix-en-Provence Festival, 1994. Conductor : William Christie with Les Arts Florisants


Act 2. Queen of the Night's Aria: Der Hölle Rache

In the second aria by the Queen of the Night, we get a sense that she might be far more dangerous than the grieving mother suggested in her first aria in Act 1 of the opera.

On his death Pamina's father had given the Seal of the Seven Circles of the Sun to Sarastro, depriving the Queen of her power. The Queen now learns from Pamina that her potential son-in-law Tamino has gone over to the enemy, Sarastro.

Demanding vengeance, the Queen gives Pamina a dagger and threatens to disown her daughter if she does not kill Sarastro.

Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart
death and despair are blazing around me!
Unless Sarastro feels the pangs of death at your hands
you are no longer my daughter.
Forever disowned, forever abandoned,
forever destroyed may all ties of nature be,
unless Sarastro dies at your hands!
Hear! Gods of vengeance! Hear a mother's vow!

This very famous coloratura aria demands extraordinary vocal range and flexibility to carry off the elaborately ornamented vocal lines and the very, very high notes – Der Höle Rache contains the highest note in the standard repertoire (F6 – 2 1/2 octaves above middle C). Although a few less-performed works call for higher notes, this aria continues to exemplify the human voice at its most stunning.

Diana Damrau is the Queen of Night; Dorothea Röschmann is Pamina in this 2003 production by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Colin Davis conducting.


Der Hölle Rache in outer space

Der Hölle Rache was the only operatic selection chosen to accompany the Voyager spacecraft on their journey to the stars. Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 each carry a phonograph record of sounds and images selected to tell extraterrestrials about Earth.

If any alien beings find one of the Voyager satellites and play the record, they will hear the unearthly voice of soprano Edda Moser telling Pamina to kill Sarastro.

Voyager 1 is now about 20 billion km from earth, and Voyager 2 is some 17 billion km away. Even after they run out of electrical power sometime around 2025, they will continue to wander through the Milky Way galaxy. Long after the sun dies and the earth is destroyed, Mozart's Queen of the Night may still be travelling among the stars.

Edda Moser sings the Queen of Night's second aria on the Golden Record that travels with the Voyager spacecraft. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor.


Act 2. Pamina's Aria: Ach, ich fühl's

This is perhaps the most tragic moment in the opera. Pamina is heartbroken as Tamino, bound by the trial of silence, refuses to speak to her – and Papageno, for once, keeps silent, just when we're counting on him to help by blurting something out!

This deeply moving outpouring of grief and despair prepares us for Pamina's later attempt to kill herself.

Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden
Ah, I feel the happiness of love has vanished forever!

My heart will never know happiness again.
Look, beloved Tamino, my ears fall for you alone.
If there is no love in your heart,
Then I shall find peace in death.

Dorothea Röschmann is Pamina, with Will Hartmann as Tamino, in the 2003 production by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Colin Davis conducting.


Act 2. Papageno and Papagena's duet: Pa-pa-pa, pa-pa-pa

Pining for his darling Papagena Papageno decides to hang himself, although his "goodbye cruel world" act is clearly not as serious as Pamina's, and he keeps looking for excuses to delay. Finally as he's ready to go through with it, the three spirits intervene and tell him to play his magic bells. He does so, and Papagena appears.

At first stuttering in astonishment and delight, then falling into an exuberant duet in praise of domestic bliss, Papageno and his beloved envision the family they will have.

My dear little wife, dove of my heart,
What joy it will be when the gods give us children from our love
Darling little children –
First a little Papageno,
then a little Papagena,
Then again a Papageno,
Then again a Papagena
It is the happiest of feelings
when many, many, many, many Papageno(a)s are in their parents' care!

Barbara Kilduff is Papagena, and Manfred Hemm is Papageno in this 1991 Metropolitan Opera production, conducted by James Levine.


The Magic Flute, Animated

This 30-minute English language animated version of The Magic Flute tells the story of the opera, along with much of the music and operatic voices. It's an entertaining overview for all ages.

Singing voices include Neill Archer as Tamino; Alwyn Mellor as Pamina; John Connell as Sarastro; Jennifer Rhys-Davies as the Queen of Night; Simon Keenlyside as Papageno; Mary Callan Clarke as First Lady; Jenevora Williams as Second Lady; Sara Pope as Third Lady; Rebecca Evans as Papagena; John Harris as Monostatos.

Operavox production with BBC Enterprises and BBC Bristol in association with Welsh National Opera. directed by Valeriy Ugarov. 1995.


Trailer for Los Angeles Opera's production of an animated / live-action production of The Magic Flute

This zany animated production originally debuted in 2012 at Komische Oper Berlin. Created by director Barrie Kosky in combination with the British theater group "1927," it features live singers within animations inspired by 1920s silent films, with a nod to the dark humour of Edward Gorey and German Expressionism. This quirky re-imagination of The Magic Flute is part cartoon, part opera, and wholly sensational.

LA Opera presents the U.S. Production Premiere of this inventive staging, conducted by James Conlon. Co-conceived by British Theatre Group 1927 in collaboration with Barrie Kosky, Artistic Director of Komische Oper Berlin, the production continues to play in repertoire at Komische Oper Berlin, alongside new productions worldwide, which have included Los Angeles, Warsaw, Helsinki, Madrid, and the Edinburgh Festival.




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All performances take place at the Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton Street, Victoria.