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Classical Sprouts: Papageno And The Magic Flute

Papageno in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute

Mozart loved birds, so it's no surprise that the birdcatcher plays an important role in one of this composer's most famous operas, The Magic Flute.

Papageno is a kind of goofy, nice guy who really just wants to find love.

There's another person in the story looking for love - a Prince named Tamino.

Papageno is helping Tamino on his quest to win over a princess named Pamina, and on their journey, Papageno and Tamino are faced with all kinds of obstacles.

At the beginning of The Magic Flute, a serpent chases after Tamino, who ends up fainting in fright.

When he wakes up, he sees Papageno, who, dressed as a bird, sings a famous aria called "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja," or ”I am the bird catcher."

Tamino mistakenly things Papageno saved him from the serpent, and Papageno goes along with it.

As punishment for his lies to Tamino, the people who actually killed the serpent, attendants to the Pamina's mother, the Queen of the Night, padlock Papageno's mouth shut and assign him to be Tamino's helper on his quest to rescue Pamina.

Tamino and Papageno split up on their search, and Papageno ends up finding Pamina first.

They sing an aria about love called “A Man In Search of Truth and Beauty" before beginning the journey back to Tamino.

Once they're reunited, though, the villain Sarastro captures the trio, forcing Tamino to undergo yet another series of trials to prove he is worthy of Pamina's love.

Now, we fast-forward to the next chapter of Papageno's story, when he's caught in some trouble because he's been talking too much.

He confesses that he's just looking for a wife, and an old woman appears, saying that Papageno will be imprisoned forever if he doesn't marry her.

Papageno half-heartedly agrees, and the old woman transforms into the young, beautiful Papagena.

They don't live happily ever after yet, though; the next time we hear from Papageno he's distraught, thinking he's lost Papagena for good.

But, child spirits visit and tell him he can bring Papagena back by ringing some magic bells.

They were right, and when Papagena reappears, the two sing bird-like songs together as they plan their future.

Overwhelmed by all the German? Watch Kenneth Branagh's film version of the opera in English!

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Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson. Kacie Brown is the digital content manager.

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.
Emily Duncan Wilson produces the Classical Sprouts podcast.