Mozart's Magic Flute
Creation and Performance  History


Frontispiece of the Original Libretto


"Lieber Beethoven!  Sie reisen itzt nach Wien zur Erfüllung ihrer lange bestrittenen Wünsche.  Mozarts Genius trauert noch und beweint den Tod seines Zöglings.  Bey dem unerschöpflichen Haydn fand er Zuflucht, aber keine Beschäftigung; durch ihn wünscht er noch einmal mit jemandem vereinigt zu werden.  Durch ununterbrochenen Fleiß erhalte Dir:  Mozarts Geist aus Haydns Händen.  Bonn, d. 29. Okt. 1792.  Ihr wahrer Freund Waldstein" ("Dear Beethoven!  You are traveling to Vienna in fulfillment of your long-frustrated wishes.  Mozart's genius is still mourning the death of its pupil.  With the inexhaustible Haydn it found refuge, but no occupation:  through him, it once to be re-united once more with another.  Through arduous labor, you (shall) receive:  Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands.  Bonn, the 29th of October, 1792"),

is what Count Waldstein wrote into Beethoven's farewell album on October 29, 1792.

Setting aside a discussion of the prophetic character of Waldstein's words with respect to Beethoven, we can also sense in them a vague idea of what   loss  to the musical world Mozart's death (on December 5, 1791) was perceived as.

Although Mozart's creativity came to the abrupt end we are familiar with from biographical and music literature, and although hopes might have arisen that one or the other great composer would become his successor, the wealth of Mozart's musical creations can be considered a musical world by itself that will continue to enrich our lives rather than sadden them by our knowledge of his untimely death.

In the wealth of his musical creations, his last works have a special place insofar, as scholars and lay friends of his music alike might always be left with the unanswered question as to which of these works should be considered his "last bequest" to us:  his "Requiem" or the "Magic Flute"?

However, let us not contribute more this moot discussion.  Let us simply accept the fact that Mozart's last German opera is one of his "last bequests" to us and let us travel back in time far enough in order to follow all of the traces of the creation of this work.

Perhaps we should start our journey even earlier, namely with a brief overview of the history of opera in general and of the German 'Singspiel', in particular.

A brief Look at the History of Opera and of the German Singspiel

Most of you might be familiar with the fact that opera as a compositional form developed in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries (Norton/Grove:  538)  in an attempt of the Renaissance area at reviving classical Greek tragedy:

"When the characters in an opera sing their words instead of speaking them naturally, they find inspiration from the earlier, not the later form of theatre. They are acting in the manner of the first dramatic performances of which we have any knowledge, from the great tragedies of ancient Greece which were written to be sung or intoned rhythmically, with instruments playing in unison with the voices."

"The music of the Greeks is all but lost to us, and tragedy itself was neglected for hundreds of years until the time of the Renaissance, the revival of learning that spread across Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries."

(From: "Music Through Time", cited on: March 28, 2001: Education/EdOpera/OperaThroughTime/HistoryofOpera.htm).

The first attempts of the Florentine camerata led to the so-called new stile reppresentativo and found wider recognition in Italy through Claudio Monteverdi's Orfeo (Mantua, 1608).

The first German opera followed fairly soon.  The greatest German composer of the 17th century, Heinrich Schütz, wrote his opera Daphne in 1627, which was staged in Torgau, on the occasion of the wedding of Sophie Eleonore, the daughter of Saxony's Elector (Norton/Grove: 678). Unfortunately, it has not been preserved.  Although Schütz subsequently went to Italy, met Monteverdi and was influenced by him, the escalation of the Thirty-Year-War in Germany very likely put an abrupt end to any further attempts at developing German opera.

In searching for further attempts at developing German opera, it can be noted that the Free City of Hamburg became very active in it during the second half of the 17th century:

"Die Geschichte der Oper in Deutschland beginnt in Hamburg. Am 2. Januar 1678 wurde mit einem biblischen Singspiel von Johann Theile das im Jahr zuvor erbaute "Opern-Theatrum" am Gänsemarkt eröffnet: das erste öffentliche Opernhaus Deutschlands, zudem kein Hoftheater wie andernorts, sondern ein Werk kunstliebender Bürger der wohlhabenden Hansestadt."

(From ther Website of Hamburg Ballett, cited on March 28, 2001: {Here, it is noted that the history of opera in Germany actually began in Hamburg with the staging of the biblical singspiel by Johann Theile in the new "Opern-Theatrum" at the Gänsemarkt, on January 2, 1678.  This new opera theater is further described as not being a court theatre but rather as a facility that was financed by wealthy Hamburg citizens who were fond of music}).

From biographical Handel literature, many readers might be familiar with the fact that Reinhard Keiser worked in Hamburg as Kapellmeister and off-and on opera director (from 1696 - 1697, from 1702 - 1707, and on a freelance basis until 1718) and that he staged 17 of his operas there, for example Der Carneval von Venedig (1707) (Norton/Grove: 389). During his years as cembalist at the Hamburg Opera, George Frideric Handel, was, of course, also influenced by Keiser.  Handel's own opera Almira was staged there in 1705.  With respect to the further development of opera in Hamburg, we can only report that:

"Die ständigen Attacken pietistisch orientierter Theologen, die auf die ihrer Meinung nach nur der Sinnlichkeit verpflichteten Oper nicht gut zu sprechen waren, finanzielle Misswirtschaft und das geringe Interesse der Bürger an den Aufführungen führten schließlich dazu, dass das Haus 1738 als selbständiges Unternehmen geschlossen wurde."

(From the Website of the Hamburgische Staatsoper, eingesehen am 8. April 2001:; here, it is stated that continuous attacks on "sensual" opera by pietistic clergy, financial mismanagement and a declining interest in opera led to the closing of the opera house in 1738).

