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Posts from the ‘Theater’ Category


Music is the most potent instrument in education because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.   – Plato

Print This Post On September 30, 1791, two years after the French Revolution, The Magic Flute premiered in Vienna. To work on what would be his last and one of his most celebrated pieces, Mozart temporarily moved in with Emanuel Schikaneder, the man who penned the libretto of The Magic Flute and also happened to be a fellow member of “Zur Wohltätigkeit,” Mozart’s masonic lodge. The opera opened to much acclaim but less than a month and a half after its debut, Mozart suffered a painful and mysterious death, and confided in his loved ones his conviction that he had been poisoned (see last week’s post: Mozart, the Free Masons and A Mysterious Death).

Theories of Mozart’s death are as numerous and varied as the Gulasch in Vienna’s Gulaschmuseum. One proposes that the timing of Mozart’s death (so soon after the premiere of The Magic Flute) was no coincidence.

Indeed, since its origin, The Magic Flute, like episodes of South Park, has led a double life. For the unordained, the opera relates the age-old tale of the hero’s journey: a hero reluctantly answers the call to adventure and leaves the world he knows to undergo trials and overcome challenges to earn his reward and return home a new (and better) person. For those in-the-know The Magic Flute amounts to a 1791 shout-out to the composer and writer’s masonic brethren.

Below are just a couple characteristics of the opera that have provided fuel to the fire of speculation.

The goal of the free masons and Tamino in the opera is to overcome that which ruins the spirit of man (perverted thought, uncurbed emotions and destructive actions) in order to ascend the stairs of the one Lodge – the Universe – to attain universal oneness.

Unification of opposing forces of the universe to achieve oneness: On the one side you have the dark evil Queen of the Night who also represents in addition darkness/Isis/Booz/feminine/moon/fire/evil/chaos and on the other you have Sarastro who represents light/Osiris/Jakin/masculine/sun/water/good/order. You can go deep into philosophy, psychology and spirituality here and simply say it’s like Yin and Yang, good cannot exist without evil, there can be no Sonnie without Cher — you get the picture.

The steps of a Freemason: Entered Apprentice (youth), Fellow Craft (manhood), Master Builder (old age) – we see similar representations of Tamino as he undergoes his journey in the opera.

The Masonic Triangle (you know the one – look at the back of your 1 dollar bill)  reflected in the many groupings of three in the opera:

Three boys: In the Magic Three, three young boys offer Papageno and Tamino guidance on their journey. They demand of Tamino three traits: steadfastness, patience and secrecy – three golden rules of the free masons. They are thought to symbolize the two deacons and the master of ceremonies of a lodge who likewise accompany new masonic apprentices on their symbolic journey during which they must face the trials of two of the four basic elements: fire and water. Symbolically they may also represent a person’s inner voice of reason.



Three temples appear on stage in the Magic Flute: The “Temple of Wisdom”, the “Temple of Reason” and the “Temple of Nature” similar to three of the pillars of belief of the free masons – the other two: strength and beauty. The Temple of Wisdom (Solomon’s Temple) should symbolize the temple of humanity, in which all people are “brothers” who should unite in a higher spirituality. (Beethoven was a mason too which — if you read the lyrics of Ode to Joy explains the brotherhood concept pretty well).

The three chords in E-flat major in the overture and grand final:  Mozart had written quite a few numbers for the masonic lodges and liked to use E-flat, which has three flats arranged in triangular form (the “Masonic Trinity” sheet music style). Since then, the E-flat has often been referred to as the Masonic key.

Three musical knocks throughout the opera represented by wind instruments (beginning of second part of overture).

Characters in the Opera

Tamino: The initiate who is willing to undergo the trials set forth in order to achieve a higher state of being is thought to symbolize a masonic initiate.

Sarastro: (the Italian name for Zarathustra) The spiritual leader who resides in the seven circles of the sun -perhaps symbolic of the lodge Grand Master. Or perhaps Osiris (believed to be the personification of Truth) and the powers of the sun. In freemasonry seven represents the seven liberal arts and sciences (grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy) but also the seven planets (belief at the time).

