Mozart – The Magic Flute

Mozart – The Magic Flute, excerpts from Act I no. 4 (Queen of the Night), 5 (Quintet)

Example Introduction

 The Magic Flute was composed by Mozart in 1791. It is an example of a Singspiel Opera with German text and it portrays the story of Tamino the Prince seeking to rescue Pamina. Pamina is the daughter of the Queen of the Night, who tells Tamino that he is to rescue Pamina. Papageno is a bird-catcher who tasked with helping Tamino rescue Pamina. The Three Ladies give Papageno a Magic Flute & Bells to help him on his quest. The anthology features the coloratura Aria for the Queen of the Night and the Quintet between Papageno, The Three Ladies and Tamino. This essay will focus on how Mozart enhanced the drama and brought to life this story through the consideration of [INSERT ELEMENTS]. It will also suggest how this is a clear example of an opera from the late classical period.

 Lines of argument & contextual information

  • Solo – allows, in this case, for virtuosity & a show of strength & power.
  • Quintet – Allows the drama to advance through the interaction of different characters.
  • Late Classical Period – 1791
  • Opera – brings together orchestral music, solos, duets, trios etc. It is telling a story through music and dialogue as well as on stage production – we even have the thunder SFX in the Queen of the Night Aria.
  • Singspiel – Spoken & Sung
  • German
  • Entertainment – Elements of Comedy
  • Coloratura Soprano – Virtuoso – She reaches a single top F in the coloratura section. This is high in pitch and adds to the drama and sense of her character – power.

Focus on the Classical period (and this is fairly late on in the 18th Century)

  • Balanced phrasing
  • Clear tonality,
  • Clear structure,
  • Diatonic & functional harmony.
  • The orchestra is string dominated, but the wind is starting to do more.
  • Clear cadences that help to define the structure.
  • Tonic & dominant harmony and related keys are used and modulated to.
  • Melodic ideas in the quintet are “simple”, with a fairly limited range and stepwise movement.
  • Neapolitan Sixth Chord used in Queen of the Night aria to add harmonic interest & colour. Flattened Supertonic in First Inversion – Dflat Major Chord if you are in C major and it would have an F in the bass.
  • Dynamics added to the score – maybe more of a late classical feature. In this case the dynamics are helping to enhance the drama. Dynamics were not given to the singers as they were given the freedom to add them as they saw fit.
  • Italian terms still used despite the German language.
  • The juxtaposition of minims which add drama & semi-quaver melisma’s that add real colour and enhance the text. Diversity of note values is mainly in the Aria – the coloratura & virtuosic style.

Wider Listening

  • Another Mozart Opera
  • Another piece from the anthology – Bach & Vaughan Williams. How has the vocal style changed.
  • You could also consider an opera by Wagner where the operatic style really did reach its peak – Wagner pushed the genre to the limit, especially with his famous Ring Cycle.
  • Rigoletto (1851) by Verdi will also show the more Romantic side to opera, and is also a great example of the Italian operatic form that existed in the mid 19th Century.

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