The compositional genre of the German Singspiel, however, only began to develop out of the English ballad opera and out of the French opera comique, during the second half of the 18th century  (Einstein: 448).  AFrom our look at Beethoven's musical training under his Bonn apprenticeship master Christian Gottlob Neefe, we know that the latter, too, was a North-German representative of this new genre.  With respect to it, Einstein notes:

"In the course of the 1760's the Singspiel of North and Central Germany had, like the Opera-comique and in imitation of it, granted more and more room to music. It was especially Johann Adam Hiller, later cantor of St. Thomas's in Leipzig, who in his own way introduced in the "German operetta' the division of characters into 'serious' and buffo parts, and made greater demands on the vocal abilities of the performers. Gerber, in his Altes Lexicon 1790, calls Hiller 'the man who did most for our time,' and means by this 'that he taught us Germans how to sing as we should sing.' He goes so far as to maintain that Hiller 'gave us German operetta at a time when a singer had never yet been seen in a German theater, operetta that ... is greatly to be preferred to that of the Italians and French in correctness of declamation in truth of expression, in clear-cut delineation of the different characters, in appropriateness of the music--now playful, now bold and fiery, but always noble-- in scrupulous purity of harmony, and in wit, humor, and variety . . . It this description does not apply to Hiller and his many imitators, such as Benda, Koch, Neefe, etc., it certainly does to Die Entführung." (Einstein: 457).

Since Mozart's Magic Flute was, after all, staged in Vienna, in our brief look at the history of opera in general and of the German Singspiel, in particular, we should, in conclusion, take a look at the development of the German Singspiel in Vienna, prior to Mozart's arrival in 1781.

With respect to this, H.C. Robbins Landon reports in his exellent book,  Mozart The Golden Years, that the quality of French and Italian operas as well as of the ballet had experienced such a decline that the later Emperor Joseph II, at that time co-regent with his mother, Empress Marie-Therese of Austria, recommended the cancellation of all of these performances and even of all ballet performances at the Kärntnerthortheater, that this theatre was near bankruptcy, in any even, and that on March 16, 1776, Joseph II. cancelled all opera buffa contracts.  Thereafter, so Robbins Landon, Joseph II. decided that the Burgtheater should be re-named into Deutsches Nationaltheater (German National Theatre) and that there, on the one hand, dramas in German language should be staged, on the other hand, however, also Singspiele in the German language.  As a result, twelve Singspiele of foreign origin (French and Italian) were translated into German and staged (Robbins Landon, Mozart The Golden Years: 28 - 29). With respect to the development of the German Singspiel, Robbins Landon reports:

"But he also hoped to persuade local playwrights and composers to provide the theatres with original works; and Vienna eagerly awaited the first production of this kind on 17 February 1778, Ignaz Umlauf's Die Bergknappen, with the soprano Caterina Cavalieri making her theatrical debut as Sophie, the leading female role. The performance was well received by Joseph II and by the public; Cavalieri's performance and here music were very successful. Indeed, as evidence of the work's impact, engravings of some scenes were issued - a very unusual event. The success of this Singspiel persuaded the Emperor to include German operas (and a German-speaking opera company) as part of his 'German National Theatre', and Umlauf, who had been a viola player in the orchestra of the Burgtheater, was now promoted to Kapellmeister with a salary of 600 gulden (later as assistant and substitute to Salieri). The author of the work's libretto was Joseph Weidmann, who also collaborated in the production of Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor (1786" (Robbins Landon, Mozart The Golden Years: 29; )


Caterina Cavalieri
in the "Bergknappen"

As Robbins Landon further reports, the 'Deutsche Nationaltheater' was still operating until the end of 1782, although later, also Italian operas were staged, such as the works of Sacchini and Salieri, but also Gluck's Orfeo, in the year 1782.  Even sly Salieri found it expedient to delight Joseph II. with a German Singpsiel, so that he, upon his return from a longer leave of absence, accepted such a contract from his employer.  


Antonio Salieri

However, his one and only German Singspiel, Die Rauchfangkehrer, could only be staged as late as in 1781, due to the November 1780 death of Empress Marie-Therese.  This brings us close enough in time to Mozart's arrival in Vienna in 1781 and thereby ends our brief look at the development of opera and of the German Singspiel, so that we can now turn to Mozart and his involvement with this compositional genre.

Mozart and the German Singspiel


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1779

As Alfred Einstein reports in his work, Mozart His Character, His Work, during his 1768 stay in Vienna with his father, Mozart had an opportunity to write his Singspiel Bastien und Bastienne for Dr. Anton Mesmer, which was staged at Mesmer's house, probably as a kind of "consolation prize" for the fact that Mozart's Italian opera, La Finta Semplice was not staged.  Pursuant to Einstein, the material for Bastien und Bastienne originated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Le Devin du village (1752), for which the latter had also composed music.  Einstein maintains that this almost child-like plot was very well suited for the twelve-year-old Mozart and resulted in a charming little work that is still staged by music students, today (Einstein: 450-451).

Einstein considers two works as forerunners to Mozart's full-length German Singspiele.  One of these goes back to the year 1773 and to Mozart's stay in Vienna with his father, namely the play by Tobias Philipp Baron von Gebler, Thamos, König in Ägypten, which Mozart took up immediately and wrote five instrumental pieces for.  In 1779, in Salzburg, he extensively revised the choral scenes and added yet another chorus.  In 1779, Böhm's traveling theater company visited Salzburg took this material up and used it, along with one of Mozart's more richly instrumented Salzburg symphonies of 1773 (K 184) for A.M. Lemierre's drama La Veuve de Malabar, and in this version, Mozart's music was heard throughout South and West Germany.  On December 13, 1773, the writer of the Thamos text wrote to Berlin:   "I enclose the music of Thamos, recently composed by a certain Sigr. Mozart. He wrote it according to his own ideas and the first chorus is very beautiful" (Einstein: 450- 451).  

