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"it is the evident quiet approbation which best pleases me! It is apparent that this opera is rising rapidly and steadily in estimation." Mozart, letter to his wife, October 7-8, 1791.
Unfortunately, his tragic death a scant two months later prevented Mozart from ever realizing the full accuracy of this observation, made a few performances after the cool reception given The Magic Flute at its Viennese premiere.
In May 1791, Mozart's friend Emanuel Schikaneder commissioned The Magic Flute. In keeping with the popular level of this theater, Schikaneder himself supplied Mozart with the libretto about the rescue of a good fairy's daughter from a wicked magician by a hero armed with a magic flute. After a good deal of the music was written, the composer and librettist both Freemasons grafted Masonic ideals onto the plot, transforming a simple fairy tale into a moralistic allegory and a Singspiel into one of the world's greatest operas.
This handsome, moderately priced volume, reprinted directly form an authoritative edition, will enable musicians, music students, and opera lovers to gain a fuller appreciation of Mozart's mastery of operatic language, orchestral color, and dramatic expression. A helpful feature of this edition is the inclusion of all spoken dialog, usually abbreviated in other editions.
The story certainly has problems, but the score--one of Mozart's last--overcomes them all as surely as the Three Ladies scrag the serpent and Sarastro and the forces of truth and reason overcome the wicked Queen of the Night. This music has it all, from the heroic notes of Sarastro and the priests to the humor of the bird catcher Papageno. Don't overlook the wonderful ensembles of the Drei Damen and Drei Knaben; Mozart blends trios of soprano voices in a way that's undiluted magic, and that no one even came close to imitating until more than two centuries later, when Richard Strauss took the master's lessons to heart.
You can examine for yourself just how Mozart achieved his effect with this full orchestral score from Dover. It's a reprint of another publisher's out-of-copyright score (C.F. Peters of Leipzig, in this particular case); also, there's not a word of English in it once you get past Dover's title pages and the translation of the table of contents that they've thoughtfully provided. What you will get is all of the instrumental parts (note that most pianists will be unable to do much with this score!), all of the vocal parts, and acres of uncut German dialogue. Dover scores are a reasonably priced resource for singers, instrumentalists, conductors, and anyone who cares deeply about the opera.