Vienna in the 18th century was a meeting place for great thinkers and artists alike. The enlightenment was well underway by the 1780s, and there was a new hope for the future of mankind. Also called the “Age of Reason”, the “Enlightenment” was typified by a new attitude where reason was seen as the source of authority. Even in mainstream historical records, the influence of speculative freemasonry on the Enlightenment is tangible. This was also complemented in freemasonry by a new spirit of freedom blossoming in the lodges all throughout the known globe. Individuality and rebellion was rampant, even in the universities. To quote the Catholic encyclopedia:
“After the founding of the Bavarian Academy of Science at Munich in 1759, an anti-ecclesiastical tendency sprang up at Ingolstadt [university] and found an ardent supporter in Joseph Adam, Baron of Ickstatt, whom the elector had placed at the head of the university. Plans, moreover, were set on foot to have the university of the third centenary the Society of Jesus… suppressed, but some of the ex-Jesuits retained their professorships for a while longer. A movement was inaugurated in 1772 by Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law, with a view to securing the triumph of the rationalistic “enlightenment” in Church and State by means of the secret society of “Illuminati”, which he founded.” [1.]
In 1774, Adam Weishaupt started bringing his ideas to the lodges of freemasonry. Allegedly, Weishaupt was unimpressed and resolved to start a new secret society within freemasonry, which would most effectively realize the illuminist goals. Through secrecy, the new order could “at all times be precisely adapted to the needs of the age and local conditions.”
Weishaupt held a professorship at Ingolstadt University during the Enlightenment, and is described by his contemporaries as a rather antagonistic fellow, more interested in theory and thought than action. This description is reflected in the history as well, for it took the addition of prominent freemason Freiherr von Knigge in 1780 for the Illuminati to make any real progress. Although Weishaupt MAY have started the Illuminati, in truth it was in concept only. Knigge was easily it’s true father; developing the degrees of the Illuminati, and ultimately being responsible for the majority of it’s promotion. Within two years of Knigge’s influence, the Illuminati’s membership grew swiftly to 500 members.
In 1782, Knigge and Weishaupt proudly proclaimed their “Illuminated
Freemasonry” to be the only “pure” freemasonry. Soon thereafter, the addition of Johann “Amelius” Bode, gained the new order credibility. The movement quickly became the newest, coolest, most exclusive secret society around. This Illuminati fever spread throughout the world, gaining footholds in Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Poland, Austria, and France. The order’s number grew to approximately 2000 at its peak, enticing many of the most prominent members of the “enlightenment” to illuminism, such as Goethe, Herder, and Nicolai. All was not well within the inner circle, however. Returning to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“…But in 1783 dissensions arose between Knigge and Weishaupt, which resulted in the final withdrawal of the former on 1 July, 1784. Knigge could no longer endure Weishaupt’s pedantic domineering, which frequently assumed offensive forms. He accused Weishaupt of “Jesuitism”, and suspected him of being “a Jesuit in disguise” (Nachtr., I, 129). ‘And was I’, he adds, ‘to labour under his banner for mankind, to lead men under the yoke of so stiff-necked a fellow?–Never!’
“Moreover, in 1783 the anarchistic tendencies of the order provoked public denunciations which led, in 1784, to interference on the part of the Bavarian Government. As the activity of the Illuminati still continued, four successive enactments were issued against them (22 June, 1784; 2 March, and 16 August, 1785; and 16 August, 1787), in the last of which recruiting for the order as forbidden under penalty of death. These measures put an end to the corporate existence of the order in Bavaria, and, as a result of the publication, in 1786, of its degrees and of other documents concerning it–for the most part of a rather compromising nature–its further extension outside Bavaria became impossible. The spread of the spirit of the Illuminati, which coincided substantially with the general teachings of the ‘enlightenment’, especially that of France, was rather accelerated than retarded by the persecution in Bavaria.” [2.]
Although Elector Karl Theodore famously made Illuminati membership illegal, it seems that Knigge and Bode were already trying to neutralize Weishaupt, and ideally make the Illuminati even more exclusive and secretive. By making the promotion of Illuminati illegal, Karl Theodore may have unintentionally (or even possibly intentionally) done the Illuminati one of the best favors a secret organization could ever ask for, easily making them stronger. This is especially true when considering that the Illuminati was already a worldwide organization, and the state of Bavaria was ultimately only one state in one country; Germany.
As was outlined earlier, most of the main movers and shakers of the enlightenment period were usually affiliated with freemasonry, or the Illuminati, or both. Because of the animosity brewing against secret societies in Munich, many members went out of their way to cover up their connections to the order.
The public paranoia being paramount to fear, being discovered as a current or former member of the illuminati could potentially spell trouble. As a result, many members burned records of their affiliation with freemasonry and Illuminati.
One such famous freemason of the enlightenment who covered up his connection to the order was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although Mozart was absolutely surrounded by freemasons and illuminati members most of his later life, Mozart never openly admitted his involvement in the Masonry. This search is further complicated because when the animosity toward the Illuminati was brewing in Munich, it seems that Mozart’s family covered up and burned much of the corroborating evidence from his own personal files.
How then do we know that he was a freemason? Despite no personal records of his admittance, there is a bounty of evidence within the lodge available. As early as 1783, both Wolfgang and his father Leopold were Visiting Members of the “Eclectic Lodge” in Salzburg. At the time, there were also two other active Illuminati lodges in Salzburg; the “Apollo” and “Knowledge” lodges. A few years after, we have his initiation into the lodge “Zur Wohltatigkeit” (charity) on Dec 14, 1784 in their own records. It seems he had been suggested on December 5, and was #20 in the lodge register. A few weeks later, Mozart was passed to his second degree at “Zur wahren Eintracht” (true harmony) lodge on the following Jan 7, 1785 (at the request of his mother lodge “Zur Wohltatigkeit”). Another curiosity appears in the records as well. Apparently, Haydn was also initiated into this lodge the following meeting. [3.]
