What is the Story of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) Opera?

The Magic Flute opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart includes many well-known characters: Queen of the Night, Sarastro, the Papageno – Papagena duo and Pamina.

A Magic Flute synopsis can focus on The Magic Flute lyrics and arias, which will provide an understanding of the opera’s philosophical aspects. Alternatively, a retelling of The Magic Flute story can center on The Magic Flute music and playful characters to emphasize the child-like fairy-tale qualities of the opera.

From amongst all of the operas by Mozart, Die Zauberflöte libretto is the one that is most frequently performed not just in the German original, but in a variety of translations. The opera house in Lviv Ukraine, combines the classical songs in German and the spoken dialogue in Ukrainian.

Read to Discover the Story of The Magic Flute


We Begin the Story Synopsis of The Magic Flute?

The Magic Flute Attendants
The Magic Flute Attendants

We begin the story synopsis of The Magic Flute opera as performed at the Lviv Opera House in Ukraine.

Act 1 of the opera opens as Prince Tamino enters. He is hunting in the mountains. Tamino loses his way. A hideous serpent overcomes him. Tamino shouts for help. He is overcome by fatigue and falls down unconscious.

The Three Attendants come to rescue Tamino. The Three Attendants kill the serpent. Seeing the unconscious prince. The Three Attendants are overcome by his physical beauty and each wishes to remain by his side. However, duty calls. The Three Attendants must inform their sovereign, the Queen of the Night, of all that has transpired.


Tamino and Papageno are Key to Understanding the Synopsis

Papageno and Tamino in The Magic Flute
Papageno and Tamino in The Magic Flute

Upon awakening, Tamino sees Papageno, the bird-catcher, who pretends that he has killed the serpent. The Three Attendants appear and are outraged by Papageno’s lies. They punish Papageno by sealing his lips with a padlock.

The Three Attendants present Prince Tamino with a medallion – a portrait of Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter. Tamino falls hopelessly in love. According to the Queen of the Night, the girl was kidnapped by Sarastro, an evil magician. Tamino decides to rescue Pamina.

The Three Attendants give Tamino a gift from their sovereign – a magic flute that will assist him in his quest. Papageno is given magical chimes and is commanded by the Queen to help the Prince. The Three Attendants introduce the Three Child-Spirits, who will guide Tamino and Papageno to Sarastro’s kingdom.


The Magic Flute Story Continues in Sarastro’s Castle

In Sarastro’s castle, Monostatos has been entrusted with guarding Pamina. Instead, Monostatos is making inappropriate advances. Pamina tries to flee, but is unsuccessful. Suddenly, Papageno appears. Papageno and the Moor scare each other. Listen and view a live opera performance of The Magic Flute by W.A.Mozart.

Original German English Translation
Wo bin ich wohl? Wo mag ich sein? Where am I? Where can I be?
Aha! da find ich Leute. Oh! I see people there.
Gewagt, ich geh hinein, Dare I go inside!?
Schön Mädchen, jung und fein, A beautiful girl – young and dainty,
Viel weißer noch asl Kreide. Much whiter than chalk.
Hu! Das ist der Teufel sicherlich. Whew! It’s the devil – no doubt!
Hab Mitleid! Verschone dich! Have sympathy! Spare yourself!

The above is an excerpt of a performance at the Lviv Opera, Ukraine. Papageno is Petro Radeyko and Monostatos is Yuriy Hetsko. Conducted by Myron Yusypovych.

Monostatos flees. Papageno tells Pamina that he has been sent by her mother and that a prince, who has seen her portrait, has fallen in love with her. Pamina agrees to escape with Papageno.


Tamino and Pamina Learn The Truth

Tamino and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte
Tamino and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte

Tamino stands before the entrance to The Temple of Knowledge. Prince Tamino enters The Temple of Knowledge and meets a priest who enlightens him as to the real reason for Sarastro’s actions. Sarastro is guided by goodness, wisdom and benevolence, for these are the main features of his greatness. According to the priest, these are also Pamina’s characteristics and it is precisely for this reason that her place is not in The Kingdom of Darkness but in The Kingdom of Light.

Tamino begins to play the magic flute. Papageno’s bird flute answers. Papageno and Pamina are nearby and hurrying to meet Tamino.

Monostatos and his slaves overtake the fleeing pair. Pamina and Papageno’s only hope for rescue are the magical chimes. Papageno plays the magical chimes and the aggressors lose their aggression and anger. Monostatos and his slaves sing and dance as they leave.

