In a dark forest, far away…
As he flees from a dangerous giant serpent, Tamino is rescued at the last second by three ladies who serve the Queen of the Night. When he regains consciousness, the first thing Tamino sees is Papageno, so Tamino believes him to be his rescuer.
Papageno, a bird catcher in search of love, does nothing to dispel the misunderstanding. The three ladies punish Papageno for this lie by rendering him mute. They show Tamino a picture of Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night. Tamino instantly falls in love with Pamina.
The Queen of the Night herself appears and tells Tamino of her daughter’s kidnapping at the hands of Sarastro. Tamino responds with great enthusiasm to her command that he rescue Pamina. The three ladies give Papageno back his voice and instruct him to accompany Tamino. As a protection against danger, they give Tamino a magic flute, while Papageno receives magic bells; three boys will show Tamino and Papageno the way to Sarastro.
Pamina is tormented by Sarastro’s slave Monostatos. When Papageno wanders in, having become separated from Tamino, both Papageno and Monostatos are frightened by the other’s strange appearance. Left alone with Pamina, Papageno announces that her rescuer Tamino will soon arrive. Papageno sadly admits that his own search for love has thus far proved fruitless. Pamina comforts him.
The three boys lead Tamino to the gates of Sarastro’s domain, where he is initially refused entry. Tamino begins to doubt the statements made by the Queen of the Night regarding Sarastro. He plays on his magic flute, enchanting nature with his music.
Papageno meanwhile flees with Pamina, but they are caught by Monostatos and his helpers. Papageno’s magic bells put their pursuers out of action. Sarastro and his retinue then enter upon the scene. Monostatos leads in Tamino. The long awaited encounter between Tamino and Pamina is all too brief; Sarastro orders that they must now face a series of trials.
The trial of silence
Tamino and Papageno must practice being silent. When the three ladies appear to them in an attempt to persuade them to abandon their quest, the trial becomes truly difficult. Tamino remains silent and resolute, while Papageno immediately begins to chatter.
Meanwhile, Monostatos again tries to get close to the sleeping Pamina. The Queen of the Night appears and orders her daughter to kill Sarastro. Pamina remains behind, despairing. Sarastro seeks to console Pamina by forswearing any thoughts of revenge.
The trial of temptation Tamino and Papageno must resist any temptation: no conversation, no women, no food!
As well as the magic flute and magic bells, the three boys also bring Tamino and Papageno food, which Tamino once again steadfastly resists. Even Pamina fails to draw a single word from Tamino’s lips, which she interprets as a rejection. She laments the cooling of Tamino’s love for her.
Before the last trial, Pamina and Tamino are brought together one last time to say farewell to one another. Papageno is not permitted to take part in any further trials. He now wishes only for a glass of wine—and he dreams of his great love.
For her part, Pamina believes that she has lost Tamino forever. In her despair, she seeks to end her own life, but is prevented from doing so by the three boys, who assure her that Tamino still loves her. Gladdened and relieved, Pamina accepts their invitation to see Tamino again.
Reunited at last, Tamino and Pamina undergo the final trial together.
The trial of fire and water
The music of the magic flute and their love for one another allow Tamino and Pamina to conquer their own fear and overcome the dangers of fire and water.
Papageno is still unsuccessful in his search for the perfect mate. Despairing, he now also seeks to end his life, but is prevented from doing so by the three boys. Papageno’s dream finally comes true: together with his Papagena, he dreams of being blessed with many children.
…the Queen of the Night, the three ladies and the turncoat Monostatos arm themselves for an attack against Sarastro and his retinue. However, their attack is repelled.
Tamino and Pamina have reached the end of their trials, and can finally be together.