Facts and Trivia about Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" (The Magic Flute)

First performed in 1791, just three months shy of Mozart's death, his opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) has become one of the world's most performed operas. Here opera singers Denise Beck (Papagena; L) and Daniel Schmutzhard (Papageno; R) perform on the floating stage during the opera's rehearsal at Seebuehne on July 12, 2013 in Bregenz, Austria.
First performed in 1791, just three months shy of Mozart's death, his opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) has become one of the world's most performed operas. Here opera singers Denise Beck (Papagena; L) and Daniel Schmutzhard (Papageno; R) perform on the floating stage during the opera's rehearsal at Seebuehne on July 12, 2013 in Bregenz, Austria. Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Die Zauberflöte Fact 1:
Die Zauberflöte was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791.  The opera's libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder, a well-rounded man of theatre who was a highly regarded producer, actor, singer, and composer.  Read the synopsis of Die Zauberflöte.  Schikaneder, with the help of his partner Bartholomäus Zitterbarth, was the creator and constructer of the famous Theater an der Wien, one of the world's largest and extravagant theaters of at the time of its completion in 1801.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 2:
When Emanuel Schikanede wrote the libretto for The Magic Flute, he borrowed from a handful of sources including Jean Terrason’s SethosYvain, AbbéOn the Mysteries of the Egyptians, as well as fairy tales from the Dschinnistan. He also drew upon his own experiences as a Freemason.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 3:
Mozart's opera is widely known as a Masonic allegory. Both Mozart and Schikaneder were Freemasons, and throughout the opera, the symbolism they employed becomes easily apparent.  The opera's plot reflects ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, a belief in liberty, progress, knowledge, and religious freedom, as well as the rejection of the church and its abuses.  The Queen of the Night represents the church, while Sarastro represents the Enlightenment.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 4:
Die Zauberflöte was the last opera Mozart composed, and it premiered on September 30, 1791 - roughly three months before Mozart died.

Mozart himself conducted the orchestra, while the librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, sang the role of Papageno.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 5:
When Mozart wrote this opera, many of the vocal passages were written specifically for the singers that would premier his work.  These parts, especially for singers playing the roles of The Queen of the Night and Sarastro, proved to be quite the challenge for later performers.

 The Queen of the Night's famous arias "Der Hölle Rache" and "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn" require the singer to sing F6, which is roughly two and a half octaves above middle C on a piano, and Sarastro has to sing F2, which is one and a half octaves lower than middle C.  These vocal ranges require great skill and vocal agility.  (Discover your own vocal range and voice type.)  Mozart accommodated less experienced performers by doubling their voice parts within the orchestra.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 6:
The Queen of the Night's aria, "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" is one of the most well-known opera aria's of all time. Read the English translation of "Der Hölle Rache."  Taking place in the second act, this difficult aria demands a two octave vocal range and and an agile lyric soprano voice with enough weight and drama to convey the seriousness of the scene.  Watch a YouTube video of one of my favorite performances of "Der Hölle Rache" played by Diana Damrau.

Die Zauberflöte Fact 7:
Though reviews of the opera's initial performances have been lost to time, it is evident by the opera's 100 following performances that Die Zauberflöte was a complete success.  Since its creation over two hundred years ago, the opera has become one of the world's most performed operas.

 According to 2012-2013 Operabase statistics, the opera was ranked in fourth place. 

Die Zauberflöte Fact 8:

Here is a short list of films in which you'll hear music from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (view more listings of classical music used in movies at Naxos):

  • All the Wrong Places (2000)

  • Amadeus (1984)

  • Face/Off (1997)

  • The General's Daughter (1999)

  • House of Last Things (2013)

  • I Sweet Sixteen (2002)

  • In All Innocence (1998)

  • Keiner liebt mich (1994)

  • Miss Congeniality (2000)

  • Operation Dumbo Drop (1995)

  • The Rocketeer (1991)

  • Watch it (1993)