Soon after his initiation in 1784, Mozart even makes a special request that his father be admitted shortly thereafter. The lodges oblige, and Leopold is initiated. According to Nettl, this was an attempt on Wolgang’s part to bring them closer. Mozart’s relationship with his father had been dwindling ever since Wolfgang’s marriage to Constanze Weber. Ultimately, their common bond through freemasonry did not change his father’s disapproval.
Although Mozart struggled with his health throughout his life, the conditions surrounding his death are mysterious at best, and famously alive with rumor. In 1791, despite being able to conduct the premier on Sep. 30 of what proved to be his final Opera, The Magic Flute, Mozart’s health plummeted shortly thereafter.
On Dec. 5th 1791, at 1am, Mozart died. In Niemetschek’s biography, he describes Mozart’s feelings about his illness as related by his wife, Constanze:
“On his return to Vienna, his indisposition increased visibly and made him gloomily depressed. His wife was truly distressed over this. One day when she was driving in the Prater with him, to give him a little distraction and amusement, and they were sitting by themselves, Mozart began to speak of death, and declared that he was writing the Requiem for himself. Tears came to the eyes of the sensitive man: ‘I feel definitely,’ he continued, ‘that I will not last much longer; I am sure I have been poisoned. I cannot rid myself of this idea.’” [4.]
The tragedy of Mozart’s death was that his career was only just stabilizing. Although he was famous, Mozart struggled financially for most of his life. In his final year, the commissions of wealthy noblemen implied that Mozart was on the brink of financial security. As well, Mozart’s new (and final) Opera, The Magic Flute, was starting to gain popularity throughout Europe.
The Academy Award winning film “Amadeus” [5.] makes the claim that Salieri killed Mozart out of jealousy over his talent. I find this an interesting theory to emerge in the mainstream, mainly because Salieri was one of Mozart’s only five friends to actually attend his funeral, along with family. Also, his body was buried in a mass grave (very unbecoming of a Mason) at the behest of his friend Baron Gottfried van Swieten. Not to mention, Salieri has no known Masonic connections.
What I do find suspicious is the seeming absence of the fraternity as soon as Mozart fell ill, especially when considering Mozart’s Masonic involvement toward the end of his life. Although his Masonic attendance seems to have diminished in the records, Mozart was still was very close with many prominent masons right up until his illness. Many of Mozart’s closest friends, as well as librettists and financiers were prominent masons. For example, freemason Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the libretto to 3 of Mozart’s works, including Don Giovanni and the Marriage of Figaro, both plays very rich in Masonic symbology.
In fact, when one views Mozart’s work following his initiation in 1984, all of it carries prominent Masonic symbology, and strong undertones of Luciferian philosophy. In George Bernard Shaw’s “Man and Superman”, he famously interprets Don Giovanni as a story of a Satanic being who challenges God.
Mozart’s final play, the Magic Flute, is certainly one of Mozart’s most Masonic. Many historians and critics have tried to break down the symbolism of this play as a metaphor for the enlightenment movement. Even by their own admission, these interpretations are incomplete. For anyone familiar with the mystery religion, however, the meaning is clear. If you read into the deeper symbolism and how it relates to Masonic philosophy, a darker story emerges. To be sure, the Magic Flute is an allegory referencing the accomplishment of the soul by the initiate of the mysteries, and the crowning of Lucifer as king over the wild superstitions of the human mind.
THE MAGIC FLUTE; ACT 1
The Magic Flute’s main character, Tamino, is symbolic of human consciousness, or the initiate. The story opens with Tamino being pursued by a serpent (the intellect/ divine wisdom). The Queen of the Night (the reigning monarchy/ G-D) and her three women (superstition, fear, and ignorance/ the church, the state, and the mob) come and kill the serpent. Tamino awakens and finds the snake dead, and meets a feathered man named Papageno (the body). Papageno quickly claims to Tamino that he saved him from the serpent. The three women then appear and lock Papageno’s mouth for the lie, explaining that they and the Queen of the Night rescued Tamino.
The Queen of the Night (G-d) then commissions Tamino to kill her adversary, Sarastro (Lucifer), who has taken her daughter, Pamina (the soul), captive in his castle. The Queen claims that Tamino must kill Sarastro to win the hand of her daughter. The three ladies give Tamino a magic flute (the creative force/ the penis of Osiris), remove the lock from Papageno’s mouth, and give him magic bells (the receptive force/ feminine) to protect him. Papageno is then ordered to quest with Tamino to rescue her daughter. Three spirits (the trinity) then guide them to Sarastro’s temple, where they will find and rescue Pamina.
Papageno goes ahead of Tamino to find Pamina. At Sarastro’s temple, Papageno finds a black man named Monostatos (Satan/ the persistent question of uncertainty) who is holding Pamina captive. She is told of Tamino’s quest, and eagerly awaits her rescue. When Tamino gets to the temple, there are three entrances. He is turned away from two of them, but when he arrives the third entrance, he finds a priest. This priest then explains to Tamino that Sarastro is benevolent, and not evil, as he had been led to believe. Tamino tries his magic flute, and Papageno plays his pipes in response, leading Tamino to Pamina.