The second forerunner, Zaide (K 345), also goes back to the year 1779.  Originally, it was based on a very bad singspiel with the title,  Das Serail, oder: Die unvermittelte {= untermutete] Zusammenkunft in der Sclaverei zwischen Vater, Tochter und Sohn, which had been staged in Bozen in 1779, with the music Joseph von Friebert.  The Salzburg trumpet player Andreas Schachtner, a friend of Mozart, probably kept the title, Das Serail and revised the text, for which Mozart also wrote music for Böhm's troupe.  However, due to the death of Empress Marie Therese in November 1780, this work was not staged.  

Einstein notes, that of these two forerunner's, Thamos can be considered as an early forerunner of Mozart's Magic Flute, while Zaide strove directly towards Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (Einstein: 452).

This would indicate that in 1781, Mozart was already very familiar with the German Singspiel, both as a listener to other works as well as a composer of his works.  From our timetable featured in this section we can see the outline of events in Mozart's life during the years of 1779 - 1782, which conveys to us that, after the winter 1781 premiere of his opera seria Idomeneo in Munich, Mozart had to immediately report to the delegation in Vienna of his Salzburg employer, Archbishop Colloredo, which was, along with Colloredo, present there during this time.   We also learn that Mozart left the Archbishop's service (complimented by the famous 'boot kick' by Count Arco) under well-documented unfavorable circumstances.  In his attempts at gaining a foothold in Vienna, his 1782 staging of his first full-length German Singspiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio, probably provided him the most successful tool.  In this Singspiel, Mozart was immediately able to apply his experience that he had gained from working on  Zaide (K 345).  

The fact that Mozart was now separated from his father in Salzburg (who was, in any event, not very fond of his son's reviving his acquaintance with the Weber family) provided music history with an interesting opportunity of gaining some insight into Mozart's own views of opera, since he discussed them in his correspondence with his father during the time of his work on the Abduction:

On June 16, 1781, thus still very much at the beginning of his work, he wrote:

"--Do you think, then, that I shall write an opera comique like an opera seria?-- Just as there should be as little as possible of the trivial and as much of the learned and solid in an opera seria, there ought, in opera buffa, to be as little as possible of the learned and all the more of the trivial and merry."

"The fact that people want to have comic music also in an opera seria is something I can do nothing about; -- but here [in Vienna], they make a very fine distinction between the two genres" (Robbins Landon, Mozart The Golden Years: 66);

At the end of August, 1781:

"...but since passions, violent or not, must never be expressed in an offensive manner; and music, even in the most appalling situation, must never offend the ear and hence must always remain music..." (Robbins-Landon: 68);

On October 13, 1781, in reply to some criticism by his father on the quality of the libretto, Mozart wrote:

" an opera poetry must of necessity be the handmaiden of the music. Why are Italian operas everywhere so successful? With all the misery of their libretti! Even in Paris, where I personally witnessed them. Because in them the music dominates completely, and one forgets everything else. The more pleasure, therefore, must an opera give where the plan of the piece has been well worked out; but the words must be written just for the music, and not just put down to enjoy, here and there, some miserable rhyme which, by God! contributes absolutely nothing to a theatrical representation, whatever it may be, but on the contrary, harms music's most urgent requirement, but rhyming just for its own sake is the most harmful. Those gentlemen who approach their work so pedantically will go under along with the music."

"It is thus best if a good composer who understand the theatre and is capable of putting his own ideas into action collaborates with a clever poet, a real Phoenix..." (Robbins Landon: 69).

In spite of the success of his first German full-length Singpsiel, The Abduction from the Seraglio, which even discouraged Boethe from continuing to write on his own attempts at Singspiele for the Weimar Court Theatre, which, according to his own words, "ruined everything" for him ( Einstein: 457), Vienna returned to Italian opera during the first half of the 1780's, for which Mozart then wrote his Italian works,   Werke Le Nozze di Figaro (premiere: Vienna, May 1, 1786), Don Giovanni (premiere: Prague,  October 29,  1787), and Cosi fan tutte (premiere: Vienna, January 26, 1790), and for which he found the desired "smart" poet in Lorenzo Da Ponte.

However, Mozart did not turn his back entirely on the German Singpsiel.  His one-act work, Der Schauspieldirektor, written in 1786, held his interest in it alive, to some extent.  While this overview might have provided us with an idea of Mozart's continuous development towards his writing of The Magic Flute, the following history of its creation might prepare us for a look at the work, itself:


Creation History of The Magic Flute



Mozart in 1789

The fact that Mozart returned to the German Singspiel after he had written  three Italian operas can mainly be attributed to Emperor Joseph II's February 20, 1790, death and Leopold II's accession to the Hapsburg throne.  The partially also very despotic, yet reform-minded Joseph II. was replaced by his more traditional brother who revoked many of Joseph's reforms.  Many who had been in Joseph's service had to fear for their positions, including one of Mozart's patrons, " .  .  .   Even those on high levels felt the ground giving way:  it became clear that van Swieten did not enjoy Leopold's favor" (Gutman: 711). 

Leopold who also knew Mozart from his own childhood when Wolfgang Amadeus was visiting his mother Marie Therese's court as Wunderkind, and who subsequently followed his mother's recommendation and did not hire Mozart while he was ruler of Florence, had developed a taste for Italian opera seria in the style of Paisiello and also enjoyed opera buffa in the style of Cimarosa, whom he might have taken into Viennese service immediately, had the Italian not been in unavailable, for, as Gutman points out,  "....nor did Salieri, whom he would have replaced on the spot with Cimarosa had he not been in Catherine of Russia's service" (Gutman:  711). 

