ACT I, SCENE 8
After padlocking Papageno’s mouth for claiming to have saved Prince Tamino, the Three Ladies have been instructed by their mistress, the Queen of the Night, to help Tamino in the mission with which she has entrusted him: to free her daughter Pamina from the clutches of her abductor, the perfidious Sarastro. At the end of the celebrated Quintet in scene 8, they give Tamino a magic flute and Papageno a set of bells. Three Boys will guide them in their task . . .
Listen to the excerpt:
THE THREE LADIES
Three little boys, young, fair, gracious and wise,
Will hover over you on your journey.
They will be your guides;
Follow their counsel alone.
TAMINO AND PAPAGENO
Three little boys, young, fair, good and wise,
Will hover over us on our journey.
Then farewell! We will go now.
Farewell, until we meet again.
There is an unmistakable indication that we are already immersed in the ritual during the first section, namely the ‘doctrines’ or moral precepts. In all, twelve such doctrines are imparted in the opera. They are sung directly to the spectators and convey Masonic ideals such as ‘Lieb und Bruderbund’ (love and brotherhood), ‘Menschenglück und Zufriedenheit’ (human happiness and contentment), ‘Weib und Mann reichen an die Götter an’ (man and woman attain divinity), ‘Tugend und Gerechtigkeit . . . die Erde ein Himmelreich’ (virtue and justice . . . the earth [will become] a heavenly kingdom), and so forth. The first three of these doctrines are already uttered in the first section, and the first two even issue from the lips of the Three Ladies! The latter are not on the ‘other side’, but are merely playing their role. Perhaps they are even wives of the initiated, like the seductive ladies of whom we are told in a widely read Masonic text about the Egyptian initiations: ‘These were the wives of the priest, who visited him like Diana’s companion nymph and tempted him to love by all possible means.’