Attacked by a serpent in a land unknown to him, Prince Tamino faints. Three Ladies suddenly appear, strike down the beast, and depart to inform the Queen of the Night: perhaps he will be able to ‘restore her former tranquillity’. Recovering his senses, Tamino finds himself in the presence of the dead serpent and the birdcatcher Papageno, who boasts of overcoming it…
Listen to the excerpt :
Yes, I’m the birdcatcher,
Always merry, hurrah! Hop there!
The birdcatcher is well known
To old and young throughout the land.
I know how to use decoys
And make myself understood with my pipes.
That’s why I can be happy and cheerful,
For all the birds are mine.
René Jacobs’ view
«Not everyone is capable of following right to the end the arduous path from popular to elite religion (deism), because some people, like Papageno, find the elite religion ‘too elevated and abstract’. But neither Schikaneder, who played Papageno himself, nor Mozart holds this against him: Papageno, who will never be among the initiated, remains the most sympathetic figure in the piece – like Hanswurst in German Baroque opera, he sets the sublime in perspective.
We have remained faithful to the text of the first performance and have made only a few very brief cuts in the dialogue. The third strophe of Papageno’s Birdcatcher Song (no.2) is not sung – it was only added in 1795. »