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Often referred to by many as Mozart’s only pantomime, The Magic Flute is a riot of life, lust and ludicrous plot that somehow belies its portentous position in Mozart’s output.
It was premiered in his beloved Vienna just three months before his death. It had a libretto by the tenor who premiered the role of Papageno, Emmanuel Schickaneder, who was also said to have exerted considerable musical influence over Mozart at several points in the opera.
Mozart wrote much of the music with more than a passing reference to all things Masonic (he was a serving Freemason himself). Three becomes a magic number, as a result, with ladies, spirits, gates, trials, even chords all coming in the Masonically significant trios. The Queen of the Night’s aria was written for Mozart’s sister-in-law, Josepha, and her striking, naturally high coloratura. Other highlights, such as The Birdcatcher’s Aria and the Overture, make it a perennial favourite.
Barbara Hendricks (soprano); June Anderson (soprano); Thomas Allen (baritone); Robert Lloyd (bass); Alastair Miles (bass); Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus; Charles Mackerras (conductor). Telarc: 2CD80727.
Illustration: Mark Millington