Mozart finished the work in September of 1791, the year of his death, and by November he was already ill in bed and died on December 5. It is inconceivable that this great opera was written in the shadow of his death. The Magic Flute became the most performed opera in the entire repertoire in the 20th century and its popularity continues unabated.
The Aria of Papageno – “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja”
Papageno is a fairy tale character who is half bird half man. He represents the common man from the people. Everything about him is folksy, his music is always sounded in the “simple” key of G major and is written with small intervallic leaps. His verses are in simple stanzaic form and words like “heißa hopsasa” emphasize the folksiness. For many, Papageno is the real star of the opera, distinguishing himself from the beery Tamino with a dose of wit
Herrmann Prey was a famous Papageno. He has divided audiences into two camps, some finding his performances great and charming, others rather chumming.
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja – Prey.
The famous portrait aria
Mozart did not make a show piece out of Tamino’s great (and only) aria. It calls for a lyrical, tender voice embodying a noble love, restrainedly accompanied by the orchestra. Mozart and Schikaneder portray an uncertain young man experiencing feelings of love for the first time. Thus Tamino asks twice “Shall the sentiment be love?” and before he utters the words with emphasis, the clarinet and bassoon already give him the answer. Tamino then sings “Yes, yes” in the same rhythm.
Despite the serious formal structure of the aria, humor is not missing in this aria. Mozart and Schikaneder have Tamino, inexperienced with women, ask what he should do with the girl. Embarrassed, he stammers “What would I” twice. After a long pause, during which the singers and orchestra seem to be feverishly puzzling over the question, he comes up with the redeeming idea: a hug would probably be the appropriate activity now.
For many people, the name Wunderlich is synonymous with a role: Tamino. Much has been written about the untimely tragic death of this gifted singer. His performance in Böhm’s complete recording is rightly considered unequaled. From this complete recording, listen to this aria. His lyric tenor is warm and rich and flows beautifully. The second part is expressive and moves effortlessly into the high registers.
Dies Bildnis ist wunderschön – Wunderlich
Der Hölle Rache (The Revenge of Hell) – the famous Revenge Aria of the Queen of the Night
This aria is often referred to as the “Revenge Aria.” It is peppered with murderous difficulties and takes the voice to the farthest regions of the vocal range. The high note F is the highest note set in the operatic repertoire.
In an excited chant, the queen begins and immediately gets to the point: her daughter is to kill Sarastro. Soon she loses her speech in excitement and a first staccato chain repeats a high C and heightens this with a high F. The finale is again the speech song marked by hatred.
The singer in the premiere was Mozart’s sister-in-law Josepha Hofer. It is said that Hofer had a particularly agile voice with a distinctive high register. Thus Mozart wrote this aria into her throat.
You are going to hear the perhaps best recording of this aria. It is Edda Moser’s interpretation from Sawallisch’s recording. Here the Queen boils with words. The staccati blaze dramatically as in no other interpretation.
Der Hölle Rache (Revenge Aria) – Moser