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The action takes place in an imaginary ancient Egypt.


Act I

A mountainous landscape with a temple in the background.
Enter Tamino, dressed as a hunter, followed by a large snake. Overcome
with shock, he faints. Out of the temple doors come three ladies-in-waiting.
After killing the serpent, they admire the noble youth’s face and hurry away
to warn the Queen of Night. Tamino regains his senses and is astonished to
find the snake dead; he believes he owes his salvation to a strange-looking
character, Papageno, a bird-catcher, who has just appeared dressed in feathers
and playing a pipe. Papageno does not deny, but is at once punished for his
lie by the three ladies-in-waiting who reappear and close his mouth with a
golden padlock. Meanwhile the young ladies show Tamino a portrait of the
Queen of Night’s daughter, whose beauty inflames his heart. The maiden,
however, has been kidnapped by the magician Sarastro. Conquered by such
loveliness, Tamino offers to rescue her. The ladies-in-waiting hand him a
golden flute with magic powers and, removing the padlock from Papageno’s
mouth, enjoin him to follow Tamino to Sarastro’s castle; he too receives a
magic instrument, a set of chimes.

Hall in Sarastro’s palace.
Pamina has attempted to escape from the insistences of Monostatos, but
the brutal moor has recaptured her and is leading her back by force to his
palace. Frightened by the sight of Papageno, Monostatos flees. Papageno is
thus able to approach Pamina and reveals to her that he has been sent by
her mother, with a young prince, to set her free. Pamina and Papageno
make their escape.

A wood.
Enter Tamino led by three child-spirits. The temple of Isis can be seen. Two
of its doors – that of Reason and that of Nature – are closed. But one, that
of Wisdom, opens and a priest comes forward to explain to Tamino that
Sarastro is not a cruel sorcerer, but has been induced by just motives to protect
Pamina from the influence of her mother. The priest reassures the noble
youth that the maiden is alive. Tamino and Papageno, who escorts Pamina,
look for one another in the wood, using their instruments to make themselves
heard. The chimes prove very useful in frightening away Monostatos
and his men who are about to capture Papageno and Pamina. Sarastro appears.
Pamina asks him to forgive her for running away and explains her reasons
for doing so. Sarastro declares himself ready to grant her hand in marriage
to a knight worthy of her, however he can never allow her to return to
her mother. Tamino is dragged on stage by Monostatos. The youth and the
maiden, who now set eyes on one another for the first time, throw themselves
into each other’s arms while Monostatos, who has asked for a reward
for his services, is punished instead.


Act II

Palm grove with architecture.
Sarastro directs his priests to take charge of Tamino, who is ready to undergo
the ordeals that will enable him to join the rank of the initiates and to
marry Pamina.

Hall of the temple.
Tamino and Papageno, wearing hoods, prepare themselves, the former
resolute, the latter seized with sudden terror. Their first trial is one of silence.
Left alone, they are approached by the three ladies-in-waiting of the Queen
of Night who contrive to dissuade them from their undertaking, but in vain.

A copse.
Monostatos furtively creeps up to the sleeping Pamina and tries to kiss her.
The Queen of Night bursts in to protect her daughter who flings herself into
her mother’s arms for consolation, thinking she has been deserted by Tamino,
engrossed in his initiation trials. The Queen of Night gives her daughter a dagger
with which to kill Sarastro. But Monostatos, who has heard all, wrenches
the weapon from the girl’s hand and threatens to reveal their intrigue. Sarastro
comes upon them and chases Monostatos away. He reassures the maiden by
telling her that not vendetta, but love will bring her happiness.

Hall of the temple.
Tamino and Papageno continue their trials. A hag appears, saying she is Papagena;
after talking to Papageno, she vanishes with a loud clap of thunder.
In the sky appears a table spread with food and drink from which the two
initiates can take refreshment before continuing their trial. Drawn by the
sound of Tamino’s flute, Pamina enters, but her beloved is forbidden to
speak to her. She is so deeply hurt that she tries to kill herself, but the three
child-spirits save her and reassure her of her beloved’s true sentiments. Now
Tamino has to go through further ordeals by fire and water. Pamina follows
him and advises him to play the magic flute. The tests are thus passed.

A garden.

Papageno despairs because Papagena, who has become young and beautiful,
appears before him for an instant, only to vanish at once. The sound of
the chimes causes her to reappear.

A landscape of steep rocks.
The Queen of Night, followed by Monostatos and her three ladies-in-waiting,
attempts to enter the temple by stealth in order to kill Sarastro. But the
ground, shaken by an earthquake, opens to swallow them up.

In the temple of the Sun.
Sarastro, enthroned and surrounded by his priests, with Tamino and Pamina
celebrates the victory of the Sun over Darkness.


(Traduzione di Rodney Stringer)