Moreover, the Hapsburg dismissal of Mozart's Italian librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, might also have contributed to the fact that, under these changed circumstances, Mozart did not feel as comfortable with the Italian genre as in the 1780's.  Leopold's cool position towards Mozart, which kept him in Imperial service as court composer and kept his annual salary of 800 gulden intact, yet did not provide him with any Imperial commissions beyond that, might have motivated Mozart to travel to Leopold's fall 1790 coronation as Emperor in Frankfort on his own accord, so that he might be able to impress him with the staging of some of his works.  However, this attempt also failed.  Upon Mozart's return to Vienna, his wife Konstanze welcomed him in their new lodgings in the Rauhensteingasse  which would be Mozart's last apartment in Vienna (what a comparison to Beethoven's last apartment in the Schwarzspanierhaus during the last two years of his life!).

Mozarts last lodgings in the 
Rauhensteingasse (the house to the very left)

As Gutman reports in his excellent, well-balanced Mozart biography,

"His works for the Burgtheater, he well knew, belonged to the Josephinian past; he had little hope of Leopold II's Hofburg proposing that he compose an opera: whatever the cost, the Emperor would bring Cimarosa to Vienna.(24) In a pragmatic shift, Mozart turned to the city's thriving commercial German theater. Here an old friend, Emmanuel Schikaneder, held a commanding position: wandering byways had brought him to it, and they must now be followed" (Gutman: 720).

Emanuel Schikaneder

The Bavarian actor and theatre manager Emanuel (actually:  Johann Joseph)  Schikaneder (born on September 1, 1751 in Straubing/Lower Bavaria,  died on September 21, 1812 in Vienna), who became head of his own theatre company at the age of twenty-seven, was mainly known as a comedian, but also as a serious actor of Shakespearean roles (as Gutman reports,  "in 1777 Count Seeau had hired him as a guest artist for Munich, where his Hamlet awakened a storm of admiration" (Gutman: 720).   He met Mozart already in Salzburg during his visit there with his theatre company.  The 1780's also saw him as head of his own traveling and/or established theatre groups.  After his singspiel company at the Kärntnerthortheater had failed, he found work as an actor at the Vienna Burgtheater, in 1785.  However, due to the rounding-out of his figure, he could no longer fill the youthful, heroic repertoire, and had to make do with supporting roles.

Discouraged by this turn of events, Schikaneder turned to his patron, Emperor Joseph II. and, in 1786, was received permission to establish a theatre in the Viennese suburbs.  However, he could not make use of this offer right away, due to a lack of funds.  Instead, he formed another traveling theatre company and took it on the road through the provinces and larger cities, such as Salzburg, and only returned to Vienna in 1789.  When he had left Vienna in 1786, he and his wife Eleonore had separated, and that reportedly mainly due to his extramarital amorous escapades.  After his departure, Eleonore took the actor Johann Friedel as her lover.  

Friedel's theatre company and Eleonore Schikaneder also toured the Austrian provinces for two years and visited such cities as Klagenfurt, Triest and Ljubljana (then Laibach).  In 1788, they leased a Viennese suburb theatre:

" ... a suburban Viennese theater set within a remarkable enclosure also accommodating dwellings (for about eight hundred tenants), gardens, storerooms, ateliers, shops, an inn, an apothecary, and a chapel. Located less than a kilometer south of the Kärtnertor and just without the glacis, this village within itself stood upon a parcel called die Wieden (once part of an island in the river Wien). It and its complex of buildings belonged to the Starhembergs. In gratitude for services to the realm, the Habsburgs had exempted the family from land taxes on this real estate. Hence the name of the congeries of structures--the Starhemberg Freihaus (free house) auf der (on the) Wieden; hence the name of the theater tucked into one of the courtyards of the labyringh--the Starhemberg Freihaus Theater auf der Wieden, since 1788 under Friedel's direction" (Gutman: 720 - 721).

When Friedel died in March 1789, he had left the rights to the theatre lease to Eleonore Schikaneder.  She called for her estranged husband, made her peace with him and engaged him as business partner and theatre manager.  In this venture, so Gutman, Schikaneder put his emphasis on light comedies, farces, singspiels, pantomimes and Hanswurst shows, but also staged concerts, ballets and dramas on rare occasions, such as Schiller's Don Carlos.  This course of action suggests that he adapted his repertoire to the financial means of his free-enterprise venture and to his audience's taste, and in doing so, he also tried to compete with Marinelli's suburb theatre in the Leopoldstadt.  This led to the fact that, in addition to real stage works of artistic value, more and more, also mere spectacle was introduced as trump cards, so that increasingly, fairy tale plays and plays based on medieval knighthood subjects that took place in exotic regions, filled the repertoire.  As Gutman reports, the theatre could hold an audience of about one thousand patrons.

As a matter of course, Schikaneder wrote parts into these plays that were perfectly tailored to his own capabilities.  He opened his first season with the singspiel, Der dumme Gärtner aus dem Gebürge, oder Die zween Anton (The Stupid Gardener from the Mountains, or the two Antons).

It is most likely that Mozart renewed his acquaintance with Schikaneder in the fall of 1789, when his sister-in-law, the coloratura soprano Josefa Hofer,

Josefa Hofer

performed in Paisiello's Barbier in Schikaneder's theatre.

