Opera – The Magic Flute
The Magic Flute is noted for its prominent Masonic elements; Schikaneder and Mozart were Masons and lodge brothers. The opera is also influenced by Enlightenment philosophy, and can be regarded as an allegory advocating enlightened absolutism. The Queen of the Night represents a dangerous form of obscurantism or, according to some interpreters, contemporary Roman Catholicism. Her antagonist Sarastro symbolises the enlightened sovereign who rules according to principles based on reason, wisdom, and nature. The story itself portrays the education of mankind, progressing from chaos through religious superstition to rationalistic enlightenment, by means of trial (Tamino) and error (Papageno), ultimately to make “the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals like the gods” (“Dann ist die Erd’ ein Himmelreich, und Sterbliche den Göttern gleich.” This couplet is sung in the finales to both acts.)
The opera was the culmination of a period of increasing involvement by Mozart with Schikaneder’s theatrical troupe, which since 1789 had been the resident company at the Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart was a close friend of one of the singer-composers of the troupe, tenor Benedikt Schack (the first Tamino), and had contributed to the compositions of the troupe, which were often collaboratively written. Mozart’s participation increased with his contributions to the 1790 collaborative opera Der Stein der Weisen (The Philosopher’s Stone), including the duet (“Nun liebes Weibchen,” K. 625/592a) and perhaps other passages. Like The Magic Flute, Der Stein der Weisen was a fairy-tale opera and can be considered a kind of precursor; it employed much the same cast in similar roles.