Mozart’s The Magic Flute is in many ways an illustration of the Enlightenment process. It is not difficult to observe that Tamino, Pamina, and even Papageno are all wiser by the opera’s end. Although a slew of enlightened characters could be a heart-warming touch, not all of The Magic Flute’s characters are so privileged: Monostatos in particular evolves very little during the opera. He is not totally without development, though; by the opera’s end, Monostatos is arguably slightly bolder, he is more deliberate in his actions, and is slightly more accepting of his role in the world. A few very subtle changes do not a dynamic character make, but Monostatos is not as static as one might initially assume.Despite Monostatos’s supposed position of authority, in act 1, Mozart closely associates Monostatos with the common man. In the act 1 finale (“This path leads you to your goal, O youth,”) , beginning with the scene that starts, “Now, proud youth, just come this way,” every vocal part is in a major key, with two exceptions. The chorus’s loud interjection during, “What can this mean?” and Monostatos’s part directly in response to this are both minor. This, in the presence of the noble Sarastro and fellow royalty Tamino and Pamina, works to distinguish Monostatos and commoners (represented by the chorus) from the supposedly morally-superior royalty. In this scene, Tamino and Pamina are understandably joyous, and Sarastro has yet to show any disapproval at their reunion, but the chorus and Monostatos are unable to comprehend the source of this joy. While Monostatos’s role in serving Sarastro gives him a certain amount of power, his understanding is only on par with an average man, and the audience is left wondering if Monostatos is eve…
…portant details and getting the job done.Monostatos, at first glance, appears to fit his name superbly; it is not difficult to see how the name likely means “one state,” and Monostatos does change very little throughout the opera. His lack of overt change makes it easy to consider him inhuman, a perfectly static machine. By the end of the second act, though, Monostatos certainly has undergone some amount of change and even self-improvement; as much as the audience may dislike him, he is certainly not a machine. Part of the beauty, then, of The Magic Flute, is that it conveys masonic virtues of the brotherhood of mankind; Mozart makes it impossible to deny even an evil character the title “human.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Magic Flute, The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, Deutsche Grammophon 449 166-2, 1996.