Mozart is also reported as having found a few kind words for Schikaneder's singspiel Anton.  Two singers of the establishment, Benedikt Schack and Franz Xaver Gerl, who had written the music for it, soon became friends with Mozart, and he orchestrated Schack's duet  "Nun, liebes Weibchen" (K 625/592a), which he had written to Schikaneder's Der Stein der Weisen, oder Die Zauberinsel , and in March 1791, Mozart wrote his piano variations, K 613, on " Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding", a song that Schack and Gerl had written for Die verdeckten Sachen, which premiered on September 26, 1789.   Also in March, 1791, Mozart wrote for Gerl the aria, "Per questa bella mano" (K 612) with obbligato double bass accompaniment, for Friedrich Pichelberger, an member of Schikaneder's orchestra.   All of this indicates that Mozart was in close contact with Schikaneder's theatre and its members in the spring of 1791.   

However, Gutman also confirms that there are few hints as to Mozart's work on the Magic Flute and that the reason for this was that, as the owner of a private, free-enterprise theatre company, Schikaneder was not eligible for any grants and did not have to draw up any paper work for these.  The few mentions of Mozart's work on this opera that have been preserved are his own, namely in his correspondence with his wife Konstanze who went to Baden near Vienna to take the baths there during her 1791 pregnancy.


View of  Baden near Vienna

However, before we discuss these, we should, perhaps, take a look at Schikaneder's and Mozart's depiction of the material for this story.  Gutman maintains that they must have started to work on their selection as early as in March, 1791.

Let us directly quote Gutman's account of this:

"They assembled the libretto by culling ideas from Thamos; the myth of Orpheus; Sethos in Maththias Claudius's German translation (1777 - 1778); Dschinnistan, a collection of fairy tales assembled and embellished by Wieland and his son-in-law, Jakob August Liebeskind (in three volumes: 1786, 1787, 1789); Wranitzky's Oberon; Schikaneder's Der Stein der Weisen (itself inspired by Dschinnistan: Chretien de Troyes' Yvain, a medieval romance made into German about 1200 by Hartmann von Aue (and available to Mozart in an edition by one of his lodge brothers); von Born's treatise "Concerning the Egyptian Mysteries) (with which he had ushered in the Journal of Freemasons, 1784; Shakespeare's The Tempest; and, above all, Mozart's own The Adbuction and Ideomeneo" (Gutman: 724).

Gutman concluded that out of this, they formed an opera that was adapted to the dramatic and technical possibilities of the Theater an der Wieden, namely one with many comical elements and fantastic twists and turns in the plot, the core of which, however, was formed by a serious process, namely the initiation of a young prince into a noble order of like-minded enlightened men, thus this opera turned out to be a mixture a Viennese fairy tale with many spectacles that were made possible by the technical equipment of the theatre, and Mozart's attempt of reminding the Viennese one last timeof what role the Masonic lodges had played in their society during the Josephinian era.

While Mozart must have taken up his actual work on the opera in May, 1791, the latest, still in the comforting presence of his wife, which very likely secured his quick progress, her departure for Baden might have had a stifling effect on his work.  The entire Baden situation presented a two-edged sword to Mozart:  on the one hand, he would have preferred to remain in Konstanze's company (he preferred to take relaxing breaks in-between, in which he would chat with her), on the other hand, this spa did not provide him with all the equipment he needed to carry on his work on the Magic Flute (Gutman: 723).   Instead, he took every opportunity to rush to Baden during her stay, while mainly staying in Vienna and trying to continue his work on the opera.  He wrote his first letter to her on June 5, 1791, and his last letter of to Baden during her summer stay was that of July 9th.  Let us follow the traces of Mozart's work on his opera in them, but let us also take a look at his everyday life during that period::

"Vienna, 5. June 1791
Ma Tres Chere Epouse!
. . . I shall fly to you on Wednesday in the company of the Schwingenschuhs. I am sleeping tonight at Leutgeb's--and the whole time I am thinking that I have given Lorl the consilium abeundi. . . ." (Anderson II: 951);

"Vienna, 6. June 1791
. . . Madame de Schwingenschuh m'a priee de leur procurer une loge pour ce soir au theatre de Wieden, ou l'on donnera la cinqiueme partie d'Antoin, et j'etais si heurux de pouvier les servir. J'aurai donc le plaisir de voir cet opera dans leur compagnie" (Anderson II: 952);

"Baden, 7 June 1791
N.B.--Since you headed your letter Vienna, I must head mine Baden.
. . . I lunched yesterday with Süssmayr at the 'Ungarische Krone', as I still had business in town at one o'clock . . . today, I am lunching with Schikaneder, for you know, you too were invited. . . . " (Anderson II: 953);

"Vienna, 11. June 1791
. . . When you are bathing, do take care not to slip and never stay in alone. If I were you I should occasionally omit a day in order not to do the cure too violently. I trust that someone slept with you last night. I cannot tell you what I would not give to be with you at Baden instead of being stuck here. From sheer boredom I composed today an aria for my opera . . . " (Anderson II: 953);

"Vienna, 12 June 1791
. . . To cheer myself up I then went to the Kasperle Theatre to see the new opera "Der Fagottist", which is making such a sensation, but which is shoddy stuff" (Anderson II: 954);

"Vienna, 25. June 1791
. . . "I went to the Rehbergs. Well, Frau Rehberg sent one of her daughters upstairs to tell him that a dear old friend had come from Fome and had searched all the houses in the town without being able to find him. He sent down a message to say, would I please wait for a few minutes. Meanwhile the poor fellow put on his Sunday best, hist finest clothes, and turned up with his hair most elaborately dressed. You can imagine how we made fun of him. I can never resist making a fool of someone" (Anderson II: 956);

"Vienna, 2. July 1791
. . . Please tell that idiotic fellow Süssmayr to send me my score for the first act, from the introduction to the finale, so that I may orchestrate it. It would be a good thing it he could put it together today and dispatch it by the first coach tomorrow, for I should then have it at noon" (Anderson: II: 958);

"Vienna, 3 July 1791
. . . I trust that Süssmayer will not forget to copy out at once what I left for him; and I am counting on receiving today those portions of my score for which I asked" (Anderson Ii: 959);

