Prince Tamino from a serpent (“A serpent! A monster!”). When they leave
to tell the queen, the bird catcher Papageno bounces in and boasts to
Tamino that it was he who killed the creature (“I’m Papageno”). The
ladies return to give Tamino a portrait of the queen’s daughter,
Pamina, who they say is enslaved by the evil Sarastro, and they padlock
Papageno’s mouth for lying. Tamino falls in love with Pamina’s face in
the portrait (“This portrait’s beauty”). The queen, appearing in a
burst of thunder, is grieving over the loss of her daughter; she
charges Tamino with Pamina’s rescue (“my fate is grief”). The ladies
give a magic flute to Tamino and silver bells to Papageno to ensure
their safety, appointing three spirits to guide them (“Hm! Hm! Hm!
Sarastro’s slave Monostatos pursues Pamina (“You will not dare
escape”), but is frightened away by the feather-covered Papageno, who
tells Pamina that Tamino loves her and intends to save her. Led by the
three spirits to the Temple of Sarastro, Tamino is advised by a high
priest that it is the queen, not Sarastro, who is evil. Hearing the
Pamina is safe, Tamino charms the animals with flute, then rushes to
follow the sound of Papageno’s pipes. Monostatos and his cohorts chase
Papageno and Pamina but are left helpless by Papageno’s magic bells.
Sarastro, entering in great ceremony (“Long life to Sarastro”),
promises Pamina eventual freedom and punishes Monostatos. Pamina is
enchanted by a glimpse of Tamino, who is led into the temple with
Sarastro tells his priests that Tamino will undergo initiation rites
(“O Isis and Osiris”). Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina
(“men were born to be great loves”). He is discovered by the Queen of
the Night, who dismisses him. She gives her daughter a dagger with
which to murder Sarastro (“Here in my heart, Hell’s bitterness”).
The weeping Pamina is confronted and consoled by Sarastro (“Within our
sacred temple”). Tamino and Papageno are told by a priest that they
must remain silent and refrain from eating, a vow that Papageno
immediately breaks when he takes a glass of water form a flirtatious
old lady. The old lady vanishes when he asks her name. The three
spirits appear to guide Tamino through the rest of his journey and to
tell Papageno to be quiet. Tamino remains silent even when Pamina
appears, which breaks her heart since she cannot understand his
reticence (“Now my heart is filled with sadness”).
The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more trials to complete
his initiation (“Why, beloved, must we part?”). Papageno longs for a
cuddly wife but settles for the old lady. When he promises to be
faithful she turns into a young Papagena but soon disappears. After
many dangers, Pamina and Tamino are reunited and face the ordeals of
water and fire protected by the magic flute.
Papageno is saved from attempted suicide by the spirits who remind him
that if he uses his magic bells, he will find true happiness. When he
does, Papagena appears and the two play for the future and move into a
bird’s nest (“Pa-pa-pa. . .”). The Queen of the Night, her three ladies
and Monostatos attack the temple but are defeated and banished.
Sarastro joins Pamina and Tamino as the people hail Isis, Osiris and
the triumph of courage, virtue and wisdom.