Magic Flute Stage with Queen of the Night

Magic Flute Stage with Queen of the Night

Papageno: the character of Papageno is a bird catcher and someone satisfied by life’s simple pleasures. Rather than striving to reach a higher state of existence/awareness, Papageno would prefer to forgo hardship in order to indulge in earthly delights (women and wine). Nowadays, Homer Simpson would be the embodiment of Papageno. Many purport that masonic beliefs also based on principles and values from ancient Egypt. Indeed, the first set designers of the opera referred to drawings of Egyptian monuments. Interesting is therefore the similarity between Papageno, a creature with a man’s head, and a bird’s body, and the ancient Egyptian creature of Ba. Ba has been described as the spiritual part of human beings that survives death – that part that makes you who you are and unique from everyone else and the Egyptians believed rises from the corpse to embark on the journey into the afterlife. An explanation of how both theories would coincide is that perhaps only that part of a soul able to overcome secular desires for the sake of spirituality will exist beyond the earthly world.

Symbolic rituals/tasks

Rites of purification before entering the temple: thought to be symbolic of lodge rituals.

The journey of the initiate from the veil of the night (the Queen of the Night – Isis and the powers of the moon – represented in the number 5 and the star (five points)),  into the Sun Temple of Sarastro (represented by the number 3 and the triangle or pyramid) The ascension of an initiate from apprentice to fellow craft to master builder.

Environment/ Objects

The forest: perhaps a symbol of the unconscious and all its wilderness

Symbols of the free masons

Symbols of the free masons

Nature: animals tamed by the magic flute – harmony with nature – order from chaos

Magic flute: an instrument crafted from wood that turns into gold by the end of the opera (ancient Egyptians were thought to be master alchemists who held the secret for producing precious medals). Music holds the power to instill harmony and raise “man” to otherworldly states. The flute enchants nature and brings it under control.

White robe: At the end of the journey the initiate is given a white robe representing purity.

Historically the masons have upheld a strict code of confidentiality, in part, to survive. They didn’t want to suffer the bloody end of the Knights of Templar who got on the wrong side of the king. Many of the ideas promoted by the free masons (education over birth – meaning a commoner could be equal to a nobleman) were threatening to the established systems (like the nobility and the Roman Catholic Church). Even more so at the time of The Magic Flute since its debut immediately followed the French Revolution. In addition, the masons probably recognized early on that a secret handshake here and a discreet compass there had a cool factor that drew members. Every child with a clubhouse, gang with a pair of shoes, and military unit with a clandestine mission knows that the secret knock, shoestring color, or patch makes you “in” and when you are “in” you are not “out” and can be readily identified by fellow brothers as one of the gang and not a woeful wannabe.

Was Mozart’s work on The Magic Flute somehow connected to his death? The free masons are infamously strict about their code of secrecy and said to have graphic symbolic gestures which signify the painful death he who breaks the code of silence will suffer.

Did the interweaving of masonic symbols into The Magic Flute amount to a severe and fatal breach of confidentiality? Since Mozart’s body was buried in a mass grave in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna, the world will probably never know for sure. What would seem to exonerate Mozart’s brothers from accusations of foul play is the fact that Mozart’s fellow collaborator in The Magic Flute, Emanuel Schikaneder, continued to live and perform another two decades before losing his marbles and dying impoverished in Vienna at the age of 61.

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The Magic Flute by W.A.Mozart. BBC/animation/ part1

  The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart BBC / animation / part 2    Check out the dancing rhino – who can resist a dancing rhino? Gotta get me a magic flute to calm down spectators at heated soccer matches!

The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart BBC / animation / part 3




As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relationships with this best and truest friends of mankind that death’s image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart wrote his first masonic work at age 16 (1772) when he was commissioned to write music for the Bavarian lodge “Zur Behutsamkeit” (translated: with Restraint). Twelve years later, at age 28, just three years after moving to Vienna, Mozart became one of 32 members of the Vienna mason lodge, “Zur Wohltätigkeit” (translated: Charity) on December 14, 1784. His rise amongst his fellow lodge brothers was swift. Within three weeks, on January 7, 1785, he ascended to the position of “journeyman” and in less than a month after that, on February 1, 1785, became a “master.” Lodges were composed of varying members of society and “Zur Wohltätigkeit” was a bourgeoisie lodge, consisting of middle class intellectuals and quite a few Illuminati.