"Vienna, 5. July 1791
. . . Here are twenty-five gulden. Settle the account for your baths. When I come we shall pay for everything. Tell Süssmayer to send me Nos. 4 and 5 of my manuscript--and the other things I asked for . . . " (Anderon II: 960);

"Vienna, 6. July 1791
. . . Give N.N. a box on the ear and tell him that you simply must kill a fly which I have spied on his face!" (Anderson II: 963);

"Vienna, 7. July 1791
. . . My one wish is that my affairs should be settled, so that I can be with you again. You cannot imagine how I have been aching for you all this long while. I can't describe what I have been feeling--a kind of emptiness, which hurts me dreadfully--a kind of longing, which is never satisfied, which never ceases, and which persists, nay rather increases daily. When I htink how merry we were together at Baden--like children--and what sad, wary hours I am spending here! Even my work gives me no pleasure, because I am accustomed to stop working now and then and exchange a few words with you. Alas! this pleasure is no longer possible. If I go to the piano and sing something out of my opera, I have to stop at once, for this stirs my emotions too deeply" (Anderson II: 963-964).

Since Konstanze returned to Vienna in mid-July, 1791, Mozart's correspondence with her came to an end, so that we do not have any further comments of his work on the Magic Flute.

Whlie Konstanze gave birth to the Mozarts' second surviving son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang, on July 26, 1791, during this period and at the beginning of August, Mozart was very likely busy with his work on the opera seria, La Clemenza di Tito that had been commissioned by Prague's Nostitz Theatre on the occasion of Leopold II's coronation as King of Bohemia in September of that year.  However, this period probably also saw the traditionally mysterious commission from Mozart of his Requiem,, the origin of which has, however, been clarified, with the mysterious messenger having been sent by Count Walsegg.

On August 25, 1791, Mozart and Konstanze departed for Prague, where he completed his work on the Clemenza and conducted the, perhaps by Imperial example, not very well-received premiere of this work.

In mid-September, the couple returned to Vienna, and Mozart put the final touches to his Magic Flute.

Before the September 30, 1791 premiere, Mozart had barely two weeks to go through entire passages of the opera, one more time, and to compose the few remaining numbers.  With respect to this, we should again quote Gutman:

"(34) Although the opera appears in his catalogue under the heading "In July", an entry under "the 28th September" comprises: "for the opera, The Magic Flute--a march of the priests and the overture" numbers added to the score during the closing days of the month as he labored to fill the gaps in what had reached paper before the trip to Bohemia" (Gutman: 723).

On top of this, there were still rehearsals to be held in the theatre.  Unfortunately, we do not have an eye witness report of the September 30th premiere which Mozart conducted, himself.  It is very likely that he also conducted the second performance before he handed the baton to Henneberg, the theatre conductor.

Let us take a look at what Robbins Landon lists as the performers of the premiere:

Title Page of the Libretto

"Imperial Royal Priv. Wieden Theatre
Today, Friday, the 30th September 1791.
The Actors and Actresses of the Imp. Roy. Priv. Theatre on the Wieden have the honour to perform for the first time


A Grand Opera in Two Acts by Emanuel Schikaneder.

Sarastro.....................Hr. Gerl
Tamino.......................Hr. Schack
First)...........................Hr. Schikaneder, Senior
Second) Priest............Hr. Kistler
Third)..........................Hr. Moll
Queen of the Night......Mad. Hofer
Pamina [sic]................Mlle. Gottlieb
First)............................Mlle. Klöpfler
Second) Lady..............Mlle. Hofman
Third)..........................Mad. Schack
Papageno...................Hr. Schikaneder, Junior
An old Woman [=Papagena}.....Mad. Gerl
Monostatos, a Blackamoor.....Hr. Nanseul
First)...........................Hr. Gieseke
Second) Slave............Hr. Frasel
Third)..........................Hr. Starke

Priests, Slaves, Followers

The Music is by Herr Wolfgang Amade Mozart, Kapellmeister and present Imp. Roy. Chamber Composer. Herr Mozard [sic] will out of friendship for the writer of the piece, himself conduct the opera today.

The word-books of the opera, which include two engravings, where Herr Schikaneder has been engraved in the role of Papageno with the actual costume, will be sold at the box office for 30 kr.
Herr Gayl, theatrical designer, and Herr Nesslthaler as decorator, flatter themselves to have worked with all possible artistic diligence according to the preconceived plan of the piece.

The entrance prices are as usual.
The beginning is at 7 o'clock.

(Robbins Landon: 139 - 140).

Gutman confirms the proud announcement in the theatre program with respect to the lavish decorations of the opera insofar, as 

"the opera carried Vienna by storm, no small part of the triumph owing to the scenic designs of Herr Nesslthaler as painted by Joseph Gayl. Schikaneder gave them, so the talk ran, five thousand gulden to lavish on scenic wonders, which, in the sequel of Blanchard's flight to Groß-Enzersdorf, included a flying basket cum balloon for the comings and going of the three Boys.(1) Mozart's hand may be assumed in this inspired jest.

(1) It appears that at first Mozart assigned their parts to two boys and a woman. (Anna, daughter of Schikaneder's elder brother Urban; he impersonated the priest to whom fell the grand accompagnati of the first finale.) No doubt Mozart wished to strengthen the ethereal but too often wayward trebles of choirboys by adding the steadier tone; at later performances he at times changed the mixture of two women and a boy" (Gutman: 735).

In spite of the great and growing success of the opera which prompted Schikaneder to stage this work nearly every day in October, 1791, one critic of the time who, according to Gutman, might only have considered the Hofburg Theatre worthy of setting the tone in Vienna with respect to quality performances, wrote:

"our Kapellmeister Mozart's new 'machine comedy' [a belittling phrase] produced at great expense and with much magnificence of decor "but failing to receive the expected ovations because its content and language are far too inferior" (Gutman: 735).

