The Magic Flute
The action takes place in an imaginary ancient Egypt.
A serpent chases Prince Tamino through a valley. When he falls unconscious, three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night emerge from a temple and kill the beast. They leave to tell the queen, and Tamino awakens, assuming he was saved by Papageno, a good-natured bird-catcher who has just arrived. When Papageno accepts the credit, the three ladies reappear and padlock his lips to punish him for lying. They show Tamino a picture of Pamina, the beautiful daughter of their mistress, and he immediately falls in love with her. When they tell him she has been kidnapped by a magician named Sarastro, the Queen appears and asks Tamino to rescue Pamina. He agrees, and the ladies free Papageno, giving him a set of magic chimes and Tamino a magic flute for protection.
Papageno, sent ahead by Tamino, arrives at Sarastro’s palace. A villainous guard, Monostatos, is attempting to seduce Pamina, but is scared off by Papageno. The bird-catcher tells Pamina that Tamino has fallen in love with her and plans to rescue her. Pamina rejoices that she now has somebody to love, and the lonely Papageno dreams of a wife.
Three spirits lead Tamino to the entrance of a temple in Sarastro’s palace. A priest, the Speaker, informs him that the Queen is really the evil one and that the good Sarastro was merely trying to free Pamina from her mother’s dark influence. Tamino departs to find Pamina, who has escaped from Sarastro’s palace with Papageno. Monostatos soon finds them, but Papageno plays his magic bells, rendering the villains harmless. Sarastro enters and tells Pamina she is free to marry but not to return to her mother. Monostatos drags in Tamino and demands a reward, but is instead punished for his evil deeds. Sarastro orders the priests to take Tamino and Pamina to the temple for purification.
Sarastro informs the priests that Tamino and Papageno must undergo initiation rites to determine their worthiness to enter the Temple of Light. Brave Tamino and faint-hearted Papageno receive contradictory counsel from the priests and the Queen’s three ladies but decide to follow the priests’ advice. The Queen visits Pamina, commanding her to murder Sarastro. Horrified, Pamina refuses and begs Sarastro to forgive her mother. He agrees, declaring that only love, not vengeance, will lead to peace and happiness.
As part of their initiation trials, Tamino and Papageno are sworn to silence. An old woman appears briefly to Papageno, declaring that she is really 18 years old and in love with him. Pamina arrives but misunderstands Tamino’s silence and leaves heartbroken.
The old woman returns to the lovesick Papageno. The Speaker promises him that if he swears fidelity to the woman, she will be the wife of whom he has dreamed. When Papageno agrees, the old woman is transformed into the young Papagena, but she is quickly ordered away by the Speaker. Meanwhile, Pamina, about to commit suicide using the dagger her mother meant for Sarastro, is prevented by the three spirits, who take her to Tamino. Pamina joins him in the final trial, and the pair emerges unscathed thanks to the magic of Tamino’s flute.
The three spirits encounter Papageno attempting to hang himself and suggest that instead he play his magic bells. When he does, Papagena appears and the two declare their love and their intent to raise a large family. Monostatos joins forces with the Queen of the Night to kill Sarastro, but their plan is foiled when their powers are magically destroyed and they are cast into eternal night. Sarastro, joined by Tamino and Pamina, celebrates the victory of light over darkness.