Sunday, September 30, 2012

Magic, Music, Mozart

On September 30th, 1791, Mozart's fantasy opera, Die Zauberflöte, K.620 was premiered in Vienna's  Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden which was owned and operated by Mozart's good friend and fellow Freemason, Emanuel Schikaneder (who was also the librettist for the piece as well as the first Papageno). Mozart wrote to his wife Constanze (who was with her sister, Sophie, at the spa in Baden), "I have this moment returned from the opera, which was as full as ever", he wrote on 7 October, listing the numbers that had to be encored. "But what always gives me the most pleasure is the silent approval! You can see how this opera is becoming more and more esteemed." It is quite unfortunate, however, that Mozart didn't get to see the success and popularity that his opera gained with the Viennese public, for it was only a few weeks later, in early November that Mozart took to his bed with his final illness and died early in the morning on December 5th.

 The Magic Flute is noted for the many Masonic elements and symbolism within the libretto, costumes, characters, and scenery and is also laden with elements of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, with the Queen of the night representing resistance to Enlightenment (some believing that she is the representation of the Catholic Church and the anti-Masonic Empress Maria Theresa who persecuted Freemasonry). Sarastro is the enlightened sovereign who rules according to the enlightened principles of reason, wisdom, and nature. The story reflects the progression of humanity as Princess Pamina and Prince Tamino go through the various trials in order that they may learn and grow and eventually attain enlightenment.

Its first London premiere wasn't until 1811, with Nancy Storace's common law husband, John Braham, singing the tenor role of Tamino.

The following videos feature baritone Simon Keenlyside as Papageno and soprano Diana Damrau as the Queen of the Night.

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