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The Scrivener: Another Look At Mozart's 'The Magic Flute', Part 5

Continuing his fascinating series on Mozart's marvelous opera The Magic Flute, Brian Barratt highlights further references to Masonic ritual.

In this series of notes, we have been considering some of the references to Freemasonry in Mozart's Opera 'Die Zauberflöte', 'The Magic Flute'. It is important to keep in mind that if you have seen one production of the opera on stage, film or DVD you might not have seen or noticed the allusions. How they are shown, or not shown, depends on how the director chooses to adapt the story and how the set-designer chooses to present it. One of the finest productions — judged by some to be the best of all presentations of an opera on film — has very few indications of anything Masonic.

We must go back to the libretto to find one of the most interesting references. At the beginning of Act 2, when Sarastro the High Priest of the Temple of Wisdom, is asking his fellow-priests if they agree that Prince Pamino should be admitted, we find this dialogue:

SARASTRO: You, servants consecrated in the temple of wisdom of the great gods Osiris and Isis, with a clear conscience I declare to you that our gathering today is one of the most important of our time. Tamino, the son of a king, has journeyed to the north gate of our temple. He wishes to tear off his veil of night and look into the sanctuary of great light. To offer him the hand of friendship should be our duty today!

SPEAKER: Does he possess virtue?


SECOND PRIEST: Discretion too?

SARASTRO: Discretion!

SPEAKER: Is he charitable?

SARASTRO: Charitable! If you think him worthy, follow my example...

The key is 'at the north gate of our temple'. Masonic Lodge rooms traditionally have a symbolic north, south, east and west. In Mozart's time, a candidate seeking admission described himself as coming from the west and journeying to the east. He entered via a door in the north-west corner and his first guided walk round the room started with a perambulation along the north side. There are no symbolic lights along the north wall inside a Lodge; it represents the area of darkness from which a candidate emerges as he journeys toward the light. This reference to darkness, by Schikaneder, is a veiled comment on the contemporary state of affairs under Empress Marie Theresa.

In 'The Magic Flute', both Pamina and Pagageno are blindfolded before they can be subjected to the ordeals required. This is a direct allusion to the old Masonic ritual which states: 'The Deacon now ties a handkerchief or hoodwink over his eyes'. (To hoodwink means, simply, to blindfold.)

These points, by the way, are not among the secrets which a Freemason is obliged to keep. They are simply matters of procedure, largely drawn from rituals performed during and in the years following the lives of Mozart and Schikaneder.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2011


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