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The Magic Flute Unveiled: Esoteric Symbolism in Mozart's Masonic Opera Paperback – January 1, 1992

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (January 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089281358X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892813582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Prof. Chailley's examination of one of Mozart's masterpieces is scarcely recent news: the book has been around for decades. It is none the less a seminal work for all of its longevity.

Particularly as an "outsider"--Chailley was not a Freemason--the author writes with clarity, insight, and years of familiarity with his musical subject, and clear understanding of his fraternal one. The result is a book that is both readable and informative. With even-handed thoughtfulness, Chailley provides important information for anyone who wants to understand The Magic Flute--an otherwise enigmatic work.

This is an important book. In fact, it is a landmark of music scholarship. There are, of course, other books and articles dealing with this subject, but none supersedes this one, and some should be consigned to the benighted trash pile of conspiracist ravings.

Chailley's work should be in the library of any serious Mozart student.

While Chailley is more a scholar of music than of esoterica, it should find its way into libraries of students of Freemasonry as well. In fact, it might encourage some Masons to take Mozart a bit more seriously than many do.
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The tenet of this book is that the Magic Flute is not some fairy tale with farcical elements but a symbolic depiction of the Battle of the Sexes (and the elevation of Woman) in the guise of Tamino's (and Pamina's) initiation rites into the Masonic order.

The book is divided into three parts, the first dealing with the relation between Mozart and Freemasonry in general and the circumstances of the writing of the Magic Flute in particular. The second part details the Masonic beliefs and practices in the Viennese lodges at around 1800, one of which counted Mozart as a member. The third part is a detailed, scene by scene analysis of the entire opera on the basis of the original libretto, both musically as well as theatrically, applying the insights from the first two parts. Since I am a musical illiterate I cannot comment on the musical aspect.

I have a DVD of the opera and it was great fun to compare it with the analysis in the book. From the start there were serious discrepancies. The Magic Flute was not painted gold, Tamino was not an arrowless archer in Japanese dress and the Three Ladies forgot to put on their veils. (Gold is the colour of the Sun, symbol of Male superiority. Tamino without arrows signifies that as an uninitiated he lacks penetrating insights, his Japanese dress indicating he comes from the Orient, where the Sun rises. The veils are a symbol of feminine ignorance, the Ladies' flirtations over an unconscious Tamino representing an inferior kind of love, analogous to Monostatos' lusting after Pamina).

I still remember how flabbergasted I was when I first saw the opera, shocked by what seemed to me its nonsensical story. This book offers an explanation. Whether you accept it or not depends on how convincing the middle part is. Not being a Freemason the author had to reconstruct Masonic beliefs and initiation rites out of independent sources. Nevertheless the book is a stimulating read and I therefore recommend it wholeheartedly.
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I think the original title of this book -- The Magic Flute: Masonic Opera --- fits it better, but one recognizes that "unveiling" things has long been a way to steer attention one's own way. Nonetheless, this is a marvelous book. It is great more for the realistic sense that Chailley actually had about Freemasonry as a phenomenon, that is, if compared with other Non-Mason interpreters. The overall argument of the book is less persuasive to me than the myriad discrete analyses he provides. Some of them are almost off -the- charts for perceptive grasp. I have tried to amplify some of Chailley's insights, and also provide new ones, in the context to creating a new theory about Mozart and the Craft,. In the course of it I provide critiques of common misconceptions that other interpreters have of Freemasonry in relation to Mozart, in a recently published article on the Masonic Music site (masonmusic.org), under "Mozart" :A Resolution of Mozart and Freemasonry: Enlightenment and the Persistence of Counter-Reformation By Peter Paul Fuchs, 32nd Degree in PDF.
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