|Aesthetica Preprint, 43 (April 1995)
Interpreting The Magic Flute, trying to illuminate the tragic and childlike game with which Mozart (before the Requiem) chose to seal his poetic and human experience, means returning to the origins of poetry and also travelling through time to plan the future and the destiny of poetry. A purely "masonic" interpretation of this opera is too easy and simplistic: it erases the conceptual complexity of its being and of its becoming, and it also reduces Mozart's metaphor, his new "divine comedy" of modernity, to a simple and sectarian reiteration of limited and limiting symbols.
The fascinating and complex truth of The Magic Flute lies in Mozart's titanic attempt to mediate and eventually reunite in a final synthesis the Greek spirit with the Christian spirituality, the Eleusinian wisdom and mysteries with the Christian mystic's painful experience of the "dark night". Mozart returns to the origins, and through the endless contest between light and darkness he reproposes the figure of the "mystes", of the initiate who plunges into the night and rediscovers the light and the arch through trials and errors. Mozart travels through time and describes the Christian rebirth, as he sings heroes who move from the darkness of sin to the light of love and go through purifying trials by water and by fire. He is planning the future and the destiny of poetry when he invests music with the power to cross the gloomy kingdom of Death.
Tamino and Pamina's parallel lives repropose both the ascending path of Platonic "love" and the painful immersion into St. John's "dark night", thereby mediating between the Greek and Christian cultures, between wisdom and mysticism, and advancing a new metaphysics of the journey which, in Dantean fashion, moves from darkness to light. The ultimate magic of Mozart's "opera" is that his new metaphysics is watched over by Papageno's childlike wonder, by his innocence, by his non-involvement in the journey, by the irony of a soul that resembles the air and is a pure companion to sound and pleasure.
The Magic Flute thus emerges as an "Opera-Myth", as an opera which reveals the Mystery and gives life to truth: it tells the origins and the truth of poetry, insofar every truth is founded in poetry and everything that lasts is founded by poets.