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Opera in Concert: Mozart’s Magic Flute

Professional Bay Area Opera singers will share the stage with ArtQuest’s chorus and dancers as well as the orchestra for a concert version of Mozart’s most popular opera. The colorful and engaging music of The Magic Flute encompasses all the elements of a good fairytale with rich characters, beautifully drawn by Mozart’s music.

PLUS PRE-CONCERT FUN! Handcrafted Magic Flute character sculptures, made by ArtQuest students, in the courtyard. In the lobby, music and photographs documenting the creation of this production, by ArtQuest students, as they bring this glorious special concert to life.

Special Event


Wolfgang Amadeus MozartDie Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), K. 620 (abridged)


Weill Hall, Green Music Center

Saturday, April 15, 2023 | 7:30 pm

ArtQuest Staff and Instructors

Katie Loomis, Program Coordinator
Marla Tusa, Vocal Music
Lea Brown, Dance
Jereme Anglin, Theatre Arts
Jason Pedri, Video Arts
Lauren Frost, Digital Arts
Brooke Delello, Visual Fine Arts
Janet Fisher, Visual Fine Arts
Tim Decker, Instrumental Music
John Sappington, Photography

San Francisco Conservatory of Music students

Victor Cardamone, Tamino
Ellen Leslie, Pamina
Hyesoo Kim, Papagena
Erica Thelen, First Lady/Child-Spirit
Taylor See, Second Lady/Child-Spirit
Hope Nelson, Third Lady/Child-Spirit
Jackson Allen, Monostatos/First Armored Man
Joe Hack, Temple Speaker/Second Armored Man



Single tickets available now.

Plan Your Visit

We gratefully acknowledge the generous contributions from the following:

Lead Sponsor: Victor and Karen Trione
Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong Sponsored by David and Corinne Byrd
ArtQuest Santa Rosa High School sponsored by Willow Creek Wealth Management
Ellen Leslie sponsored by Pauline Fisher
Efraín Solís sponsored by Jack Dupre and Marsha Vas Dupre
Shawnette Sulker sponsored by Irene Sohm

Programs, dates, artists, and prices are subject to change without notice. Tickets are subject to availability.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), K. 620 (abridged)

COMPOSER: born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austria; died December 5, 1791, Vienna

WORK COMPOSED: between April and July 1791, on a libretto by Emanuel Schickaneder

WORLD PREMIERE: Mozart led the premiere at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna on September 30, 1791

INSTRUMENTATION: Tamino (tenor), Papageno (baritone), Pamina (soprano), Queen of the Night (coloratura soprano), Sarastro (bass), 3 Ladies (sopranos), Monostatos (tenor), 3 Child-Spirits (treble, alto, mezzo-soprano), Speaker of the Temple (bass-baritone) 3 Priests (tenor, bass, speaker), Papagena (soprano), 2 Armored Men (tenor, bass), 3 Slaves (2 tenors, bass), SATB chorus, 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings


During the summer and fall of 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart juggled several projects: his final opera, La clemenza di Tito; the singspiel The Magic Flute, the Requiem (which Mozart left unfinished at his death), and the Clarinet Concerto. In September 1791, as Mozart raced to complete The Magic Flute, he was also opening La clemenza in Prague. This hectic schedule resulted in long days, sleepless nights, and hours traveling between Vienna and Prague, in less than comfortable conditions. After he premiered La clemenza, Mozart fell ill; he spent the final two months of his life frantically trying to complete as much music as possible while he could still work. He died on December 5, 1791, seven weeks before his 36th birthday.

Both the story and music of The Magic Flute reflect Mozart’s style and personality; conductor Bruno Walter called it “Mozart’s own spiritual will and testament.” Written in German, Mozart’s mother tongue, the fanciful tale incorporates many of the Enlightenment ideals to which Mozart aspired: noble virtue, the universality of mankind, integrity, and the heroic striving for knowledge. These lofty aspirations combine with unapologetically lowbrow humor to make The Magic Flute a true masterpiece, one Mozart wrote for everyday people rather than the aristocracy or the Church.

