The Magic Flute (German: Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, is
an opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a
German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. The work is in
the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included
both singing and spoken dialogue. The work premiered in
1791 at Schikaneder's theatre, the Freihaus-Theater auf
der Wieden in Vienna.
The opera was the culmination of a period of increasing
involvement by Mozart with Schikaneder's theatrical
troupe, which since 1789 had been the resident company
at the Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart was a close
friend of one of the singer-composers of the troupe,
tenor Benedikt Schack (the first Tamino), and had
contributed to the compositions of the troupe, which
were often collaboratively written. Mozart's
participation increased with his contributions to the
1790 collaborative opera Der Stein der Weisen (The
Philosopher's Stone), including the duet ("Nun liebes
Weibchen", K. 625/592a) among other passages. Like The
Magic Flute, Der Stein der Weisen was a fairy-tale
opera and can be considered a kind of precursor; it
employed much the same cast in similar roles.
Mozart evidently wrote keeping in mind the skills of
the singers intended for the premiere, which included
both virtuosi and ordinary comic actors asked to sing
for the occasion. Thus, the vocal lines for
Papageno—sung by Schikaneder himself—and Monostatos
(Johann Joseph Nouseul) are often stated first in the
strings so the singer can find his pitch, and are
frequently doubled by instruments. In contrast,
Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer, who premiered the
role of the Queen of the Night, evidently needed little
such help: this role is famous for its difficulty. In
ensembles, Mozart skillfully combined voices of
different ability levels.
The pitch ranges of two of the original singers for
whom Mozart tailored his music have posed challenges
for many singers who have since recreated their roles.
The Queen of the Night's "Der Hölle Rache kocht in
meinem Herzen" ("The vengeance of Hell boils in my
heart") reaches a high F6, rare in opera. At the low
end, the part of Sarastro, premiered by Franz Xaver
Gerl, includes a conspicuous F2 in a few locations.
The duet "Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen" is from Act
1 Scene 2 and although written as a voice duet, I
created this arrangement for Flute & Viola.