Mozart, Masonry and the Magic Flute
Sol Beton, 32°, K.C.C.H.
ONE OF THE GREATEST composers of all times and also a Masonic Brother was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is only fitting that we pay our respects to this great Mason and musician, for Mozart, like Goethe, Lessing, Herder, Haydn, and Wieland, belonged to the Masonic movement.
In fact, Mozart was so dedicated a Mason that he signed many of his letters as "Brother." His close friendship with Haydn is also partly due to their common belief in Masonic principles.
Impressions of Masonic ideals may be found in a number of Mozart's compositions, such as the "Little Masonic Cantata", the "Mason's Joy Cantata", the "Masonic Funeral Music" and, above all, the opera The Magic Flute, which is considered Mozart's greatest work and which is full of Masonic symbols. The main theme of the opera's overture, for instance, expresses the hewing of the "rough stone" while the three chords in Eflat stylize the Masonic salute.
Of the characters in the opera, the Speaker or High Priest is taken bodily from the Masonic Ritual. The guardian of order and discipline, he fulfills a function as Senior Warden and gives the neophytes their first instruction.
The number three is of great significance in the opera. For example there are the three Ladies, the three Genii, and in the libretto there is a reference to the three supporting "pillars" of Freemasonry — wisdom, strength and beauty.
Also, there is the lineup of 18 priests, a reference to the Eighteenth Degree of the Masons. The priests stand with their hands crossed on their breasts as prescribed in the Rose Croix Degree.
In the background, displayed in the settings are a ladle, hourglass and compass; and above the entrance to the sacred temple is the five-pointed "Blazing Star" with the letter G in its center — all symbolic insignia familiar to Masons. Then in the dialogue between Tamino and the Priest, Masonry is referred to as an exclusively male craft.
Also, the following lines sung by Tamino, the hero of the opera, undoubtedly reflect the symbolic journey of the "blind" Masonic initiate: "When, endless night, wilt thou be riven; When will the light to me be given."
Three questions are asked by the high priest Sarastro — whether Tamino (the neophyte) has virtue, is discreet, and practices charity. These correspond literally to the commands of Masonry.
Tamino and his companions are then led into the large anteroom of the temple, and the speaker is asked to instruct the neophyte in his human duties. Clearly, the opera's initiation rites are associated with the practices used in the Masonic lodge, especially in the opera's scene of trial by fire and water.
Then the three E-flat major chords played by the horns mark the consent of the priests to receive Tamino into their ranks. They are the exact musical portrayal of the three handclaps of the first Degree in the Austrian Lodges.
They are used in the overture and in a somewhat altered form appear in the prelude of the scene of the Armored Men. The entire score of the priests' scene is ritualistic and has deep philosophical significance both in the opera and in the Craft. It is not surprising that The Magic Flute, which embodies in dramatic form the symbolic rituals and practices of Freemasonry, moved even Goethe.
By the charm of Mozart's art these fundamental human values and tenets received new artistic form. Without a doubt, Mozart — the man and the Mason — appears in The Magic Flute as a result of his high esteem for Masonic ideals and practices.
[Editor's Note: Since Brother Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, and 1991 marks the 200th anniversary of his death on December 5, 1791, it is appropriate that this January 1991 issue of The Scottish Rite Journal features three articles about Brother Mozart and a back cover relevant to Austrian Freemasonry.]
Brother Beton, an artist, writer, teacher, historian and choir singer, is Past Master of Fulton Lodge, No. 216. Various examples of his artistry and portraits are held in private collections around the country.
"Who Did Not Love Him, Our Worthy Brother, Mozart?"
[An oration given in Mozart's own New Crowned Hope Lodge in 1792 to commemmorate his passing.]
"It has pleased the everlasting Master Builder to tear our beloved Brother from the chain of our brotherhood. Who did not know him? Who did not value him? Who did not love him, our worthy Brother, Mozart? Only a few weeks ago he stood in our midst, and with the magic tones added such beauty to the dedication of our Masonic Temple. Mozart's death brings irreparable loss to his art; his talents which were apparent in his earliest youth made him even then the greatest marvel of his time. Half Europe values him. The great called him their favorite, Liebling, and we called him Brother. But while we must of necessity reveal his powers in Art, we must not forget the praise due to his great heart. He was a most enthusiastic follower of our Order. Love for his Brethren, sociability, enthusiasm for the good cause, charity, the true and deep feeling of pleasure when he was able by means of his talents to help one of his Brethren, these were the chief features of his character. He was husband, father, friend to his friends. Brother to his Brethren, these were the chief features of his character. Only the wherewithal was wanted to hinder him from making hundreds happy, as his heart bade him."
From William K. Denslow, 10,000 Freemasons, 1959, Vol. 3, Page 243