“SOME OF THE FINEST VOCAL MUSIC MOZART EVER PRODUCED”: RARE LES MISTÈRES D’ISIS, 1801, THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF THE FULL SCORE OF MOZART’S THE MAGIC FLUTE
MOZART, Wolfgang Amadeus. Les Mistères d’Isis… Arrangé en Mis en Scène par Lachnith. Paris: Chez Sieber père, . Folio, contemporary half green morocco, marbled boards. $9500.
First appearance in any form of the full score of Mozart’s Magic Flute, fully engraved.
Mozart’s penultimate opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) premiered in 1791 less than three months before the composer’s death and initial decline into obscurity. “A few operas were performed, but heavily cut or altered, as in Paris where The Magic Flute enjoyed huge success as The Mysteries of Isis-cut, rewritten, then expanded with additions from three of his other operas and even a Haydn symphony” (The Age). This approach to producing opera, though strange to modern sensibilities, was much in keeping with the operatic culture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Because of its reliance on a great variety of sources and styles, the German Singspiel tradition-for which The Magic Flute is the apotheosis of its possibilities-was particularly succeptible to this pasticcio treatment. With its arcane Masonic symbolism and suggestive allegorical characters, The Magic Flute “has occasioned more interpretive speculation outside the canon of Richard Wagner… Ultimately, though, the esoteric meaning of Die Zauberflöte is less important than the overt subject matter, which is conveyed through a consistently entertaining mix of popular tunes, high-art arias, solemn Gluck-like drama and bel canto display. As with Mozart’s previous great Singspiel, Die Entführung, the style veers from one extreme to the other, ranging from exalted opera seria (The Queen of the Night and Sarastro) to knockabout opera buffa (Papageno) in the space of a few minutes. And within that range lie some of the finest vocal music Mozart ever produced… Die Zauberflöte can be seen as an opera that simultaneously subsumes the conventions of Baroque opera and paves the way for the ecstatic music-drama of Tristan und Isolde” (Boyden, 111-12). For many decades, Ludwig Wenzel Lachnith’s adaptation of The Magic Flute was the standard version performed in France. The first edition of the full score in its original form was not published until 1814 in Bonn. Text in French.
Contemporary owner signature to title page. Occasional light foxing. Light rubbing to spine and extremities. A near-fine copy. Exceptionally rare.