Free Mason Lodge Book with Mozart as Visitor

Free Mason Lodge Book Documenting Mozart’s Visit to another lodge

A bit over two months after Mozart became a master in his lodge, his father, Leopold, also joined “Zur Wohltätigkeit.” But not even the connections that he no doubt secured through life as free mason, were enough to help accelerate Mozart’s income to keep pace with his increasing I-O-Us. By the summer of 1788 things came to a head when Mozart began appealing to his masonic brother Michael Puchberg, for loans. A letter in June 1788 from Mozart to Puchberg begins: “Dear Brother! Your true friendship and brotherly love embolden me to ask an enormous favor of you…” His letters begging for money continued on into 1791, the year when Mozart composed his final great work —the Magic Flute with references to many of the free mason symbols, rituals, themes and beliefs (more in next post: Mozart, the Free Masons and the Magic Flute).

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Around the same time, a mysterious stranger showed up on his doorstep as a messenger of a man who did not wish to be known but wanted to commission Mozart to write a Requiem for a person “who is and forever would be very dear to him.” The stranger paid cash and Mozart was in no position to turn it down. The composer had a law suit pending against him and his family for money he owed to Prince Lichnowsky — the equivalent of what today would amount to over 50,000 USD. In the end, however, the assignment plagued him and Mozart became obsessed with the idea that he was writing the Requiem for himself. Convinced that he had been poisoned with acqua toffana (an Italian-made arsenic that young wives liked to use to hasten their widowhood), Mozart told his wife, Constanze, that he feared he must die.

Just a a bit over a month after the premiere of The Magic Flute, in November 1791 Mozart became bedridden for 15 days. Family members reported that at first his hands and feet swelled, and then he was almost completely unable to move. This was followed by vomiting.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791. He was 35 years old.

On the day of his death he asked for the score to be brought to his bedside. ‘Did I not say before, that I was writing this Requiem for myself?’ After saying this, he looked yet again with tears in his eyes through the whole work. – Biographer Niemetschek

After Mozart’s death, the stranger came once again to fetch the unfinished Requiem. The mystery was apparently solved — the Requiem had been commissioned by a count for his dying wife. He had commissioned several works of music and had intended to publish them in his own name.

Nevertheless, many have theorized about the causes of the sudden death and poisoned-like appearance of the body of the seemingly healthy Mozart – amongst them Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin, in one of his short plays known as The Little Tragedies and written in 1830 and entitled Mozart and Salieri. Did fellow composer, Antonio Salieri, murder Mozart? The two seemed to get along so well. In fact, in October 1791, not even two months before he died, Mozart had even taken along Salieri and his mistress in his carriage to a performance of The Magic Flute, where they sat with Mozart in his box.

Conspiracy theories of Mozart’s death abound, including one that blames the free masons for killing Mozart for revealing free mason secrets in The Magic Flute.

Yet if Orations are any indication, Mozart’s Masonic brothers, did indeed seem sorry to see him go. The following text stems from the Circular Letter of the Lodge “zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung” (translated: Newly Crowned Hope) on Mozart’s Death, Read upon the Admission of a Master to the Venerable St. John.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Grave at St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

Mozart’s Grave in St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna

The Great Architect of the Universe was obliged to wrest one of most beloved, most deserving members from our fraternal chain. Who did not know him?— who did not cherish him?— who did not love him?— our worthy brother Mozart – It was only a few weeks ago that he stood here amongst us, that he glorified the consecration of our Masonic Temple with enchanted tones. – Vienna, April 1792

Mozart’s funeral service was held in Vienna’s grand St. Stephan’s Cathedral. He was buried, as was customary at the time for folks who were not upper class or nobility, in a mass grave in Vienna’s St. Marx cemetery.

