Mozart’s last opera Die Zauberflöte, ‘The Magic Flute’, was written out of desperate economic necessity during the final years of his tragically short life. His fellow Freemasons lent him money and suggested that he write the music for a Zauberoper (‘magic opera’) style of Singspiel. Their spectacular scenic effects made such works enormously popular, particularly with less sophisticated audiences, and Mozart’s music for the pseudo-Oriental fairy tale, Lulu, or the Magic Flute, was an immediate success. The public was captivated by the opera, by the fantastical characters on stage and by Mozart’s ravishing music.

The first performance of The Magic Flute took place in Vienna on 30 September, 1791 and by 6 November there had been twenty-four performances. Mozart’s immense pride and great enjoyment in his new opera must have been tempered with regret that his father, who had always encouraged him to write more popular music, had not lived long enough to hear The Magic Flute and witness his triumph. Our regret is that Mozart himself died a few weeks later on 5 December.

An Irishman’s comment gets neatly to the heart of the matter: the playwright, music critic and devout Mozartean, George Bernard Shaw, said that Sarastro’s two arias were the only music yet written for the mouth of God.

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