However, even this critic did not go as far as criticizing Mozart's music that, according to Gutman, was already "beyond assessment" at that time.

Konstanze Mozart had attended the premiere and perhaps one ore two additional performances, before she went to Baden, once more, for further treatment, on which Mozart had insisted in order to ensure her good health during the coming winter.  Her second stay at Baden provided us with an opportunity to learn more from Mozart with respect to the staging of his work, in his letters to her.  Let us take a look at his comments here:

Konstanze Mozart

"Vienna, 7-8 October, 1791

...I have this moment returned from the opera, which was as full as ever. As usual the duet 'Mann und Weib' and Papageno's glockenspiel in Act I had to be repeated and also the trio of the boys in Act II.  But what always gives me most pleasure is the silent approval!  You can see how this opera is becoming more and more esteemed.  Now for an account of my own doings.  Immediately after your departure I played two games of billiards with Herr von Mozart, the fellow who wrote the opera which is running at Schikaneder's theatre; then I sold my nag for fourteen ducats; the I told Joseph to get Primus to fetch me some black coffee, with which I smoked a splended ipe of tobacco; and then I orchestrated almost the whole of Stadler's rondo.  Meanwhile I have had a letter which Stadler has sent me from Prague.  All the Duscheks are well.  I really think that she cannot have received a single one of your letters--and yet I can hardly believe it.  Well, they have all heard already about the splendid reception of my German opera. .  . . " (Anderson II: 966-967);

"Vienna, 8-9 October 1791

Saturday night at half past ten o'clock

Dearest, most beloved little wife,

I was exceedingly delighted and overjoyed to find your letter on my return from the opera.  Although Saturday, as it is post-day, is always a bad night, the opera was performed to a full house and with the usual applause and repetition of numbers.  It will be given again tomorrow, but there will be no performance on Monday.  So Süssmayr must bring Stoll in on Tuesday when it will be given again for the first time.  I say for the first time, because it will probably be performed several times in succession.  .  .  .  After lunch I went home at once and composed again until it was time to go to the opera.  Leutgeb begged me to take him a second time and I did so.  I am taking Mamma tomorrow. Hofer has already given her the libretto to read.  In her case what will probably happen will be that she will see the opera, but not hear it.  The  .  .  . had a box this evening . . . . applauded everything most heartily.  But he, the know-all, showed himself to be such a thorough Bavarian that I could not remain or I should have had to call him an ass.  Unfortunately I was there just when the second act began, that is, at the solemn scene.  He made fun of everything.  At first I was patient enough to draw his attention to a few passages.  But he laughed at everything.  Well, I could stand it no longer.  I called him a Papageno and cleared out.  But I don't think that the idiot understood my remark.  So I went into another box where Flamm and his wife happened to be.  There everything was very pleasant and I stayed to the end.  But during Papageno's aria with the glockenspiel I went behind the scenes, as I felt a sort of impulse today to play it myself.  Well, just for fun, at the point where Schikaneder has a pause, I played an arpeggio.  He was startled, looked behind the wings and saw me.  When he had his next pause, I played no arpeggio.  This time he stopped and refused to go on.  I guessed what he was thining and again played a chord.  He then struck the glockenspiel and said 'Shut up'.  Whereupon everyone laughed.  I am inclined to think that this joke taught many of the audience for the first time that Papageno does not play the instrument himself.  By the way, you have no idea how charming the music sounds when you hear it from a box close to the orchestra--it sounds much better than from the gallery.  As soon as you return--you must try it for yourself" (Anderson II: 968-969);

On Friday, October 14, 1791, Mozart wrote:  

"Dearest, best little wife,

Yesterday, Thursday the 13th, Hofer went out with me to see Carl, we ate out there and then drove in, at 6 o'clock I fetched Salieri and Cavalieri with the carriage, and then I took them to the box--then I hastened to fetch Mama and Carl, whom I had meanwhile left at the Hofers.  You can't believe how nice both of them were,--how much they liked not only my music but the book and everything together.--They both said it was a grand opera,--worthy of being performed at the greatest festival for the greatest monarchs--and they will certainly see it often, for they have never seen a more beautiful or pleasant production--He listened and looked with the greatest attention and from the Overture to the last chorus there wasn't a piece which didn't call forth a 'bravo' or 'bello' from him, and they couldn't thank me enough for this courtesy.  They had intended to go to the opera yesterday, but they would have had to seek their places by 4 o'clock--this way they could hear and see it in peace and quite.--After the theatre I had them taken home, and then had supper at Hofer's with Carl.--" (Robbins Landon, Mozart's Last Year: 144-145).

Although Mozart's comments on the staging of the Magic Flute in the fall of 1791 are the most immediate and most lively ones, for further performances of this work during his lifetime, we have to rely on another source, since with Konstanze's return from Baden to Vienna in mid-October, his correspondence with her came to an end.   The last eyewitness account of a performance of the Magic Flute during Mozart's lifetime is that of Count Carl von Zinsendorf of November 6, 1791:

"At  6.30 to the Starhemberg Theatre in the suburb of Wieden in the box of M. and Mme. Auersperg to hear the 24th performance of The Magic Flute. The music and the decorations are pretty, the rest an unbelievable farce. A huge crowd. M. de Seilern and de Kinsky in our box . . . "  (Robbins Landon, Mozart The Golden Years: 146).

