An Introduction to The Magic Flute
From one of the best known classical composers of his time, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) was the last opera completed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart before his untimely death aged 35. Featuring one of Mozart’s most recognisable pieces of music, The Queen of the Night’s Act II aria ‘Der Hölle Rache’, keep reading to find out more about this much-loved opera classic.
It’s a Singspiel opera
A German language comic opera with singing and dialogue, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder decided that Singspiel would best suit their brand new opera. Like most Singspiel operas, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) features comedy, magic and fantastical creatures.
This timeless opera follows the adventures of Prince Tamino and Papageno on their search for the Queen of the Night’s daughter, Pamina. To help them conquer the trials and tribulations faced on their quest, the duo are given magical musical instruments, including a magic flute.
It was Mozart’s last great work
In 1781 Mozart moved to Vienna where he embarked on the most productive and successful period of his life. It was in this decade he wrote the majority of his famous works, including operas: The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte. Just three months before his untimely death, aged 35, Mozart completed The Magic Flute and The Clemency of Titus (La clemenza di Tito) but his Requiem was left unfinished.
It has been said, on the night of his death, the delirious composer envisioned himself at that night’s performance of The Magic Flute. Then, he spoke his last words: ‘Silence! Silence! Now Hofer is taking her high B-Flat’. It was at that exact time that his very first Queen of the Night, Josepha Hofer, was singing the Queen of the Night aria (‘Der Hölle Rache’).
The Queen of the Night’s Act II aria from the opera, ‘Der Hölle Rache’ is most of Mozart’s most recognisable pieces of music. Best-known for the fast repetition of a high C and reaching several top F’s, this aria challenges even the best sopranos. Mozart wrote the role for his sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer. The soprano clearly thrived singing the demanding, and hair-raising, coloratura, singing the role for ten years, finally stepping down in 1801, aged 43.
The aria comes as the vengeful Queen demands her daughter, Pamina to plunge a knife into the heart of her rival, the sorcerer Sarastro. Listen to Cornelia Götz singing the Queen of the Night aria in our 2013/14 production.
It is filled with hidden masonic symbolism
Both Mozart and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder were members of the same Masonic lodge, resulting in a great deal of speculation about the hidden masonic symbols in the opera.
It is no coincidence that the original production of The Magic Flute was set in Egypt, the land of which Masonry traces its origins. It has also been said that Mozart intended the piece to be a dramatic interpretation of a Masonic initiation ceremony. This theory is fanned by the fact that Tamino has to undergo a series of trials in the opera, similar to what Masons of the day would have done to join the brotherhood.
A five star production from Simon McBurney
Actor, writer and director, Simon McBurney is the founder of the theatre company Complicité. He recently had success with The Encounter at the Barbican, and has had roles in Harry Potter and Mission Impossible.
Due to it’s popularity, McBurney’s magical production of Mozart’s classic opera has return to the London Coliseum multiple times. It delighted audiences with the inventive staging, using props and projections to create the enchanted world in which the opera is set, and for his unusual Orchestral arrangement – the ENO Orchestra play on a stage-level platform, elevating them out of the usual pit.