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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. At only three years old he completed his first essays on music composition. At six he wrote the first Minuet and Allegro in B flat. For several years, he toured Europe with his family and composed his first Symphony and works Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767) and La finta semplice (1768). Listening to Gregorio Allegri’s Misere performed twice in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, he transcribed the score, thus recording on paper a closely-guarded secret . Back in Salzburg, Mozart oriented his production in the regal style of the court and Prince Archbishop Colloredo, his employer. He wrote La Finta Giardiniera, set in Monaco of Bavaria in 1775, is in the form of comic drama (opera with plot and sentimental happy ending). Following a falling-out with the archbishop, Mozart abandoned Salzburg and he moved to Vienna. In the decade 1781-91 he composed his best known masterpieces and married Constance Weber. In particular, in 1786 he wrote Le nozze di Figaro, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, in turn derived from the eponymous comedy by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Following its success, the director of Count Nostitz’s Theater (the current Theatre of the Estates) in Prague, commissioned Mozart to write a new work for the next season, Don Giovanni. Mozart family friend andtheater impresario Emanuel Schikander convinced Mozart to compose music for the latest installment of a series of fairytales he produced for performance at the Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna. The fruit of the collaboration was Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), with the libretto written by Schikander himself. The opera had its premiere on September 30, 1791. Mozart died little more than two months later on December 6 in Vienna.
In his short life, Mozart’s output was outstanding. The catalog of his works, compiled by Ludwig von Kochel in 1862, lists 626 compositions (indicated with a serial number preceded by the initial K), ranging from the sacred vocal music to the profane, to theatrical music, to symphonic and chamber.
Die Zauberflöte, K 620 (The Magic Flute) is a Deutsche Oper (German Opera) in two acts composed in 1791. The libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder with the contribution of Karl Ludwig Giesecke. It was first performed to great acclaim in the Theater auf der Wieden, just two months prior to Mozart’s death.. The opera is in the Singspiel style, a popular German form with both dialogue and song. The origin of the story is not known for sure. Some musicologists identify its roots in Jinnistan fairytale collection edited by Christoph Martin Wieland between 1786 and 1789, more specifically, in the fable LuLu, The Magic Flute, by August Jakob Liebeskind.
Three Ladies, attendants of the Queen of the Night, slay a dragon, saving the unconscious Prince Tamino from the lethal jaws of the serpentine beast. The Queen arrives and laments her daughter Pamina, kidnapped by Salastro, a supposedly evil sorcerer. She implores Tamino to save her.
Tamino swoons to the girl’s description provided by her mother, the Queen of the Night. He decides to save her together with a bird hunter he found at his side upon regaining consciousness, Papageno. To get the job done, the three attendants give him a magic flute and to Papageno a set of chimes. The two would-be rescuers make their way to Sarastro’s Temple. Papageno arrives first. He finds the room where Pamina is held prisoner and supposedly mistreated by Monostatos, a blackmoor and chief of slaves. The bird catcher successfully lures Monostato away from his prisoner. At this moment Papageno attempts an escape with Pamina.
Meanwhile, Tamino finds himself in front of three temples and encounters a priest who questions him. Disoriented, Tamino plays the magic flute in the hope that Pamina will reach him by following its enchanting sound. It doesn’t go as planned. Pamina appears, pursued by Monostatos, who drags Tamino in front of Sarastro, who informs him that, if he wants to enter into his kingdom with Papageno, he must pass three trials. Tamino and Pamina meanwhile recognize each other and embrace as a sign of love.
Sarastro invokes Egyptian deities Iside and Osiride to spiritually aid Papageno and Tamino in the tests. The first: to remain in absolute silence. Monostato secretly approaches a sleeping Pamina in the effort to kiss her. At that moment, the Queen of the Night arrives, forcing him to hide. The Queen of the Night gives her daughter a dagger, a weapon to kill Sarastro, threatening to curse her if she fails in the endeavor.
The Queen of the Night leaves and Monostato, who heard everything, tells Pamina he will reveal everything if she doesn’t love him. Sarastro arrives and chases away Monostato. He explains to Pamina that love, not revenge, is the source of happiness.
She tries to talk to Tamino but he can’t respond- the test of silence prevents him from speaking. Pamina doesn’t understand. Distraught, she believes Tamino no longer loves her and ponders suicide. The three ladies intervene and let her know what is happening. Papageno speaks with an old woman who a little while later would reveal herself to actually be Papagena, a woman similar to the bird catcher. They fall in love.
Tamino and Pamina pass the next two tests: trial by fire and trial by water. But the Queen of the Night and three ladies suddenly appear with the intention of killing Sarastro and stealing his kingdom. Their plan is thwarted by an earthquake and they are forced to return to the kingdom of darkness. This is how good triumphed over evil. Pamina and Tamino are welcomed into Sarastro’s kingdom of light.