Go inside this production of The Magic Flute with engaging articles, opera notes, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
The operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart present us with music that makes us glad to be alive. It invigorates, illuminates, excites, moves, and delights. The Magic Flute is an opera for all ages and all seasons. The added joy is that it communicates a unique humanity that is its own reward. The connections audiences make to this opera’s hero and heroine – and to the emotional journey taken by each of them – become increasingly meaningful to us. When the performance ends, we leave the theater enriched by their triumph and eager to conquer every trial, as they have done.
This is a masterpiece that exists on many levels. It is, of course, a highly entertaining, immensely family-friendly fairy story that entrances children of all ages – from nine to ninety! But at the same time, The Magic Flute presents us with a profound philosophical account of the Enlightenment. It proclaims both humanity and humanism. Over the more than 225 years of its performance history, this opera has been interpreted in a vast variety of ways. Still, it is essential never to lose sight of its childlike quality. That is what has captivated audiences throughout the world and throughout the last two and a half centuries. Lyric has chosen to present it at holiday time, and you’ll find no work more appropriate for bringing joy and uplift to all of us.
For this new production it is a pleasure to welcome back a conductor and director who have done outstanding work previously at Lyric. Rory Macdonald (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) brings to Mozart’s score precisely the degree of elegance, wit, and lyricism that it demands, and Neil Armfield (Sweeney Todd, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) has staged the opera with enormous imagination in a marvelously unexpected setting.
In last season’s production of The Marriage of Figaro, audiences and critics were deeply impressed by the Lyric debut performances of two exceptional Mozart interpreters, Christiane Karg and Adam Plachetka. I’m thrilled that they’re with us again to renew their collaboration on the Lyric stage, this time as Pamina and Papageno, roles in which they have shone in major European houses. Our music director, Sir Andrew Davis, and I have both been impressed by Andrew Staples, our debuting Tamino, whom I heard most recently at the Salzburg Festival. Taking over Tamino for the second half of the run is Ryan Opera Center alumnus Matthew Polenzani, a great favorite at Lyric and the Metropolitan Opera, whose Mozart roles have been a cornerstone of his outstanding international career.
This marvelous cast also includes two artists making auspicious Lyric debuts: Kathryn Lewek, the American soprano who has enjoyed repeated international successes in the fiendishly difficult music of the Queen of the Night; and our Sarastro, German bass Christof Fischesser, whose performances of his native repertoire in major European and American houses have been exceptional in both Mozart and Wagner roles.
To those already familiar with The Magic Flute as well as those just becoming acquainted with it, I wish you a truly glorious experience at Lyric!
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“Legendary times — ancient Egypt”
Scene 1. Prince Tamino is pursued by a giant dragon and faints. He is rescued by the Queen of the Night’s three ladies-inwaiting. After admiring the prince, they leave to report to the queen. Now awake, Tamino marvels at his rescue. He meets Papageno, the queen’s birdcatcher, and assumes he’s the one who saved him. Papageno plays along until, overhearing his boasting, the ladies seal his lips with a padlock. They give Tamino a portrait of the queen’s daughter, Pamina, who has been abducted by Sarastro. Tamino is instantly enraptured. The queen herself asks Tamino to rescue her daughter, promising him Pamina if he succeeds. The ladies unlock Papageno’s mouth and order him to be Tamino’s travel companion. They give Tamino a magic flute and Papageno magic bells, and inform them that three genii will guide them to Sarastro’s realm.
Scene 2. Having attempted to escape from Sarastro, Pamina is dragged back by his overseer, Monostatos. Surprised by Papageno, Monostatos flees. The birdcatcher tells the astonished Pamina that Tamino loves her. She consoles Papageno, who has no sweetheart.
Scene 3. The genii lead Tamino to Sarastro’s temples, but voices order him to stand back from the first and second portal. When Tamino approaches the Temple of Wisdom, a priest informs him that Sarastro rules here. The appalled Tamino mentions the queen’s misery and inquires after Pamina. Admitting the abduction but refusing to give further information, the priest advises Tamino not to trust a woman. Tamino rejoices when voices assure him that Pamina is still alive. Hearing Papageno’s bird-whistle in the distance, he rushes off to search for him and Pamina. Those two are about to be captured by Monostatos when the birdcatcher plays his magic bells, at which the overseer and his servants dance blithely away.
Before Sarastro, Pamina confesses that she longed to escape because Monostatos tried to force her to love him. Sarastro declares that he’ll neither punish her nor set her free. Monostatos drags in Tamino, but instead of being rewarded, Sarastro orders that the overseer receive 77 lashes. Tamino and Papageno are led to the Initiation Temple.
Scene 1. The priests, headed by Sarastro, decide that Tamino may undertake the trials in order to be admitted to their brotherhood. Tamino and Pamina bid each other farewell before his trials begin. The priests pray with Sarastro.
Scene 2. Two priests lead Tamino and Papageno to their first trial. The latter agrees to it once told it’s the only way he can win Papagena, the bride chosen for him. The priests warn both men of women’s wiles and swear them to silence. When the queen’s ladies appear and tempt them to speak, Papageno promptly forgets his vow. The ladies vanish as unseen priests shout that the temple has been desecrated. Tamino and Papageno are led to the next trial.
Scene 3. Monostatos attempts to kiss the sleeping Pamina, but the queen stops him. She orders Pamina to kill Sarastro. Monostatos threatens Pamina and tries to kill her when she refuses to love him. Sarastro intervenes and comforts Pamina.
Scene 4. Still sworn to silence, Papageno forgets his vow again when an old woman appears. She calls him her sweetheart, but when he asks her name, she vanishes. When Tamino plays his flute, Pamina rushes to him. Bound by his vow, he refuses to speak to her, leaving her in despair. Tamino is led to the next trial, as the priests praise his steadfastness. Papageno learns that he won’t be admitted to the brotherhood, but the birdcatcher’s only wish is a sweetheart or wife. The old woman reappears, warning Papageno that he’ll be incarcerated forever if he doesn’t marry her. Once he agrees, she turns into lovely Papagena. When he tries to embrace her, a priest chases her away.
Scene 5. Pamina attempts suicide, but the three genii stop her and reassure her of Tamino’s love. Scene 6. Tamino is joined by Pamina for his last trial. After conquering both fire and water, they are welcomed to the temple.
Scene 7. Unable to find his beloved, Papageno decides to hang himself, but the genii stop him. When he takes their advice and plays his bells, Papagena magically appears.
Scene 8. The queen, her ladies, and Monostatos attempt to storm the temple, but sink into the earth amidst thunder and lightning. Sarastro proclaims the sun’s victory over darkness, and the priests offer thanks to their gods.