When Tamino and Pamina meet, Monostatos and his followers take them captive, but then Papageno is able to enchant them with his magic bells and save the young couple. When Sarastros arrives, Tamino asks Pamina what to do, and Pamina tells Tamino to tell the truth. As it turns out, Sarastros is sympathetic to the young couple, and rebukes Monostatos for his lustful intentions with Pamina. The couple is then led to the Temple of Ordeal, where a complete Masonic ritual takes place, overseen by the priests of the Temple of Isis and Osiris.
I will not break down the symbology of the second act of the Magic Flute or you, only because I want you to go and investigate it for yourself. I assure you; it will be enough to put your jaw on the floor. There is no question about the Masonic influence on the Magic Flute [6.]. However, in light of this, if there is any question as to whether or not the Masonic fraternity is a Luciferian religion, please take the Magic Flute into consideration. We may never know who killed Mozart, or why. Still, I submit the timing of Mozart’s death to this play as a curious coincidence.
On 14 January 1786, Mozart joined the new lodge The Crowned Hope. But he was not present at the opening ceremony and later he seldom attended their meetings. During this period, Mozart seldom wrote Masonic music.
Mozart belonged to the society where the llluminati still dominated. Only during the last year of his life, 1791, did he produce new pieces of music for the freemasons. This music contained secret codes and moods. Mozart desired true friends. This was why he became a freemason. All his friends were freemasons. As a very sociable person, Mozart could not be alone and therefore needed friends to associate with.
It has been observed that Mozart, due to his membership in Masonic lodges, found it easier to succeed and to make a name for himself in Europe, since high-ranking Masonic brothers supported him. Nearly half of the members of To True Harmony were aristocrats who helped Mozart, for example Esterhazy. Mozart’s publishers were also freemasons: Pasquale Artaria, Cristophe Torricella and Franz Anton Hoffmeister.
Mozart could always count on the brotherly hospitality of the freemasons, and during his sojourns abroad, he always received economic support and free lodgings. During his travels 1787-1791, the freemasons in Prague and other places helped Mozart in various ways. There is written evidence which proves this. Friends among the freemasons played a crucial role in aiding Mozart financially: Lichnowsky, Franz Hofdemel and Michael Puchberg were among his most important creditors.
Mozart, in his turn, helped other freemasons by acquiring loans for them. In December 1787, Mozart was appointed the imperial chamber composer. This gave him requisitions for greater operas. The Illuminati had become a state within the state. Despite all the prohibitions, they continued with their subversive activities against society. At that time, people lacked experience and resources to protect themselves against freemasonry, which was under the influence of the Illuminati.
The prominent Austrian composer Franz Schubert was not a freemason and he died poor and unappreciated.
As a gifted man, Mozart finally managed to see through the Illuminati’s evil, despite the fact that it appeared to be an angel of light. He intended to protect society by founding a secret society with several of his friends, Die Grotte (“The Cave”). Mozart was well aware of the deadly risk he was taking. Already in April 1787, he wrote in a letter to his father that death was actually the friend of man and that he could never lie down to sleep without thinking that he, despite his youth, might not see another day. (Maynard Solomon, “Mozart”, Stockholm, 1995.)
He wished to expose the magic and the conspiracy of the freemasons to the public. For this purpose he intended to use his opera “Die Zauberflote” (“The Magic Flute”), where Sarastro’s prototype was the Grand Master of the freemasons, Ignaz von Born. Mozart had a perfect memory. Once he had heard a melody, he could play it again later without making any mistakes. “The Magic Flute” (1791) contained many revelations about the secrets of freemasonry.
He used the pyramid of the Illuminati, the all-seeing eye, the temple and other secret symbols. These metaphors were later removed. Mozart also used musical means of expression by contrasting lyrical and tragic themes, elegance and folklore, fantastic details and the solid atmosphere of the orchestra. The opera premiered in the autumn of 1791.
The Illuminati could not forgive Mozart for this. “Requiem” was requisitioned from him anonymously in order to celebrate his own death. He was also paid in advance. The freemasons poisoned the object of their hatred slowly. “Requiem” was finished up to the second-to-last row of verse: lacrymosa dies ilia. Sussmayr finished the opus.
Hermann Ahlwardt claimed in his book “Mehr Licht!” (“More Light”) that Mozart was murdered. He died on 5 December 1791, precisely seven years after his initiation into the Masonic lodge. Salieri was later made the scapegoat. Hermann Wagener’s “Staats- und Gesellschaftslexikon” (volume 18, 1865) confirmed that Mozart was poisoned.
In 1990, several doctors tried to claim that Mozart died of a kidney disease. (Dagens Nyheter, 19 September 1990.) But if he had died a natural death, the freemasons would not have taken away Mozart’s body to prevent an autopsy after he died, or laid him in a grave for the poor together with quicklime.
If Mozart had been faithful to the freemasons, he would have been buried with great honors. His hypocritical “Masonic friends” wept crocodile tears. If “The Magic Flute” had been accepted, those in power would not have sent Johann Emanuel Schikaneder, author of the opera’s libretto, to a lunatic asylum, where he died in 1812.
In Austria, freemasonry was forbidden in the middle of the 1790s. Society managed to keep its ban on this subversive movement until 1918, when the freemasons in Austria came to power with the aid of the false socialist doctrine.
The freemasons continue to smear and depreciate Mozart today (for example Milos Forman in his film “Amadeus”).
The Magic Flute is a fairy tale and a philosophy. It is an adventure-rescue story and a political commentary. It is an entertainment and an invitation to enlightenment. It is, simply stated, and endlessly fascinating work of art.
The Magic Flute involves the audience at a conceptual and intellectual level, through the teachings of Sarastro and the trials of Tamino, but also at an emotional level through the love pangs and near suicides of Papageno and Papagena.
