On this day in 1791, The Magic Flute was first performed — just over two months before Mozart died. Mozart had always been keenly interested in the theater. Somewhere, I read a critique he had written of Hamlet and he got the basic problems with the play right. He really did understand dramatic structure. What’s more, he was very much involved with all the parts of his operas — working closely with his librettists. And that was most especially true of Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto for The Magic Flute.
Schikaneder was an interesting guy. He was born to domestic servants, but was educated and learned music. He eventually became leader of his own theater troupe at the Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna. He was generally the male lead, librettist, and often composer. He was highly successful during the decade before and after The Magic Flute. But he apparently wasn’t a great businessman — preferring to put on lavish productions and falling into debt. He died in 1812, impoverished and insane. But he led a very interesting life.
Here is a nice short video that doesn’t include any singing, but it includes all the visuals that are the kind of stuff that drove Schikaneder broke. It’s quite beautiful. And yes, I could post the whole opera here. But would you sit here for two and a half hours listening to it? No. (But if you would, the UGA Opera Ensemble performance — In English! — is just a click away.) This clip is from the Dallas Opera: