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Work of the week - Mozart: The Magic Flute

Emanuel Schikaneder, once a wandering musician in a wandering smear theater, worked his way up to the director of the Theater an der Wieden in Vienna with great skill. Because in March 1791 he was in considerable financial straits because he had become over-indebted to run his theater, he begged his friend Mozart to help him.

He found excellent material for a magic opera in the fairy tale "Lulu or the Magic Flute" and wrote a libretto from it. The friend and like-minded Freemason should put this into music for him. A small garden pavilion close to the theater was quickly set up for the composer and work could begin: Mozart composed and Schikaneder never missed an opportunity to visit his friend Wolferl to work hard - including a plentiful amount of champagne.

A victorious double

© public domain

The Magic Flute - theater bill for the premiere on September 30, 1791 in the Freihaus auf der Wieden in Vienna

Anyone who has even a rudimentary interest in music theater knows what emerged from the collaboration. Hardly any stage work has experienced such a success story as the “Magic Flute”, as Mathias Husmann points out in his introduction to the work. The premiere - Schikaneder himself gave the Papageno - was a triumph: the librettist and director had planned 14 changes on stage alone, and the audience was enthusiastic about the “machine and magic opera”.

But not only the music and the stage spectacle, but also the sense of a gripping story in the style of an ancient romance novel, in which the protagonists have to walk the path of knowledge and examination in order to finally come together, were decisive for the great success of the opera, the continues to this day.

Mozart survived the premiere of his opera by only nine weeks - he never achieved the worldwide success of his “Magic Flute”.

The most important facts about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Magic Flute":

German opera in two acts

Orchestral line-up


2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets or basset horns, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, a keyboard glockenspiel (mostly a celesta) and strings

Playing time

About 3 hours

The premiere took place on September 30, 1791 in the Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna.

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Reference recording

Mozart: The Magic Flute
Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Claudio Abbado (Head)
Contributors: Dorothea Röschmann, Erika Miklósa, Christoph Strehl, René Pape, Hanno Müller-Brachmann and others
Deutsche Grammophon

On his first recording of Mozart's successful opera, Claudio Abbado conducts the top-class Mahler Chamber Orchestra he founded in 1997. In addition, he has gathered excellent singers around him. The result is a recording for the composer's 250th birthday, which, with a keen sense of drama and rapid tempos, appears so fluid and natural that you want to hear it again right away.

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