The Magic Flute is ecumenical and classless. All those who aspire to the brotherhood are welcome. Deep intellectual and conceptual truths are available to the most common of us if we are prepared to apply our patience, courage, and faith.
The Magic Flute is a work inclusive of all the major musical styles of opera in Mozart’s day. Effortlessly Mozart combines the coloratura of opera seria in the Queen of the Night, the simple elegance of opera buffa in Pamina and Tamino, simple German song in Papageno, the spiritual and oracular declamations of Sarastro, and even throws in an old German chorale for good measure.
The Magic Flute has been described by Jeremy Noble as an opera with its head high in the clouds and its feet planted firmly on the earth. A “pop” entertainment which becomes sublime. It was an opera designed to entertain the decidedly unroyal audiences in its first run theater, but it also had a profound moral purpose to improve, to inspire, and to enlighten.
As a member of an audience today, you may treat the opera as a charming and tasty entertainment, just as Papageno accepts his simple pleasures – a good meal, lots to drink, and a loving wife. Neither he nor you will be any the worse for that approach. Or, as you choose, you may find in The Magic Flute the message that things are not as simple as they may seem, that an internal struggle is at work within us, and that rituals, faith, love, the struggle for truth, wisdom, enlightenment, the support of equally committed friends, and overcoming the fear of death, will enable us to prevail in that internal struggle. Visiting Mozart’s enlightened world through his work of the Age of Enlightenment, we in the audience today are invited to be free actors able to create our own destinies just as the characters in the opera are able to influence their own lives.
The Magic Flute may itself be thought of as a musical ritual in which the magical effects of music, storytelling, and stage craft link the creative imaginations of all those present in the audience with the world of the sacred or divine. Just as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is a musical journey, or ritual, that invites listeners to join the joyful brotherhood of mankind, The Magic Flute is a musical ritual whose passage by the audience may change them.
Almost no other opera, at least no other opera outside the multi-layered works of Richard Wagner, is open to quite so many interpretations as is The Magic Flute. The Italian author Italo Calvino used the term “open work” to describe those works of art that are susceptible to multiple valid meanings, multiple meaningful experiences. In that sense, The Magic Flute is wide open.
The author Andrew Porter said of Flute: “The libretto and the score contain between them more ‘information’ than any single production of the opera can hope to compass. That is why we can see it again and again, making ever-new discoveries. Each performance of the piece offers but a partial realization of myriad possibilities.” Or, as Stanley Sadie has said: “The Magic Flute is an entertaining, pantomime-like tale about a prince, attended by a comic birdcatcher, who is ultimately united in an ideal marriage with a damsel formerly in distress. It is also a serious allegory about the nature of Man and his search for harmony within himself.”
Among the many ways in which The Magic Flute can be experienced and has been interpreted are these:
The music itself
The score contains a wonderful mixture of popular tunes – lied – and opera seria arias, of memorable whistleable or sing-along type songs and the most imposing coloratura challenges. The evening in the opera house delivers a masterful mixture of burlesque and solemnity, of bel canto and opera buffa.
The Magic Flute is sometimes argued to be an allegory for social justice and freedom of belief. The ideas and ideals of the Enlightenment philosophers and hopes of the French Revolution take theatrical form.
Political diatribe of the day
Some argue that the characters in The Magic Flute are storybook representations of important public figures of Mozart’s day. For instance, under this theory, the Queen of the Night is Maria Theresa, who represented conservatism, repression, and ambition for absolute power. Sarastro is Ignaz von Born, the leader of the most prominent Masonic Lodge in Vienna. Monostatos is the Catholic church, or perhaps more specifically the black-robed priests of the Jesuit Order. Tamino is a role model for Leopold II, who had recently ascended the throne as Emperor of Austria, or as a role model for Francis II, Leopold’s son, who was even more reactionary than Leopold and was thought by the progressives to need even more “education.” Under this view of the opera, if our leaders, like Tamino, are filled with virtue and righteousness, then earth will be like heaven.
Commentary on the French Revolution
A Jacobin pamphlet published in London in 1795 claims Flute as a commentary on the French Revolution – The Queen of the Night is, according to this approach, the ancien regime, Pamina is freedom, Sarastro is the wisdom of better legislation, the priests are the National Assembly, the Three Boys are intelligence, justice, and patriotism, which guide the people, who is represented by Tamino.
Anti-Jacobins, on the other hand, claimed it for their own – Sarastro to them represented anti-revolutionary sentiment and those initiated into his rituals are those dedicated the preserving the old order.
Clearly The Magic Flute is brimming over with symbolism and hidden meanings. The origins of these symbols and meanings are the secret rituals and ceremonies of Freemasonry. Mozart and Schikaneder were members of a Masonic Lodge in Vienna. Thus, the journey that Tamino takes in the opera is thought to be representative of the initiation that a new Mason would have undergone in Vienna in the 1790s.
Although the origins of Freemasonry predate the Age of Enlightenment, the fundamental concepts extolled in both could co-exist comfortably. Truth is to be found in science and reason. Nothing is quite as it seems, and certainly not as simple as it seems on first blush – one must dig deeper to be enlightened. So, in the story, Tamino has to learn through hard work, patience, and the application of reason about the Queen of the Night’s true nature, and about Sarastro’s.
Fairy tale magic story
The Magic Flute has been taken on one level as a charming fairy tale or magic story. Children (of all ages), in this view, are the best recipients of this charm. To the extent there is something more than adventure in the story, it is the kind of teaching of straightforward morals about truth and integrity that one might find in Grimm. From this point of view, it is completely understandable that someone such as Maurice Sendak should have designed sets and costumes for the show.
