German opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Performed in German.
The Three Boys are playing at dice to decide the outcome of Tamino’s fate.
The sight of a woman and appearance of a huge serpent cause Tamino to faint.
The Three Ladies, attendants of the Queen of the Night, come to Tamino’s aid and play with him. Tamino awakes and sees the birdcatcher Papageno. He wants to bring the birds that he catches to the Queen in exchange for food and drink. Tamino reveals that he is a prince. Papageno boasts that he strangled the serpent and the Three Ladies punish him. They give Tamino a portrait of the Queen’s daughter, Pamina. It is love at first sight. When he learns that the maiden was abducted by the tyrant Sarastro, he vows to rescue her. The Queen appears. She encourages Tamino’s resolution and promises that he can marry Pamina in return. Tamino and Papageno are given a magic flute and magic bells to protect them. The Three Boys are to guide them on their way. The slaves in Sarastro’s kingdom are pleased. It seems that Pamina has escaped her persecutor, the Moor Monostatos. But Monostatos has already recaptured the maiden and scares off the slaves so he can be alone with her. Just as he is about to approach her, Monostatos encounters Papageno, sent ahead by Tamino. Both are terrified by each other and run away but Papageno returns to Pamina and tells her of their plan to free her. Together they praise love as the fulfilment of human existence.
Tamino, guided by the Three Boys, has meanwhile entered the inner temple where he meets one of the first attendants of the brotherhood. This priest advises him to examine impartially the reasons for Sarastro’s abduction of Pamina. Confused, Tamino remains behind and tries to find Pamina by playing the magic flute. But he only hears Papageno’s flute in reply and follows the sound. Fleeing, Pamina and Papageno are surprised by Monostatos and the slaves but they are saved from capture by the power of the magic bells. The arrival of Sarastro is announced. Before him, Pamina confesses that she was trying to escape, justifying herself by saying: "The evil Moor had demanded her love." Sarastro insists that she remain under his rule because this is the only way for her to escape her mother’s influence: "A man must guide your hearts, without a man any woman leaves his circle of influence." He punishes Monostatos, even though the Moor can pride himself on capturing Tamino. Tamino and Pamina meet for the first time. Sarastro has the strangers taken away to be "cleansed" for the trials.
At the meeting of the brotherhood, Sarastro announces his decision to marry Tamino and Pamina as soon as Tamino complies with the brotherhood’s laws. He therefore orders a series of trials - without regard for danger of death. Tamino is willing immediately but Papageno is only convinced when he is promised a wife. Tamino and Pamina are separated from each other. Tamino and Papageno are led to the first trial with the warning to avoid the "temptation of women". They have to maintain a vow of silence in any situation. The Queen’s Three Ladies enter Sarastro’s kingdom and try to persuade Tamino and Papageno to flee. The amorous Monostatos wants to kiss Pamina while she lies asleep. He is thwarted by the Queen of the Night. She demands that Pamina kill Sarastro to gain possession of the powerful sun circle which her husband had withheld from her on his death and had given to the brotherhood. The Queen threatens to cast her daughter out for ever if she disobeys. Monostatos overhears this and tries to force Pamina’s love by blackmailing her. Sarastro appears and prevents Monostatos from killing Pamina who refuses to give in to him. Sarastro promises Pamina that he will not take revenge on her mother. Monostatos decides to obtain his objective by allying himself with the Queen of the Night. Papageno cannot hold his tongue. Speaking to an old woman, he learns that she wants to be his bride. Before he realises who she is, the old woman disappears.
The Three Boys bring Tamino and Papageno food and magical instruments which Sarastro had previously confiscated. While Papageno savours the food, Tamino plays his flute; the sound brings Pamina to him. Pamina cannot understand his silence, she believes he no longer loves her. Papageno searches despairingly for Papagena. His pain too makes him want to kill himself. The Three Boys prevent him from committing suicide and remind Papageno that he can use the magical power of his bells to summon Papagena. Monostatos is allied with the Queen and her Ladies. Together they plan to overturn Sarastro’s rule. As a reward, the Queen promises her daughter to the Moor. But the superior brotherhood triumphs over the conspirators. Sarastro appears to have reached the pinnacle of his desires: he hands over power to Pamina and Tamino. Papageno does not wish to become a member of the brotherhood. His wish is for a maiden, and the old woman appears again. She emerges as the young Papagena but once again the two are separated from each other. Left alone, Pamina tries to commit suicide. The Three Boys save her and tell her of Tamino’s undiminished love. Two harnessed men prepare Tamino for the last big trial. Pamina wants to accompany him through the difficult trial of fire and water, and tells him to play his flute. The power of the music protects them from any danger. Together Pamina and Tamino pass the trial and make their way to the temple. The Queen of the Night, her Ladies and the defecting Moor enter the temple to kill Sarastro. They are engulfed in eternal darkness in a clap of thunder and lightening. At the head of his priests, Sarastro blesses Tamino and Pamina. They enter the temple and are initiated into the brotherhood.