Read more about the poison theory and Mozart’s death:

Want to read more about Mozart and the Free Masons? Check on this book: Angermüller, Rudolph. Mozart’s Masonic Music. Vienna: Mozarthaus, 2015. Print.

In Vienna? Pay a visit to the Mozarthaus Vienna which currently has an exhibit about Mozart, the free masons and the Magic Flute. From the room believed to have been his billiard room, Mozart would have been gazed into the cobble-stoned lane of the Blutgasse (Blood Lane), which is also tied to the tales of the free masons and Knights of Templar.


Privacy, Power and Freedom in the Age of Information

“We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.” Austrian-born philosopher, Karl Popper, “The Open Society and Its Enemies.”

“I always thought America was so free, but …” As a high school exchange student in Germany I often heard the complaint and knew word-for-word what would follow.

Did someone prevent the Germans from exercising their Fourth Amendment rights in front of the Capitol building? Forbade them from drafting a New York Times editorial in between stints to the Grand Canyon and Disneyland? No.

The reason why America’s Land-of-the-Free reputation was losing serious ground in the court of German tourist public opinion was: “we couldn’t even go “oben-ohne” on the public beach.” Helga’s inability to display her knockers while soaking up the rays on Newport Beach was indisputable proof that The Land of Liberty was nothing more than a Hollywood-based, Bob Dylan propagated, myth.

My German at the time was far too basic to explain that Helga’s one-sy was an act of public kindness and the freedoms anchored in the Bill of Rights supported far weightier issues than her Double Ds. At the time, less than a day’s drive away, Germans far less fortunate than their Western counterparts were living in a society with very different ideas about privacy and freedom.

The government statistics office in the Hans Beimler Street counts everything, knows everything: How many shoes I buy a year: 2.3; how many books I read; 3.2, and how many students successfully complete their graduating exams: 6347. But one statistic is never recorded, perhaps because even the bureaucrats find such numbers painful, and that’s the amount of suicides. If you call Beimler-Street and ask them, how many people between the Elbe and Oder or Ost Sea and Erzgebirge were driven to their deaths by desperation, then our number oracle remains silent, and probably jots down their exact names, for the sake of national security, those grey gentleman, who are in charge of our country’s security and happiness.

– “The Lives of Others”

In 2006, German filmmaker, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck premiered, “The Lives of Others” (Das Leben der Anderen) portraying a world where, in the name of national security, ordinary citizens were constantly monitored by secret government agents and anything you said or did in the privacy of your four walls could be used against you. Objectively, you might not have anything to hide, but because information is power and the state had information about your most personal exchanges, your innocence was forever vulnerable to the whims, fears and desires, of the government agents recording your data or those directing them to do so.

God is Watching You graffiti, Donaukanal, Vienna, Austria, 2014

God is Watching You graffiti, Donaukanal, Vienna, Austria, 2014

“It was a film about the mass surveillance of an entire society in the name of public security.”

This past Friday, after navigating my way through a street full of partying, kissing lesbians protesting in front of Café Prückl, I arrived at a long queue extending to the curb outside the Gartenbaukino. After a wine and some chit chat, my friends and I made our way into the cinema. Almost every single one of the 736 seats was filled. The audience represented a broad strata of the Vienna public – old and young, men and women, Austrians, Germans and English-speaking expats, alternative and conservative types, students and business people, all crammed together to see another film on mass surveillance — Citizenfour.

Since then, I’ve tried to trace my memories back to a time before email, Google, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook. I’ve recalled the clicking coins of a pay phone, the musty warm smell of a library book, the ultra-thin paper of an international letter, and the homemade covers of personalized cassette tapes. Sweet, private, transient memories from a past age in which vital words and thoughts only persevered when recorded in the hearts and minds of those that shared them.

In the dawn of the internet age, we eagerly embraced the new technology that promised a hitherto unimaginable capability to connect with people around the world and access to treasure troves of information previously stored in the dusty bowels of libraries and archives. All in the blink of an eye, in real time, news, photos, recipes, songs from Cincinnati to Sydney, were ours for the taking. Adieu old publishing house gatekeepers, hello information age. As technology advanced in leaps and bounds, computers decreased in size and the ability to store terabytes of information increased at a phenomenal rate.