Personal psychological interpretation or allegory
We might also acknowledge that The Magic Flute is about a person becoming a “complete” person. The great film version of this opera by the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman treats the story in this way as an internal or psychological exploration about a journey and personal growth. Each of us is a complex character made up of multiple elements, including those which the various characters in the opera represent — the good and the bad; simple and noble; hedonistic and aspirational; and so on.
Yet another psychological approach sometimes taken to understanding The Magic Flute is to apply the theories of Carl Jung. In this approach, we find Jung’s “archetypal figures” – Sarastro is the Wise Old Father figure; the Queen of the Night is the Destructive and Formidable Mother. Confrontations between animus and anima are identified, and so on.
A Living Depiction of the 22 Major Aracana Cards of the Tarot Deck
One author claims to have found another key to understanding The Magic Flute. Mozart and Schikaneder both played cards. The deck they used was a version of the mediaeval tarot deck. (The deck of 52 cards we use today descends from the same source.)
The overture and 21 following musical numbers make a total of 22 different musical depictions. The mediaeval tarot deck contained 22 Major Arcana cards, reflecting the physical and spiritual forces at work on humans and culminating in the card called “The World,” which is a balance of all necessary elements, light and dark.
In this view, The Magic Flute puts on the stage living versions of each of these physical and spiritual forces, ending with the last musical number in which order and balance are restored to the realms of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night.
The number of scenes actually exceeds the number of musical sections. In addition, the last numbered musical section prodigiously includes Pamina’s attempted suicide, the passage of the final tests by Tamino and Pamina, Papageno’s attempted suicide, his discovery of Papagena, the final assault on the kingdom of the sun by the forces of the Queen of the Night, and the final chorus hailing beauty and wisdom.
In other words, it might be argued that for this Tarot theory to have any currency one must wink at a few items. But keep in mind that the composer and librettist created the numbering of the musical sections and that the last lengthy musical section does begin with the Three Boys announcing what will be the result of all the ensuing action, thus tying all of it to the culminating Tarot card “The World”:
Soon, heralding the morning, the sun will shine forth on its golden path. Soon superstition will vanish, soon the wise man will triumph. Oh, sweet repose, descend, return to the hearts of men; then earth will be a realm of heaven, and mortals will be like gods.
A love story
The tales told in this opera certainly also amount to a love story of sorts. It’s a bit of a conceptual courtship, but it ends with the union of a man and a woman. It’s a love story about transcending sensual love in order to attain spiritual love.
Part of the Mozartian Canon of operas
Others take a step back and look at The Magic Flute as but one work among many in Mozart’s most well-considered operas. From their point of view, the opera should not be analyzed by itself, but rather in relationship to all the other works, and to all the things that Mozart was trying to tell us through his art. The same kind of analysis is often done with Wagner’s 10 canonical operas, and similarly with Verdi’s principal operas.
According to this theory, Mozart was always wrestling with certain issues, and he used different operas to present different arguments or points of view with respect to those issues. For instance, the role of women. According to these authors, if one wants to understand how Mozart viewed the role of women, one would be ill-advised to stop with either the fickle and susceptible ladies of Cosç or the high-minded and faithful Pamina in Flute. One must consider both those shows to see that Mozart was working out his various feelings.
For an interpretation, or more accurately a comparison, that is right up to date, consider the similarities between Flute and George Lucas’ Star Wars series. Luke Skywalker is Tamino, Princess Leia is Pamina, Darth Vader is the Queen of the Night, Obi Wan Kenobi is Sarastro, C3PO is Papageno. The light saber is like the flute. It’s a story of self-discovery, a story of the internal struggle between good and evil.
History of the Composition of The Magic Flute
The Magic Flute was written in the last year of Mozart’s life. He had been in Vienna for 10 years, but it was a tough town, and Mozart was considered something of a novelty the effect of which had worn off over those years. Younger and newer lights were taking up some of the attention Mozart still deserved. He was teaching and doing commission work to pay the bills, and even that wasn’t generating enough income. He often had to beg friends to make loans to him.
Emanuel Schikaneder proposed the Flute idea to him. Schikaneder was five years older than Mozart, and he outlived him by more than 20 years. He had been connected with a traveling theater company for several years appearing in Southern Germany and Austria in comedies, tragedies and singspiele. He was a serious and a comic actor and also wrote plays, with at least 99 works believed to be his, some of which were simply for the spoken theater and some of which were librettos for musical works. As an actor he was particularly famous as Hamlet and King Lear.
In 1789 Schikaneder opened a theater called the Theater auf der Wieden, which specialized in works in the Viennese comic tradition. One of the actors in that theater was Carl Ludwig Giesecke, who, soon after Schikaneder’s death, claimed to have been the author of Flute. While he was not likely the sole author, he may well have had some influence on the libretto. (He, too, was a Freemason.)
We don’t know exactly when Mozart started composing, but it’s clear that he was working on the opera in June 1791. By July 2 Act 1 was finished. Soon he received two famous commissions, which he needed for the money. One was for an opera in honor of the coronation of Leopold II, Austrian emperor, as King of Bohemia, to be performed in early September in Prague. It was to be La Clemenza di Tito. He was also approached by Count Walsegg-Stupach to write a requiem for his recently deceased wife, secretly so that the Count could claim to have written it himself. Tradition has it that Mozart took this commission as a premonition of his own death and that the requiem he was writing was really for himself.
Thus, in the last months of his life Mozart wrote three major works, each of which was in a genre he had not worked in for a long time – opera seria (La Clemenza di Tito); singspiel (Flute); and sacred music (Requiem). Two were commissions. The Flute was his own project.
