The Magic Flute and Freemasonry
- Peter Dieckermann
Wellington is in for a treat with a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, presented by the New Zealand Opera company. Here is a great opportunity for those who may enjoy the challenge of applying their knowledge of the language of symbolism to prove their Masonic mettle. The symbolism some of it by gesture is subtle indeed and easily missed if the productions on Youtube are a measure to compare with. Some may be a little confused if the commonly known Masonic symbols are not in evidence. Indeed some of the symbolism used may date back to early Babylonia and Assyria but can arguably be found to still exist in Church, Lodge and early legal documents without their origins being known or their use recognised.
An additional point to be taken into consideration is that Mozart was a member of ‘The Rite of Strict Observance’ with its additional symbolism, entry to which was by the path of Craft Masonry.
Whilst we owe a great debt to Mozart for the music, it is arguably to fellow Freemason Emanuel Schikaneder, flamboyant actor manager to whom we may attribute the Libretto in two acts. Schikaneder did not have to search far for a plot, but used one from an existing collection of Oriental Fairy tales collected by Martin Weiland and entitled Lulu.
Vienna at this period had a taste for magical opera, and Schikaneder ever capable of meeting the needs of the public, gave them what they ‘most desired’ and produced three. The first in 1789, Oberon, Konig der Elfin (Oberon King of The Elves) a second in 1790 Stein der Weisen (The Philosophers Stone) with contributions by Mozart. The last and most famous being Zauberflote (Magic Flute) in 1791. Schikaneder ever ready to satisfy the Opera going public sprang from the financial burden of a lease of an 800 seat theatre, and with Freemasonry being a topical subject, capitalised accordingly, with The Magic Flute and its Masonic woven theme. “His audacity was equal to his Frivolity” quotes Seyfried. The continual need to maintain a balance between Masonic symbolic propriety and a required financial return is evidenced by existing correspondence between Mozart and Schikaneder, many will today empathise with this continual balancing act.
Lastly but not least, whilst speculating on the Mysteries of Masonic Symbolism, spare a moment for the Mysteries of the theatre. Creating the illusion of the elements of Thunder, Rain, Wind and Fire all required equipment to be devised, operated and maintained. To do this a variety of Master Craftsmen were required. You may like to google ‘Thunder run’ as a ‘Window’ into these mysteries, or perhaps a brief history of The Theatre Royal Bristol.
Mozart and Schikaneder open windows for us into a ‘moveable feast’ of Mysteries, what wonderful Freemasons they both were.
The Magic Flute is being performed at St James’ Theatre Wellington - May 28th 2016 and running until June 26th 2016.
Jacques: The Magic Flute unveiled. Esoteric symbolism in Mozart’s Masonic Opera.
The Mozart Opera Society. Die Zauberflote. 1938 With introductory Essay and Notes by Walter Legge.
Richard Southern: The Georgian Playhouse. Pleiades Books London 1948.
H. C. Robbins Landon: Mozart and The Masons, New light on The Lodge of Crowned Hope.
Thursday 17th of March 2016