A great many things have happened since Tamino set out in search of Pamina at the behest of the Queen of the Night. He has had time to find out the supernatural powers of his magic flute but also the truth about the supposed perfidy of Sarastro. Meanwhile Papageno and Pamina have been caught running away. Although Sarastro has refused to give Pamina back to her mother, he has punished the vile Monostatos and ordered Tamino and Papageno to be taken into the Temple of Trials for purification. It is there that the second act begins: Sarastro, accompanied by his priests, beseeches the aid of Isis and Osiris.
Listen to the excerpt:
SARASTRO AND CHORUS
O Isis and Osiris, grant
The spirit of wisdom to this new pair!
You who guide the wayfarers’ steps,
Fortify them with patience when they are in peril.
Let them see the fruits of their trials.
But should they go to their graves,
Reward them for their bold and virtuous course:
Welcome them to your abode.
In the early nineteenth century there were already complaints in several quarters – from orchestral musicians who had played Die Zauberflöte under the composer’s direction, and from so eminent a periodical as the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung – about how much slower than in Mozart’s time tempos in Die Zauberflöte (and other operas) had become. His Italian tempo markings in 3/4 time should be taken at one beat in the bar. Sarastro’s prayer ‘O Isis und Osiris’ (no.10) will exude greater calm when entire bars move forward slowly as prescribed (Adagio) than if the tempo marking is applied to the crotchet, thus making the piece drag.