The Magic Flute is a work that continues to bewitch artists and audiences alike. The opera is sometimes seen as a statement on the superiority of reason over superstition, but the real joy of the piece is the way in which Mozart and his collaborator Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto, place sufficient doubt in our minds as to whether one realm truly holds sway over the other.
Life, in truth, is rather more complicated and it is no surprise that the opera’s themes have continued to fascinate other writers across cultures, from the British film director and actor, Kenneth Branagh, to the Japanese illustrator, Yoshitaka Amano.
A beguiling black comedy, with its characters drawn from a land of fairytales, the Queen of the Night exhorts Prince Tamino and his companion, Papageno, to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the clutches of the wicked Sarastro and his evil servant, Monostatos. As a sign of good faith, he is given a magic flute to protect him. Arriving at Sarastro’s palace, Tamino receives a conflicting account of events, casting Sarastro as Pamina’s protector. The prince must decide who to believe - Sarastro or the Queen of the Night - and undertake three trials in order to win Pamina’s hand.