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YMMV / The Magic Flute

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  • Allegory:
    • Tamino is the human soul seeking enlightenment; Pamina is the Spirit of Enlightenment; the Queen of the Night is the Roman Catholic Church; Sarastro is Freemasonry. The Spirit of Enlightenment originally lived with the Church, but when the Church became more interested in power and wealth than the pursuit of wisdom, it was taken from her and went to live with the Freemasons.
    • The characters represent tendencies in human nature rather than specific institutions. Monostatos and the Queen of the Night are male and female vices (hatred, lust, impudence, vengefulness). Sarastro is virtue and Masonic enlightenment. Tamino and Pamina are noble humans who turn from vice to enlightenment. Papageno and Papagena are good, decent humans who do not aspire to full enlightenment, yet deserve their happy ending (and thus show that the world is not divided strictly into Villains vs. the Enlightened).
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: There are some who believe that the Queen of the Night was the good guy after all and Sarastro really is the Big Bad. Particularly common with feminist re-interpretations of the opera. After all, throughout the first act it's really only the Queen's word against the Priests' and Sarastro's on who's the good or bad guys. Their main argument why the Queen's side of the story is false is because she is a woman. It isn't until the second act that she really goes crazy.
    • Forbidding Pamina to see her mother was petty of him, though. What harm could them being together do? Maybe it would even solve most of the conflict.
      • But look what happened when she did see her. The Queen knows how to push Pamina's buttons—after all, she INSTALLED the buttons. Sarastro needs time to undo the brainwashing before it is safe for them to meet.
    • Is Sarastro a wise and righteous ruler trying to bring wisdom to the world? Is he a tyrant who surrounds himself with yes men and slaves so his authority can never be challenged? Or a cult leader who gave Tamino and Pamina a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome and manipulated them into becoming the newest members?
  • Awesome Music: The Queen of the Night's second (and more famous) aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"), is one of the top contenders for "greatest soprano aria ever written".
    • Beethoven thought The Magic Flute overall was the best music Mozart ever wrote.
  • Democracy Is Bad and Hobbes Was Right: Sarastro isn't just Enlightened; his Enlightenment entitles him and his Order to rule, to kidnap Pamina from her mother, to keep Monostatos as a slave, to decide whether Papageno can get married (the priests tell him he'll never catch Papagena unless he undergoes their trials), force Tamino and Pamina to undergo trials that might kill them (he says if they fail, they will be "given" to Isis and Osiris, and "taste the pleasures of the Gods earlier than we do"), and to wield whatever power casts the Queen into Eternal Night. Lesser beings, whether they are good ones like Papageno or bad ones like Monostatos, have no voice in the State, and this is shown as right and proper.
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  • Draco in Leather Pants: Some commentators go too far when calling out the Values Dissonance surrounding Monostatos and insist on viewing him as an innocent victim who does nothing wrong. They accuse Sarastro of punishing him just for doing his job of trying to stop Pamina from running away; somehow they forget that sexually harassing her wasn't a necessary part of that job.
  • Ear Worm:
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Everyone seems to prefer the lovable Papageno over the boring Tamino.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Some people will insist that every single thing in the opera is a Masonic symbol, including that the music being based on triads symbolizes the Masonic significance of the number 3.note 
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The "very good reason" Sarastro gives for abducting Pamina is that she needs to learn to let men guide her. That doesn't play so well nowadays, obviously.
    • Again, this was dictated largely by the political views espoused by Schikaneder, favoring the "Enlightenment" values espoused by Joseph II against the old-fashioned values of Maria Theresa. (Of course, one of those new Enlightenment values was the idea that women were naturally irrational and unfit to rule.)
  • Fridge Logic: If the Queen and her servants lose their powers when the sun rises, why do they decide to attack the temple two minutes before sunrise? Especially since the Queen very successfully infiltrates it hours before that.