In technical terms, The Magic Flute falls into the category of singspiel (speech-song) rather than opera, as it incorporates spoken dialogue rather than recitatives between songs. Singspiels, a form of German comic opera, were quite popular in Mozart’s time. He was familiar with the style, having previously composed several singspiele, including Bastien und Bastienne, written at the tender age of 12, and The Abduction from the Seraglio, the first large-scale stage work he wrote after moving to Vienna in 1782. Singspiele are especially well-suited for plots that feature magical, whimsical, or “exotic” elements. Librettist, actor, and theatrical impresario Emanuel Schikaneder no doubt had singspiel in mind for The Magic Flute, whose story combines elements of several earlier tales. Research suggests Schikaneder may have been influenced by a 12th-century romanYvain (Owain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table), as well as the 1731 fantasy novel Life of SethosTaken from the private Memoirs of the Ancient Egyptians. Schickanader’s theatrical company was also known for its productions of Zauberoper (fairy-tale operas), particularly Oberon and The Philosopher’s Stone.

In 1784, Mozart became a Freemason, drawn as he was to the group’s belief in Enlightenment and humanist values. Many of Mozart’s friends and colleagues were also Masons, including Schikaneder, who found in Masonic symbology a perfect vehicle for telling a fanciful tale. The Magic Flute abounds in Masonic references. The number three has particular Masonic significance; the overture, set in the key of E-flat (three flats), begins with three bold chords, meant to represent the three knocks that open secret Masonic rites. These chords return later in the overture, and recur at pivotal dramatic moments in the opera.

Opera plots are known for their convoluted storylines, particularly comic operas, with their reliance on misdirection, deception, and mistaken identity. Schikaneder’s story is less purely complicated and more puzzling, however. Prince Tamino is given a quest by the Queen of the Night to rescue the Queen’s daughter, Pamina, from the evil clutches of the wicked sorcerer Sarastro. This sets up the premise that Tamino, Pamina, and the Queen are “good” characters, while Sarastro is presented as “bad.” Halfway through the story these assumptions are turned upside-down. During his travels, Tamino, accompanied by the half-man, half-bird Papageno, finds Sarastro and comes to understand that Sarastro was rescuing Pamina from the Queen, who is actually the evildoer in this story. Along the way, as Sarastro charges them to perform three “trials” to prove their bravery, loyalty, and honesty, Tamino and Pamina fall in love (Papageno eventually finds love himself in the form of the adoring half-woman half-bird Papagena), and the Queen is defeated.

Musicologist Luke Howard offers an intriguing explanation for this narrative about-face. “These plot peculiarities can be understood in terms of a larger universal story that untangles the complexities of façade and inner truth,” he writes. “In this interpretation, The Magic Flute is a sophisticated symbolic vehicle, a lesson in epistemology that represents a philosophical exercise commonly known in German as Sein und Schein (Reality and Appearance). It invites the viewer to look past first appearances, and examine the premises and assumptions on which those appearances are based. In other words, it takes the story much further than a mere fairy tale – where characters are “types” and the distinction between good and evil usually well-marked – and turns it into a more meaningful and profound allegory … the audience … discovers the true Sein (Reality) beneath the deceptive Schein (or Appearance). This makes the first part of the opera an intentional deception, trying to convince Tamino that good is evil, and evil good. The second Act then pulls the curtain back and reveals the Truth that the Queen had hidden in the opera’s opening.”

© 2023 Elizabeth Schwartz Elizabeth Schwartz is a writer and music historian based in the Portland area. She has been a program annotator for more than 20 years, and works with music festivals and ensembles around the country. Schwartz has also contributed to NPR’s “Performance Today,” (now heard on American Public Media).

NOTE: These program notes are for Santa Rosa Symphony patrons and other interested readers. Any other use is forbidden without specific permission from the author, who may be contacted at classicalmusicprogramnotes.com.