Mozart finished most of The Magic Flute before beginning work on Clemenza and the Requiem. He still had not finished the overture, the Priests’ march that opens Act 2, and possibly three other numbers in Act 2. With that much done, however, Mozart left Vienna in August for Prague where Clemenza was performed on September 6. In mid-September Mozart returned to Vienna and finished Flute on September 28, two days before its premiere on the 30th of September 1791. The opera was not an immediate hit, but over the course of a few weeks it gained in popularity.
Mozart directed the first and second performances. Flute had 20 performances in October and long remained in Schikaneder’s repertoire. Mozart saw several performances in October and reported to his wifein a letter that the opera was becoming more and more esteemed. He told her that he was particularly pleased with its growing “silent approval.” At one performance he played the glockenspiel while accompanying his friend Schikaneder and intentionally mis-timed the bells as a joke on his friend. He also took his mother-in- law to a performance and his son Karl to another. Salieri, the chief court composer, attended often, always applauding and cheering enthusiastically.
Within 10 weeks after the premiere of Flute, Mozart died on December 5, 1791. Flute remained one of the most popular operas in the German repertory through the end of the century. Goethe thought it a work of high art and even planned a sequel. Its popularity in France and England was not as great. Often it was performed in Italian translation as Il flauto magico. It had a famous revival in 1911 in England, in English, and has remained firmly in the repertoire of all Western nations since.
Freemasonry and The Magic Flute
In understanding Flute it’s important to understand something about Freemasonry. Mozart became a Mason in 1784 – Schikaneder and Giesecke were also Freemasons. The Masons of Vienna saw themselves as a philosophical group persecuted by the Hapsburgs and the Catholic Church. Indeed, the Pope had issued two edicts decrying Freemasonry.
Certain elements of The Magic Flute find Egyptian heritage. The gods Isis and Osiris are invoked. Egyptian images and architecture appear. This is a magic land to which Masonry traced some of its origins. Likewise, ancient Persia was viewed as a source of Freemasonry. The character Sarastro’s name is certainly derived from the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster.
Entire books have been written about the Masonic symbolism contained in The Magic Flute. Here are but a handful of examples. The number three held significance in Masonry. Thus, we find three strongly emphasized chords in the overture, three Ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night, three Boys who lead Tamino and Papageno on their quest, in the original cast three slaves and three priests, three temples, three knocks on the doors of the temple, and three flats in the key signature of E flat, the home key of the opera. Other numbers are aslo significant in Masonry. For instance, the 77 strokes of the bastinado which Monostatos is to receive at the end of the First Act hearken to the idea that in Masonry the number 7 represents wisdom. The serpent which chases Tamino, the padlock used to punish Papageno for telling a lie, the portrait of Pamina, the flute and bells, the gender of some of the characters, the references to air, earth, fire, and water, the allusions to darkness and the sun, the colors of certain costumes – all these things can be tied to Masonic iconography.
But the opera was not written for a closed circle of the initiated. It was written for a suburban theater, a popular, not a highbrow theater. One of the amazing things about Flute is that it works on so many different levels, and may either be enjoyed simply for its music and charm, or may be debated and discussed at length as a meaningful treatise on human existence. Or both.
Sources and Possible Sources of the Libretto
Scholars have identified nearly as many sources and possible sources for the stories used in The Magic Flute as interpretations of those stories. Among those literary forefathers are these:
Sethos: Histoire ou vie tire des monuments, anecdotes de l’ancien Egypte
A novel by the Abbe Jean Terrason published in Paris in 1731 and translated into German in 1732 and again in 1778. Three ladies are found in Sethos; Tamino assumes characteristics of Sethos; Darkness yields to Light in Sethos. Terrason’s use of the sun as a symbol of enlightenment and underground caverns as symbols of the shadowy pathways of life were quickly accepted into 18th century Freemasonry, as was the concept of science as a liberal influence.
A collection of fairy tales assembled by Chritoph Martin Wieland, one of which was Lulu, oder Die Zauberflîte, by A.J. Liebeskind, which appeared in the third volume of the collection in the mid-1780’s. Three boys are found in Dschinnistan. The Queen of the Night assumes characteristics of Queen Daluca. The boy gets the girl – in Lulu a prince, Lulu, is sent by a good fairy to rescue her daughter, Sidi, from the clutches of an evil magician, Dilsengbuin, and is equipped with a magic flute for the purpose. He succeeds after various adventures, and these include a scene in which he enchants animals of the forest with his flute.
Other Plays and Operas
Osiris, a Masonic opera by Naumann
Oberon Kînig der Elfen, an opera by Wranitzky
Sonnenfest der Brahminen a play by Hensler
Il re cervo a play by Gozzi
Il purgatorio di San Patricio, a play by Calder¢n
Kînig Thamos, a play by Gebler
Kaspar der Fagottist, a play by Muller
The Orpheus Myth
Orpheus was viewed by NeoPlatonic philosophers as one of the old sources of Plato’s ideas. Along with Orpheus in this group were the Persian Zoroaster and the Egyptian Trismegistus (the Egyptian god Thoth, the legendary author of works on alchemy, astrology, and magic.) In Flute, Tamino represents Orpheus, Sarastro is Zoroaster, and Pamina’s father, who dies before the opera begins, but who created the magic flute, is the Egyptian.
The Persephone Myth
The daughter of Demeter and Zeus was abducted by Hades but rescued by her mother and thereafter spent six months of the year on earth and six months in the underworld.
