ACT I, SCENE 3
The birdcatcher Papageno has claimed to have overcome the serpent which attacked Prince Tamino. The deed was in fact done by the Three Ladies, acting on behalf of the Queen of the Night. In no time at all they padlock Papageno’s mouth and give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter. Tamino falls in love with her . . .
Listen to the excerpt:
I expect you want to know why the princess punishes you so curiously today?
So that you will never lie to strangers again.
And never boast of heroic deeds accomplished by others.
Tell us! Did you fight this serpent?
Then who did?
We were the ones, young man, who freed you. Have no fear! Joy and delight await you. Here, the great princess sends you this painting; it is her daughter’s portrait – if you find, she said, that these features are not indifferent to you, then happiness, honour and fame will be your lot. Farewell.
Adieu, Monsieur Papageno!
Careful not to drink too fast!
This portrait is bewitchingly fair,
Such as no eye ever beheld!
I feel that this divine image
Is filling my heart with a new emotion.
This Something I cannot name,
Yet I feel it here burning like fire.
Can this sensation be love?
Yes, yes! It can only be love.
Oh, if only I could find her!
Oh, if she were already standing here before me!
I would . . .would . . . warmly and chastely . . .
What would I do? – Full of rapture,
I would press her to this ardent bosom,
And then she would be mine forever.
The fortepiano was not banished from the orchestra pit in singspiels, even though there were no secco recitatives to accompany. The Kapellmeister kept time sitting or standing at the keyboard, and undoubtedly occasionally improvised a part on his instrument. But may the fortepiano play preludes to or comment on the dialogue? We know that Mozart liked ‘music to be inserted between the periods and spoken sections [of a play], in order to reinforce the emotions to be expressed by means of the declamation’ (H. Christoph Koch, Musikalisches Lexikon , article ‘Melodrama’). The fortepiano takes part in our dialogue only occasionally, but at decisive points, after the manner of ‘melodrama’, either to create atmosphere or (an important role in a purely audio version) to illustrate the action. In Tamino’s Portrait Aria, our fortepianist plays a prelude referring to a sketch by Mozart for an ‘alternative’ Zauberflöte overture (Fragment KAnh.103) which anticipates the aria’s main theme. The resulting atmosphere is one of ‘amour naissant’ (burgeoning love), a motif introduced into the dramaturgy of the time by Marivaux. »