dateJanuary 02, 2013
categoryOpera Carolina News
The Magic Flute Newsletter
The Magic Flute is universally recognized as being a masterpiece among masterpieces. Yet, people often walk away from a production thinking ‘What a confusing, nonsensical story this is -- a Prince runs away from a serpent, is sent to rescue a beautiful princess, but then is confronted by a bunch of Priests wearing Egyptian garb, and he decides to undergo meaningless trials to prove he’s a man.’ If you’re in that camp of operagoers, let me see if I can help out.
The Magic Flute is an allegorical tale; it uses symbols to express truths about the human spirit. It is not a fairy tale. The overarching theme is this: Harmony in human society can be realized by the perfect union of man and woman, characterized by an equality achieved through pure love and strength of character, and the rituals of Freemasonry.
Mozart, like many of the Founding Fathers of America, was a Freemason. In the late 18th century, Freemasonry was considered a radical movement, aligned with the free thinkers of the Enlightenment. It was a threat to the aristocracy and established religion, and as such was suppressed by the Vatican and the nobility.
The setting of the opera is two kingdoms – polar opposites – the Kingdom of Night, symbolized by the Moon and the color Silver, and ruled by the Queen of the Night, and the Kingdom of the Temple of the Wisdom, symbolized by the Sun and the color gold, and led by the High Priest Sarastro. These two kingdoms will only be reconciled by the union of Tamino and Pamina, and the victory of the sun (Enlightenment) over the moon (the established order).
When we first meet Tamino he is running away in fear from a serpent that represents his irrational fear, and his ignorance of the Order. He is then lied to by the Queen to the Night, and sent off to rescue her daughter Pamina from Sarastro. The rest of the opera is occupied by Tamino and Pamina finding pure love, and enduring the Masonic trials of self-discipline through silence. They are ultimately purified by the basic elements of Fire and Water. Once they have successfully gone through these trials, Sarastro gives them the shield of the sun so they can be wise and benevolent rulers -- together.
And why a Magic Flute? Because, as Mozart says throughout the Opera, music has the power to transcend human fear and hatred. So, the moral of the story is that through the Masonic Order, and guided by the beauty of music, society is Enlightened – men and women equally.
But why not just come out and say that? Well, remember that at the time of Mozart, Freemasonry was under a Papal bull of condemnation, and suppressed by the nobility. It was not only unfashionable but potentially dangerous to be a Mason. As you’re enjoying the delightfully brilliant music of Mozart in The Magic Flute, keep in mind the philosophical journey toward enlightenment shared by Tamino and Pamina.
By James Meena General Director and Principal Conductor