The Eleusinian Mysteries were sacred rituals that were the most important of ancient Greek religious festivals. The people of the town of Eleusis observed the mysteries, which were later adopted by the city of Athens as an official festival. The ceremonies included a priest’s address to the mystoe, the initiation candidates, a cleansing in the sea, a sacrificial rite, and a procession from Athens to Eleusis, where the initiation occurred in secret ceremonies. The tale of the search of Demeter through the underworld for her daughter Persephone was probably reenacted at the initiation. It was related to the search for immortality and happiness in a future world, which was the presumed purpose of the ceremonies. The Eleusinian mysteries were probably celebrated until the 4th century AD, when Eleusis was destroyed.
This book, written in 1612 by Jakob Bohme, deals with integrating Hermetic elements into the Christian tradition. Bohme had a large influence on the intelligentsia of the 18th century. Bohme believed that man is naturally a part of three different universes, each of them divine in origin. There are the outer physical world and two inner worlds, both eternal. One of those inner worlds is dark, which should remain dormant, and the other is light, the world in which we are unified with the kingdom of Christ. The dark world manifests itself when not dormant in a desire to set ourselves above and beyond our natural positions in the divine order.
Bohme described the evil forces working within us against the Christ-like forces as a fierce lion (“grimmige Lowe,” which is the same phrase used to describe the lion in the original version of Flute – the version calls for a lion to chase Tamino in the opening scene. Apparently the reason for changing the lion to a serpent was that 18 days before the premiere, Emperor Leopold decreed that a satire called “Biography of the Lion RRRR,” the title of which was a play on the emperor’s own name, be suppressed. Perhaps Mozart and Schikaneder felt that to start an opera by killing a lion on stage would be too close a call.). Bohme describes Christ as being like a strong tree, and Pamina explains in Flute that her fathercarved the magic flute from a thousand year old oak tree in a magic hour. Is it possible, therefore, that Mozart and Schikaneder knew some Bohme and their images were meant to be representations of Christian philosophy (albeit far removed from the organized Catholic church)?
Bohme also proposed that the sun was at the center of the universe and the outer limits of the universe were composed of the Wheel of the Zodiac, which, like a clock measuring time, controlled the temporal aspects of man’s existence. Could it be, thus, that the Queen of the Night is that Zodiac, that is not evil in itself, but simply represents the darker impulses that need to be controlled by spiritual guidance and enlightenment?
Bohme also dealt with the four elements – pride or sanguinity (air), covetousness or melancholy (earth), envy or phlegmatic behavior (water), anger or choleric behavior (fire).
Bohme also talked about the original state of man before The Fall. Adam contained within himself the true divine image (“Bildnis”) and was both male and female. The outer fiery male was characterized by beauty (as the Three Ladies describe when talking about Tamino), and the inner watery female was the characterization of wisdom. This helps explain the arias Dies Bildnis, Mann und Weib, and Bei MÑnnern, and finally the last words of the opera have beauty and wisdom crowned – “die Schînheit und Weisheit mit ewiger Kron’.”
Bohme postulated that when the outer male part disturbed the divine image he provoked the withdrawal of the inner female partner, which could only be satisfied by the creation of a separate physical female, i.e. Eve, and the relation between male and female became purely physical, instinctive, and animal. The spiritual path involves the rediscovery of the female intuitive wisdom within us, which is the path back to our true spiritual home. Tamino and Pamina are the embodiments of those two separated paths, which are reunited in the course of the opera.
The Tarot Deck
The opening sung musical piece is numbered “2” in the original score, thus conferring on the overture the number “1” – very unusual – but which makes the total of musical sections in the opera 22. Is there Masonic significance in that number? If not Masonic, perhaps another. The traditional tarot deck consists of 78 cards, broken into 56 Minor Arcana and 22 Major Arcana. The 22 Major Arcana are supposed to represent the physical and spiritual forces of life – illness, death, storms, strength, power, love, and religion. (The 56 other cards are divided into four suits – spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Each suit contains ten numbered cards, ace through ten, and four court cards, King, Queen, Knight, and Page. Today’s ordinary deck of playing cards is a direct descendant of 15th century tarot packs, with the Page eliminated and the Joker or Fool from the Major Arcana thrown in.)
The first published study of tarot appeared in a 9 volume work by Court de Gebelin called Le Monde primitif, which tried to show a relationship among the different religious and cultural traditions of the world. One of the original subscribers to the 9 volume work was Thomas von Trattner, in whose house Mozart lived in the months before he became a Freemason in 1784. The 8th volume, issued in 1781, contained a study on tarot cards in which he attempts to prove that the tarot are actually the missing Book of Thoth, the last surviving authentic record of the ancient Egyptian mysteries. (The Egyptian god Thoth was the legendary author of works on alchemy, astrology, and magic.) The Egyptian connection with Flute is clear, and the opera was even known in Mozart’s time by the subtitle “The Egyptian Mysteries.”
Mozart and Schikaneder would have been familiar with tarot as a card game. The so-called “Marseilles” pack of tarot cards was in use at the time. McNair believes that:
Card X, The Wheel of Fortune, is represented by the overture.
Card XI, Force, contains a lion whose jaws are being held open by a lady, and thus is the first acted scene of the opera, in the original setting.
Papageno’s first aria might be represented by the unnumbered card The Fool, which is the origin of the Joker in our modern decks of cards.
Der Hîlle Rache is Card II, the High Priestess.
The Queen of the Night’s first aria is the Empress, Card III.
Card VI, the Lover, is Papageno’s Ein MÑdchen.
Card XXI, The World, shows a naked woman in the center surrounded by the four Evangelical creatures, which are signs of the four elements, i.e. the lion (for Leo, Sarastro), the angel or man (for Aquarius, Tamino), the eagle (a more advanced symbol for Scorpio, Papageno), and the bull (for Taurus, Monostatos) – this demonstrates the balance of all elements which is the culmination of all earlier cards.
