The Classical Period: “Pamina’s Suicide” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute | Music Arts Toolkit
This segment features a performance of the song “Pamina’s Suicide” from the opera The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Performers are from the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
Opera is a staged drama that is mostly sung, with instrumental accompaniment. The word opera comes from the Latin word “opus,” which means “a work.”
Singing in performed dramas goes back to Greek times. Medieval religious plays also included singing.
The form of opera as we know it today began in Italy in the late 1500s, when a group of musicians, poets, and others began to talk about how to improve music and drama. The earliest opera still performed today is L’Orfeo. It was written in 1607 by Claudio Monteverdi.
Opera was very popular during the Classical period. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the leading composers of the period, was a master of many types of music. He wrote both serious and funny operas. He also wrote a type of opera called singspiel, in which the dialogue is both sung and spoken.
The Magic Flute was first performed in 1791. It was one of Mozart’s last works, written the year he died. The story is set in ancient Egypt and centers around Tamino, a young prince who enters a quest to win the hand of the princess Pamina. To marry Pamina, Tamino must undergo a series of initiation rites which test his dedication to reason.
The opera is full of adventure, fantasy, and romance. It deals with magic and enchantment and the battle between good and evil.
In the song “Pamina’s Suicide,” three mystical spirits encounter Pamina, who is thinking about killing herself because she thinks Tamino has rejected her. She doesn’t realize that he was forced to take a vow of silence. The spirits tell Pamina that Tamino really does love her and that they will soon be reunited.
1. What story is this song telling? How does it tell the story? Are there any props or staging?
2. How do the singers interact?
3. Have any students ever seen an opera? What do they know about opera?
4. This is a performance from a program that was a tribute to the art of opera. How do you think the performance is different than if it was from a stage presentation of the entire opera The Magic Flute?
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