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After 1784, Mozart was a member of the Freemasons, and wrote music for certain Masonic lodges. The Magic Flute has been called a “Masonic opera” due to its symbolism and the fact that both librettist and composer were Masons. It is a singspiel – a genre of opera literally meaning “song-play” and referring to German-language music dramas. In crafting the libretto for The Magic Flute, Emanuel Schikaneder drew on several collections of stories and fairy-tales popular in Germany and Austria. The opera tells the story of Tamino, who, traveling with his companion Papageno, rescues the Queen of the Night’s daughter Pamina, from her evil mother’s clutches.
The overture was finished just several days before the premiere of the opera. Scored for flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets in pairs, three trombones, timpani, and strings, the Overture is succinct and energetic. After the initial tonic triad statement opening, the music leaps into an Allegro, the theme of which Mozart apparently pilfered from composer and pianist Muzio Clementi’s Sonata in B-flat, Op. 24, No. 2. The Allegro seldom pauses as it gallops along to a harmonious finish. The overture’s dynamics and the fugal treatment of the movement’s single theme make it sound much more complex than it is. Indeed one of the greatest works in the operatic literature, The Magic Flute weaves story and music together so effectively that they become one. If Mozart had not died two months after the premiere of The Magic Flute, his life likely would have been changed by its success. Instead, the opera would be Mozart’s last great completed work.