Robbins Landon further reports in his interesting book:

"On 5 December 1791, a note was delivered by hand to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, informing him that he had been summarily dismissed from his official positions. In the 1792 Illuminati he is already described as 'former President of the Studies Commission.' (Swieten was not a diplomat for nothing, however. Leopold II dies on 1 March 1792 and by the time the next Schematismus was printed, in 1793, Swieten had managed under the new Emperor, Francis II, to recover his former position.

A short walk from the imposing building on the Josephsplatz which housed the Imperial Royal Court Library was the composer's home, a modest house at Rauhensteingasse No. 970, 'in the hour after midnight, as the fifth of December 1791 began, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died"  (Robbins Landon, Mozart The Golden Years: 229 - 230).

Details of Mozart's last few weeks should be the subject of a separate enquiry.  Perhaps, the titles mentioned here in our bibliography, will encourage you to look into this issue by further reading, yourself.  What we can still follow here, is the success of the opera during the 1790's and that in spite of the political events of the French Revolution and the changes in the succession to the Imperial throne in Vienna.

As Alfred Einstein reports in his Mozart book, the musical world reacted immediately to the Magic Flute, and that not without pique.  For example, the Prussian Court Kapellmeister, Johann Friedrich Reichardt wrote in his short artile in the 18th edition of the Berliner Musikzeitung of 1793:

"To what injustices [against the music of Johann Friedrich Reichardt, for example], therefore, can the defense of the latest fashion in music not lead? Mozart, for example, deserves to be honored, of course; he was a great genius and sometimes wrote excellent things, as for instance his Zauberflöte and some of his overtures and quartets. But of inordinate fuss about Mozart there is now scarcely an end. . . . "  (Einstein: 469).

Let us contrast this with a report from Frankfort, in the words of Goethe's mother:

Frau Rat Goethe 1795 in Frankfurt:

"Neues gibts hir nichts als daß die Zauberflöte 18 mahl ist gegeben worden und daß das Haus immer gepropft voll war -- kein Mensch will von sich sagen lassen -- er hätte sie nicht gesehn -- alle Handwercker -- gärtner -- ja gar die Sachsenhäusser -- deren ihre Jungen die Affen und Löwen machen gehen hinein, so ein Specktackel hat mann hier noch nicht erlebt -- das Hauß muß jedesmahl scon vor 4 uhr auf seyn -- und mit alledem müssen immer einige hunderte wieder zurück die keinen Platz bekommen können -- das hat Geld eingetragen.  Der König hat vor die 3 mahl als Er das letzte mahl hir war, und nur die einzige, kleinge Loge von Willemer innehatte 100 Carolin bezahlt." ...  "Vorige Woche ist die Zauberflöthe zum 24ten mahl bei voll geprofptem Hausse gegeben worden, und hat schon 22000 fl. eingetragen.  Wie ist sie denn bey Euch executirt worden?  machens eure Affen auch so brav, wie unsere Sachsenhäusser?" (Kolb: 291; "There is nothing new here, except that the Magic Flute was given 18 times and that the house was always full -- no one wants to have it said that he did not see it -- all tradesmen -- gardeners -- nay, even the Sachsenhausers -- whose young folks are performing as monkeys and lions, such a spectacle has never been experienced, here -- the house has to be opened before 4 o'clock each time -- and even with all of that, a few hundreds have to be turned away again who did not get a seat -- that has brought in money.  The King has attended it 3 times as he was here the last time, and he had the only box of Willemer and paid 100 carolins."   "Last week, the Magic Flute has been given for the 24th time to a full house, and it has already raked in 22,000 florins.  How has it been executed in your place?  Are your monkeys as good as ours from Sachsenhausen?).

All further reports and accounts of comments of the period, be they with respect to the era in general as well as with respect to the music, itself, should follow after our providing you with a synopsis and an opportunity of taking a look at the German libretto of the Magic Flute.  For this, we wish you an interesting reading experience!


Einstein, Alfred. Mozart His Character, His Work. First Edition, Sixth Printing. London. New York. Toronto: 1961. Oxford University Press.

Greither, Aloys.  Wonfgang Amade Mozart in Selbstzeugnissen und Dokumenten.  Reinbeck bei Hamburg: 1962, Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag.  Rowohlts Monographien.

Gutman, Robert W.  Mozart.  A Cultural Biography.  New York, San Diego, London:  1999, Harcourt Brace & Company.

Hildesheimer, Wolfgang.  Mozart.  Translated from the German by Marion Faber.  New York:  1977,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  The Noonday Press.

Köchel, Dr. Ludwig Ritter von.  Chronologisch-thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Tonwerke Wolfang Amade Mozarts. Dritte Auflage bearbeitet von Alfred Einstein.    Ann Arbor, Michigan:  1947, Verlag von J.W. Edwards.  

Kolb, Annette.  Mozart  Sein Leben.Erlenbach-Zürich:  1958, Eugen Rentsch Verlag.

Renner, Hans.  Das Wunderreich der Oper. Opern- und Operettenführer.  Düsseldorf: 1948, Falken Verlag.

Robbins Landon, H.C. Mozart The Golden Years. Thames & Hudson: 1969.

Robbins Landon, H.C. 1791  Mozart's Last Year.  New York: 1988, Schirmer Books, A Division of Macmillan, Inc.

Schumanns, Otto. Schumanns Opernbuch.  Berlin und Buxtehude: 1948, Hermann Hübener Verlag.

Shaffer, Peter.  Amadeus.  London: 1993, Penguin Books.

Solomon, Maynard.  Mozart  A Life.  New York: 1995, Harper Collins.

The Letters of Mozart and His Family.  Chronologically arranged, translated and edited with an Introduction, Notes and Indexed by Emily Anderson.  New York: 1966, St. Martin's Press.  Macmillan, London, Melbourne, Toronto.

The Norton Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music.  Edited by Stanley Sadie.  London: 1988.  Macmillan Press Ltd.

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