Magic Flute is mad beauty, but so beautiful that beauty is almost enough. The story is a mash up of Free Masonry, Enlightenment religion, and every bad holdover of Medieval Catholicism with no virtues. If it makes sense, it is simply by pure eroticism leading to love.
There is a magic flute, but the hero keeps forgetting he has it. As a weapon, it is like the Hapsburg army: shiny, beautiful, and rarely useful.
The Prince pursues his love. The comic relief pursues his mate. The lovers are purified by a priesthood that distrusts women. Many of the lines denigrate women, but the music undercuts the hate by leaving the women with all the power.
As an opera ignoramus I cannot be sure what I am supposed to think of the Queen of the Night, she is “evil,” but seemingly for love of her daughter against the insufferably pompous priests. Actual popes pontificate rarely, but these Masonic priests cannot open their mouth without speaking in Masonic bromides.
They pose meaningless tests and the lovers are at least Enlightened and so united, but my impression musically was that the women were patiently waiting for the men to get around to what they already understood.
That sounds bad, but the music makes it work. It is comic, piercing, ironic, and overwhelmingly beautiful. For men, though I am amateur, it seemed to force me to musically become a man. Bits were catchy enough, or bawdy enough, to attract the boy, but the women demanded more of their lovers.
They wanted men, not princes who faint at snakes.
Pomina, the beloved of the prince, appeared last night a sparkling woman in white. There is no doubt from her first number that if it can be done, she will make the Prince a man. Her love is a flood of glorious Mozart. Her mother has the hard stuff, dazzling with sound where the human voice is transformed into an instrument, but her daughter simply loves.
She loves patiently, but passionately. To see such a woman and to be loved by her is good . . . and necessary for all but a few men. After all, when the world was new and sin did not exist, when man walked with God in purity, Adam was alone and it was not good without his Eve.
Eve meant he could never be alone again. She was the Image of God to Adam and so could mediate God to Adam physically. When Adam saw Eve he knew she was his completion as he was her fulfillment. What other relationships may exist, nothing is like this marriage between two like beings so unlike. Both are human, but one is a male and the other a female. They can never be the same or totally different
The single, after the Incarnation, can find fulfillment in Christ, but marriage remains what is best for most people at most times. Singleness given to God is in fact a better path to holiness, but society cannot afford for most of us to walk it.
We cannot all be acolytes of God.
And so Magic Flute wrapped me in eros, but without sin. It elevated the base and made even dated Enlightenment philosophy attractive . . . almost. It is at the end when the amusing bird-catcher finds his wife that truth grounds the opera.
Children and the hope of children is the culmination of their desire. Unlike the clinging Queen of the Night whose children are mere extensions of her emotions, these are children are joyous and free.
Love taught me a final lesson in the Opera. A parent might demand fealty, but at that moment love has failed. A lover might manipulate using the power of love, but tyranny corrupts the love.
Love is always joyous, it tis never clinging, and it always sets the beloved free.
Magic Flute would be a bad basis for an entire worldview, but as one evening in Catholic Vienna it must have been liberating and its shortcomings almost harmless. The priests preach reason and all sing of love. . . and this is all good.