Did the Plot Change from its Original Plan?
It has been suggested that the opera was to be a telling of the Lulu fairy tale story, and that the plot was changed after Mozart and Schikaneder saw another singspiel, at the Leopoldstadt Theatre, called Die Zauberzither, oder Kaspar der Fagottist, which had a similar plot. Not wanting to be accused of plagiarizing, it is suggested that they changed the story mid-stream.
According to this theory, the character Sarastro would have been truly evil and Tamino would have set out on a conventional rescue to reclaim the kidnapped daughter of the Queen of the Night. Instead, when Mozart and Schikaneder discovered that they had been scooped, they decided not to rewrite what they had already done, but rather to insert a lengthy conversation between Tamino and the First Priest at the gate of Sarastro’s temple in which the First Priest informs Tamino that Sarastro is really not evil, but that he cannot yet reveal why Pamina has been abducted.
If Mozart and Schikaneder were worried, however, about being accused of plagiarizing a story called Der Zauberzither, why then did they not change the title of their opera? Is the story a mish-mash done over in the middle and patched together? Or should we agree with Otto Jahn who said: “It would be superfluous to criticize this libretto. The small interest of the plot, the contradictions and improbabilities in the characters and in the situations, are clear to all; the dialogue is trivial, and the versified portions are wretched doggerel, incapable of improvement by mere alteration.”
Alternatively, is there a better design to this work of art than Mozart and Schikaneder are given credit for by the likes of Jahn? Should we assume that Mozart, usually tagged with epithets of perfection and divinity, would create or participate in something so shoddy as this assumed patchwork job?
Look at the behavior of the Three Ladies in the beginning. Although they are supposed to be thought of as servants of the “good” Queen of the Night under the theory that the story underwent a large change, their motives seem suspect, and their fawning over Tamino, purely a response to his physical beauty, seems to have the quality of a morality play, like much of the rest of the story.
On the other hand, if one subscribes to the notion that no change had to be inserted mid-way through composition, one nevertheless must admit that the Queen of the Night, though an antagonist to Sarastro, is not fully “evil.” After all, her agents save Tamino’s life, show him Pamina’s portrait, and inspire in him a love for her. They also give him the magic flute, without which he will not survive the trials later in the opera.
Perhaps we should not think of the Queen of the Night and Sarastro so much as two extremes in a world which must be either exclusively good or exclusively evil, but rather we should see them more through the eyes of Eastern philosophies in which two halves must exist in order to have a balanced whole. The Day cannot exist without the Night. In other words, the Queen, the Three Ladies, and Monostatos are not simply allegories of evil which we should strive to expunge, but rather are allegories for parts of our characters which need to be accepted, acknowledged, and managed through the hard work of reason and love.
Final Thoughts on the Value and Values of The Magic Flute
There are, after all is said and done, only a few good, enduring stories. They have been told in Greek and Roman myths, in the Bible, in the Upanishads, and around campfires…. The Magic Flute is part of the ancient tradition of retelling meaningful stories.
The poet W. H. Auden sees The Magic Flute as an altogether hopeful story, because the characters have the freedom to choose their paths and to enjoy or suffer whatever fate comes from their choices – how happy they will be depends on the choices they make. They are free agents who can control. What they need is help in making the proper choices – a moral framework, a set of rituals and rules, the support of a brotherhood.
Papageno and Tamino are both Mozart himself – two different aspects of his character, of all of our characters. The child and the spiritual adult. The synthesis of Tamino and Pamina, and that of Papageno and Papagena, represents the creation of the perfect society which Mozart hoped the philosophy of Masonry and the French Revolution, and his own works, would inspire. This opera is one of those aspirational expressions of humanity which are so uplifting and energizing, and yet so frustrating and tragic at the same time.
These same principles have been identified and preached about for centuries. Nevertheless, we still struggle, apparently not having learned their salutary lessons. We can enunciate the principles, but we also seem to know that the struggle is all too often waged in vain. We’ve seen too many earlier experiments fail. We cannot permanently reside in, but rather can only taste, the joys of the utopia which The Magic Flute creates evanescently on stage.
Ultimately the works of great artists such as Mozart and Shakespeare are imbued with a sense of happy resignation to the joys of life such as we can find them, in spite of the cynical but realistic observation that our more noble strivings too often fail. As that happy student of world mythologies, Joseph Campbell, describes it, the “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.”
The eternal question is always behind the works of these greatest artists – to participate, knowing all the while the inevitable end, the tragic flaws which will thwart the noble struggle, or, by action, to end the experience knowing not the outcome? The brooding Hamlet asks the question directly. And he is not alone. Those happy characters of Mozart’s Magic Flute, Papageno and Pamina, also contemplate, and nearly complete, their own suicides.
In The Magic Flute, at least, Mozart answers this lingering question in favor of the experiment. He understands the ambiguities of life and accepts them in favor of the experience, either the simple, hedonistic side of the experiences of Papageno – good food, good wine, a pretty wife – or the spiritual side of the experiences of Tamino – the appreciation and knowledge of wisdom and beauty in spite of all the other realities.
In fact, Mozart seem to revel in the ambiguities, not just to resign to them. They, perhaps, for Mozart are reason enough for the experience – the bitter needs the sweet, and vice versa, just as, in Eastern philosophies, the “good” needs the “evil,” and vice versa. Mozart is, in the end, life affirming. And his music conveys, as only music can, the subliminal and emotional message that the listener is not alone, that Mozart has been there too, that he is there with you now.
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Brigid Brophy, Mozart The Dramatist, Da Capo Press, Inc. (1988)
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