Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s final opera was a grand collaboration with librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, premiering just two months before the composer’s death at the age of 35. The plot of The Magic Flute is a fascinating mix of magic, love, spirituality, and good vs evil. We present a slightly simplified version here, told by the internet’s finest felines.
In a mythical land, Prince Tamino is pursued by a great serpent. (“Zu Hilfe! Zu Hilfe!“)
Three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night appear and save the fainting Prince Tamino, who they find very attractive.
After arguing over him, the three women leave and Papageno enters as Tamino wakes up. Papageno introduces himself as a bird-catcher, who has no wife. (“Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja“)
The three ladies reappear and give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, the queen’s daughter who they say has been captured by the sorcerer Sarastro. Gazing at the portrait, Tamino falls in love.
The Queen of the Night appears in a burst of thunder, commanding Tamino to rescue her daughter from Sarastro’s confinement.
The three ladies give a magic flute to Tamino and silver bells to Papageno. The ladies appoint three young spirits to guide them on their journey.
In the next scene, we find Pamina in her confinement in Sarastro’s palace.
Pamina rejects the advances of Sarastro’s slave leader, Monostatos.
Having been sent ahead into the palace by Tamino, Papageno arrives and frightens off Monostatos.
Tamino is led by the three spirits to the temple of Sarastro, but is barred entrance. A high priest greets the prince, telling him that it is the Queen of the Night, not Sarastro, who is evil. Urged by the high priest to approach the temple as a friend, Tamino plays the magic flute.
Animals appear, enraptured by the music, and Tamino enters the temple.
Hearing that Pamina is safe, Tamino rushes off into the temple to find her and Papageno.
Monostatos and his men chase Papageno and Pamina through the temple but are left helpless when Papageno plays his magic bells. The sorcerer Sarastro makes a grand entrance.
Sarastro punishes Monostatos, promising Pamina that he will eventually set her free. Pamina catches her first glimpse of Tamino, who is led in with Papageno. Sarastro announces that Tamino must undergo trials of wisdom in order to become a worthy husband to Pamina. A chorus of priests declare that virtue and righteousness will make mortals like gods. (“Wenn Tugend und Gerechtigkeit“)
Sarastro tells the priests that Tamino will undergo trials to enter the brotherhood, and invokes the gods Isis and Osiris, asking them to protect Tamino and Pamina (“O Isis und Osiris”).
Tamino and Papageno are led to the first trial by two priests, who swear them to silence. The three ladies appear and try to frighten Tamino and Papageno into speaking. Papageno cannot resist answering them, but Tamino remains aloof, angrily instructing Papageno not to listen to the ladies’ threats and to keep quiet. Having failed to get Tamino to speak, the three ladies withdraw.
Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina, but the appearance of the Queen of the Night interrupts him. The Queen gives her daughter a dagger and orders her to murder Sarastro, singing the famous “Queen of the Night Aria” (“Der Hölle Rache“).
After the Queen of the Night leaves, Sarastro finds a distrought Pamina and consoles her, explaining that he is not interested in vengeance and she is safe. (“In diesen heil’gen Hallen”)
In the second trial, a thirsty Papageno fails when he takes a glass of water from a flirtatious old lady. When he asks her name, she disappears. The three young guardian spirits bring Tamino and Papageno food, the magic flute, and the bells. Tamino begins to play the flute, which summons Pamina. She tries to speak with Tamino but he refuses her, bound by his vow of silence.
Pamina begins to believe that Tamino no longer loves her, singing her aria “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden.” She leaves in despair.
The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more trials to complete his initiation. Papageno has given up on entering the brotherhood, and now longs for a wife instead. The old lady reappears, and demands he marry her or face eternal imprisonment. When he promises to be faithful, the old woman is transformed into the beautiful young Papagena.
However, as Papageno rushes towards Papagena, she disappears and the priests tell Papageno that he is not yet worthy of her.
After a suicidal Pamina is reassured by the three young spirits, she is soon reunited with Tamino. They are allowed to speak, and with the protection of the magic flute, they successfully pass through the remaining trials of water and fire.
Papageno despairs at having lost Papagena and decides to hang himself, but is stopped by the three spirits. They advise him to play his magic bells to summon Papagena.
When Papagena appears, the happy couple are united and make family plans in a stammering duet. (“Pa-pa-pa-pagena!”)
The Queen of the Night appears with the three ladies and the traitorous Monostatos, plotting to destroy the temple.
However, before the Queen of the Night and her conspirators can enter the temple, they are cast out into eternal night.
Sarastro announces the sun’s triumph over the night, and blesses Tamino and Pamina. All praise their courage and hail the triumph of virtue, wisdom, and brotherhood.