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Synopsis: The Magic Flute

Act I
Tamino, a prince, is pursued by a deadly serpent. Three Ladies, attendants of the Queen of the Night, appear and kill the monster. Papageno, official bird catcher of the Queen, enters and expresses his longing for someone to love. Prince Tamino thinks the strange bird catcher may have killed the serpent and Papageno is only too happy to take the credit, but suddenly the Three Ladies reappear and place a padlock over his mouth as a warning not to lie. They give Tamino a charmed portrait of Pamina, the daughter of the Queen, and he instantly falls in love. The Queen of the Night herself appears and tells Tamino that Pamina will be his wife if he can rescue her from the evil Sarastro. The Ladies present Tamino with the magic flute and Papageno with some magic bells. They describe three child-spirits, who will guide the two men to Sarastro’s temple. Together Tamino and Papageno set forth to rescue Pamina.

Pamina is pursued by the lustful Monostatos, one of Sarastro’s slaves. He orders her to be tied up and left alone with him. Papageno frees Pamina and announces that her mother, the Queen, has sent Tamino to rescue her. Pamina rejoices at the news and together, the two reflect on the joys of love and marriage. They then set off in search of Tamino.

The three child-spirits lead Tamino to Sarastro’s temple. A Speaker appears and tells Tamino that he has been deceived by the Queen of the Night. He informs Tamino that Sarastro is a benevolent man, not an evil one. Tamino struggles with the complex nature of discovering Truth. Voices from within the temple reassure him that Pamina is alive and Tamino celebrates by playing his flute. Animals appear, enraptured by his music. Suddenly Tamino hears Papageno’s pipes and hurries off to find him. Papageno and Pamina enter but are captured by Monostatos. Papageno plays his magic bells and Monostatos dances away, mesmerised by the beauty of the music. Sarastro arrives and receives Pamina kindly, assuring her that he wishes only for her happiness. But Sarastro refuses to return Pamina to her mother, who he describes as an arrogant woman. Monostatos brings in the captured Tamino. The two lovers see one another for the first time and embrace. Monostatos demands a reward for his captives. Sarastro, however, punishes Monostatos for his lustful behavior toward Pamina, and sends him away. He then announces that Tamino and his friends must be taken into the temple to undergo the trials which will lead them to greater Wisdom.

Act 2
At an assembly, Tamino and Pamina are led in and told to say farewell as they begin their separate journeys. Sarastro asks the gods to protect the Initiates as they begin their trials.

Tamino and a frightened Papageno are led in by two priests. The priests warn the two Initiates of the dangers which await them and swear them to silence. The Three Ladies appear and tempt Tamino and Papageno to speak, but the Ladies are driven away by the voices of violent thunder. The priests congratulate Tamino for successfully passing the first test.

Pamina is asleep. Monostatos gazes upon her with lust. He is about to kiss the sleeping Pamina when the Queen of the Night appears. Pamina tells her mother that Tamino aspires to join Sarastro’s brotherhood. The Queen is furious and gives Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro with it. Pamina is left alone with the dagger and asks the gods for guidance. Monostatos surprises her and tries to force Pamina’s love by threatening to reveal the Queen’s plot, but Sarastro enters and banishes Monostatos from his temple. Pamina begs Sarastro to forgive her mother and Sarastro reassures her that revenge has no place in his domain.

Tamino and Papageno are again led in and reminded that they must remain silent. An old woman enters and although it is forbidden, Papageno engages the woman in conversation. She disappears when Papageno asks for her name. The three child-spirits bring in food, the magic flute, and the bells, sent from Sarastro. They instruct Papageno to keep quiet. Tamino begins to play the flute, which summons Pamina. She tries to speak with him, but Tamino, bound by his vow of silence, cannot talk to her and Pamina assumes that he no longer loves her. She leaves in despair. The priests celebrate Tamino’s steadfast courage. Papageno enters in search of Tamino. He expresses his desire for a wife. The elderly woman reappears and tells him that unless he marries her, he will be imprisoned forever. Papageno rushes to embrace her, but the priests drive him back and lead him out of the temple.

The three child-spirits hail the dawn. They observe Pamina, who is contemplating suicide because she believes Tamino has abandoned her. The child-spirits restrain her and reassure her of Tamino’s love. She allows them to lead her to Tamino.

Two Guardians lead in Tamino to face his final trials. Tamino declares that he is ready to be tested. Pamina enters and declares her intention to undergo the remaining trials with Tamino. Protected by the music of the magic flute, they pass unscathed through the trials of fire and water. The priests hail their triumph and invite the couple to enter the temple.

Papageno despairs at having lost Papagena and decides to hang himself. The three child-spirits appear and stop him. They then advise him to play his magic bells to summon Papagena. She appears and, united, the happy couple celebrate their love.

The traitorous Monostatos appears with the Queen of the Night and her Three Ladies. They plot to destroy the temple and the Queen confirms that she has promised Pamina’s hand to Monostatos, but before the conspirators can enter the temple, they are magically cast out into eternal night. Sarastro praises the courage of Tamino and Pamina in enduring their trials and hails the dawn of a new era of wisdom and brotherhood.