Sarastro makes a grand and mighty entrance. Pamina confesses to fleeing and asks for forgiveness. Additionally, she recounts how Monostatos made advances at her.

The captured Tamino is brought in. Monostatos brags about his loyalty to Sarastro. However, because of his duplicity, Monostatos does not receive an award. Instead, he is punished.

All, who are present, proclaim the wisdom of Sarastro’s judgment. Sarastro, in turn, announces that the newly arrived must undergo several challenges in order to be cleansed. Only then will they be worthy to receive that which they desire.


Act 2 of The Magic Flute Opera Story Synopsis

Act II of The Magic Flute
Act II of The Magic Flute

Sarastro informs the priests that Tamino has been sent to protect The Temple of Knowledge from the Queen of the Night and her attempts to usurp power. In the event that Tamino successfully completes all the challenges, he will be initiated as one of the Enlightened in The Temple of Wisdom and Pamina will become his wife.

The first challenge is the ability to withstand female enticement by observing a vow of silence.

The Three Attendants appear and attempt to entice Tamino and Papageno to break their vow. Tamino remains aloof and their attempts are not successful.


Monostatos Provides an Evil Story Line

Monostatos and Pamina at The Lviv Opera House
Monostatos and Pamina at The Lviv Opera House

Monostatos is overcome by his passionate desire to kiss Pamina. Monostatos creeps up to the sleeping Pamina.

The Queen of the Night appears. She banishes Monostatos! The Queen of the Night expresses her hatred for Sarastro and gives her daughter an ultimatum. Pamina must kill Sarastro in order to gain power over the all-powerful talisman – the sun-disk, which Sarastro received from the Queen of the Night’s deceased husband.

Pamina is distraught. Monostatos, who has eavesdropped on everything threatens her and her mother with blackmail. Monostatos’ advances and threats are interrupted by Sarastro. Monostatos flees.


Papageno and Tamino React to The Vow of Silence

Papageno Can’t Keep Silent
Papageno Can’t Keep Silent

Papageno is in the Temple’s courtyard. Unlike Tamino, Papageno can’t keep his promise to remain silent. His greatest wish is a glass of wine, which he immediately receives from an old hag. The hag tells Papageno that she is his preordained companion and disappears. The frightened Papageno vows to remain silent from that time on.

Tamino plays the magic flute. Pamina enters. Tamino keeps to his vow of silence and doesn’t answer her questions and admonishments. Pamina becomes extremely distraught and leaves in despair.

In the Temple, the priests congratulate Tamino on successfully meeting the challenges. Sarastro gives the couple an opportunity to say goodbye before Tamino's final challenge.

Papageno has not been successful in completing the challenges. He will never enter The Temple of Light and will never become one of the Englightened. Papageno is not distrubed by this for his desire is limited to drink, food and women. The priests bid him farewell.

Once again, the old hag appears. She threatens Papageno with certain death unless he swears marital loyalty to her. Hearing an affirmative response from Papageno, the hag is transformed into a young, seductive female and… instantly disappears. The priests have decided that Papageno is not worthy of this prize.


The Three Child-Spirits Save the Day in The Magic Flute Opera

The Magic Flute Child Spirits
The Magic Flute Child Spirits

Pamina is in despair and on the verge of suicide. The Three Child-Spirits hold her back and convince her that Tamino still loves her.

Tamino is ready for the second and third challenges. Pamina enters. She wants to go through the challenge together with Tamino. As the sounds of the magic flute play in the background, the young couple successfully go through fire and water. This is the triumph of their faith, endurance and courage.

Meanwhile, Papageno, dissillusioned with his own frailty and loss of Papagena, wants to commit suicide. At the last minute, The Three Child-Spirits appear and remind him about the magical chimes. The enchanting and desirable Papagena appears. In complete harmony, the pair dreams about the future and a large family.


Evil is Destroyed as The Magic Flute Synopsis Concludes

The Magic Flute Concludes
The Magic Flute Concludes

Monostatos secretly leads the Queen of the Night and The Three Attendants to Sarastro's Temple. The conspirators dream of a final chance to kill Sarastro and destroy The Temple of Light.

Lightening strikes! Thunder roars! The powers of darkness disappear.

The sun rises! Sarastro, the priests and all the people greet the Light, Wisdom and Love that will rule the world for ever and ever!

Adapted from the Lviv Opera House performance programme by Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych


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