    • Also the question of why the Queen's three ladies suggest the three boys as traveling companions for Tamino and Papageno, even though the boys are obviously not on the Queen's side. This was averted in the Bergman film, though. And, by the way, why did Tamino not resort to sign language or something to indicate that he was not allowed to speak to Pamina, instead of just letting her go off and try to kill herself?
      • An argument can be made that the three boys are djinni or some other form of simple helper spirit. Their orders seem to be merely to "guide [Tamino and Papageno] on [their] journey." If this is taken to be the case, then it's less surprising that as supporting Sarastro over the Queen becomes the better option for Tamino and Papageno, the boys' loyalty also shifts.
  • Idiot Plot: The whole plot kicks off because Tamino is noble, romantic, more than a little gullible and easily taken in by a pretty face.
  • Older Than They Think: The Queen of the Night is a part for a soprano diva, with very challenging music and some of the highest notes a soprano is expected to sing, in the midst of an opera that includes mostly simple music written for performers who were actors first and singers second. Mozart may be the best known composer of this type of role, but it's actually a tradition going back to earlier Singspiels rather than a new innovation in the format.
  • The Scrappy: Monostatos; in most productions he isn't the least bit funny.
    • Which would make him an Ethnic Scrappy if you're dealing with a production that is faithful to the text, as opposed to ones that omit the racist elements of his character.
  • Signature Scene: The Queen of the Night's aria. You know which one.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The Queen of the Night's plot to have Pamina assassinate Sarastro is resolved in a single scene. At least the princess gets another reason to languish soon enough.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Thanks to the Values Dissonance, the Queen of the Night can come off as this.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Sarastro and his priests have some pretty sexist lines at times, which are generally Bowdlerized during the translation from German. Not to mention that it's the female ruler, and her black Dragon, who get cast as the baddies...
      • They're actually not always Bowdlerized. Unlike the racism in the scenes with Monostatos, the anti-woman lines are found in the music as well as in the spoken text, so they are harder to just eliminate.
      • This was mostly done to fit the Freemasons' beliefs about how men were superior to women (not that the Freemasons were unique in this belief in the late 18th century).
      • It can also be argued that while Sarastro is presented as the "better" choice between the two camps, his position is too extreme. Note how Pamina, acting on the information of the boys (the only group that is not really on either side), apparently breaks the priesthood's rules and reminds Tamino to use the damn Macguffin, probably saving everybody. Very likely a much stronger feminist message than Mozart and Schikaneder intended, but ridiculously easy to incorporate for a modern audience.
      • In fact, this is discussed in the work. Well, kind of:
      Ein Weib, das Nacht und Tod nicht scheut / ist würdig und wird eingeweiht.
      (A woman who does not fear night nor death / is worthy and will be ordained.)
    • Monostatos in general. He was originally intended to be played in blackface, and Pamina is scared of him largely because he's Black. The racial element is usually glossed over in modern productions, if not omitted entirely (by simply using race-blind casting - which is pretty standard in opera these days - and omitting all references to his race).
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: The Queen of the Night is said to have been based on the conservative Empress Maria Theresa, who opposed the "Enlightenment" (get it?) and favored the black-habited Jesuits (get it? black, like Monostatos?) — fervent opponents of the Freemasons (hence also some of the sexism of the opera). Following from this, it is quite likely that Tamino represents Joseph II, while Pamina possibly represents Austria or perhaps Europe in general.
    • Alternatively, Tamino is the human soul searching for Enlightenment; Pamina is the Spirit of Enlightenment; the Queen is the Roman Catholic Church, which was the guardian of the Spirit of Enlightenment until she became more interested in power and wealth than wisdom, when the Spirit went to live with Sarastro, who is Freemasonry.
    • On that reading, Papageno and Papagena have a very important role. Without them, the world is divided into the Enlightened (Freemasons) and the Villains. They show that the world is not so black-and-white, but that there are plenty of good and decent people who just aren't made for divine wisdom and enlightenment, yet deserve to live and be happy.


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