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The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute

“The musical performance on its own terms was extraordinary. Over the last 30 years under Mr Fischer, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has become one of the most admired ensembles on the international scene, as was demonstrated on Sunday by this supple, glowing and transparent performance of Figaro.”

wrote critic for The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, about the BFO’s 2013 New York performance. He believed this Figaro, like Don Giovanni two years earlier, was “a highlight of the opera season in New York.” A staged performance of The Magic Flute in the early 1990s was the first opera production by the Budapest Festival Orchestra to become an institution in its own right. After the internationally successful performances of the three Da Ponte operas, Iván Fischer and his orchestra now return to Mozart’s last work for the stage.

Quite a lot can be known about the origin and first production of The Magic Flute, and our source is Mozart himself. In the autumn of 1791, he wrote loving letters to his ailing wife, who was seeking remedy in Baden. In a letter he describes how at one of the performances he played a prank on Emmanuel Schikaneder, director of the Theater auf der Wieden (the theatre of the premiere) who wrote the libretto and played Papageno. From another, we learn about the enthusiastic praise he received from Antonio Salieri, whom he invited to one of the first performances, along with the charming Miss Cavalieri. Mozart did not have long to live at the time of the premiere, which was on 30 September 1791. Little did he suspect that German theatres would, in the years to come, mount productions that saw performances by the hundred.

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