The future seemed rosy.

Then came the cookies (not chocolate chip), personalized ads (no banner behind the airplane), smart search engines, chat archives, tracking software, motion activated video cameras and cloud computing. Suddenly Lyndon Johnson’s words in 1968 when urging members of the US Congress to enact the Privacy Act, seemed chillingly prescient:

“We must protect the American people against a new threat to one of our oldest and most precious rights—the right of personal privacy.

The principle that a man’s home is his castle is under new attack. For centuries the law of trespass protected a man’s lands and his home. But in the age of advanced technology, thick walls and locked doors cannot guard our privacy or safeguard our personal freedom. Today we need a strong law – suited to modern conditions — to protect us from those who would trespass upon our conversations.”

“Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.”

At one point in Citizenfour, Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, jots down information he would like to share, then shows the pad of paper to the person he’d like to share it with, and once it has been read, rips it to shreds, and leaves it in a pile no doubt destined for a match and garbage can. It reminded me of a very similar scene in “The Lives of Others” when one character points to hidden listening devices in the walls, turns up a record player and then holds up hand-written signs to communicate with his visitor.

Throughout the history of mankind, people have been abused, flogged, stoned, tortured, interned, exiled and put to death for adhering to the wrong religion, the wrong race, the wrong sexual orientation, the wrong political party, the wrong social class, the wrong education level, and the wrong belief system. “Wrong” determined by power, not objective principle. The “harmless” information stored about you today could be the proof of your adherence to the “wrong” tomorrow.

Watch “The Lives of Others.” Then watch, “Citizenfour.” Then try not to think about watching what you say, do or type, because, who knows who else could be watching and their definition of wrong vs. right.

It begs the question: Are we now all living the lives of others?


My hero, John Oliver, tries to convince the American public, this is an important issue and goes to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden – you have to watch this:


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Pastor Martin Neimöller in reference to the failure of citizens to act against the Nazi regime.


Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [enthusiastic] I’ve got a new one. So… Honecker comes into his office in the morning… opens the window, looks at the sun, and says…

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [starts to worry] … eh… what is it?

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [startled] Oh, excuse me. That was… I’m just… I…

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [tries to put Stigler at ease] No no no, please colleague. We can still laugh about our state officials. Don’t worry.

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [almost laughing] I probably know it already anyway.

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [encouraging] Come on! Tell it.

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [feeling more comfortable] Well… Honecker, I mean… the General Secretary… sees the sun, and says, ‘Good morning dear sun!’

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [with high pitch mocking voice] ‘Good morning dear sun!’

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: …and the sun answered, ‘Good morning dear Erich!’ At afternoon Erich sees the sun again and says, ‘Good day dear sun’ And the sun says: ‘Good day dear Erich!’ After work Honecker goes back to the window and says, ‘Good evening dear sun!’ But the sun doesn’t answer! So he says again, ‘Good evening dear sun, what’s wrong?’ And the sun answered and said, ‘Oh, kiss my ass, I’m in the West now!’


Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: Name?

[becoming deadly serious]

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: Rank? Department?

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [frightened] Me? Stigler, 2nd Lieutenant Alex Stigler. Department M.

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [almost sighing] Don’t need to tell you what this means for your career, what you just did.

Unterleutnant Axel Stigler: [scared, slightly angry] Please Lieutenant Colonel… I just…

Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz: [angry] You just mocked our party! That was political agitation! Surely just the tip of the iceberg! I am going to report this to the minister’s office.

– “The Lives of Others”

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Some interesting stuff to look into: Frontline – United States of Secrets: New Yorker article of October 20, 2014 on Filmmaker Laura Poitras: Julie Angwin’s book, “Dragnet Nation”:


How Much More Austrian do You Want?

“That’s a bingo!” (Inglorious Bastards)

According to an article in the Wiener Zeitung, asked whether he felt Viennese, my favorite actor said: “I was born in Vienna, grew up in Vienna, went to school in Vienna, graduated in Vienna, studied in Vienna, started acting in Vienna – and there would be a few further Viennese links. How much more Austrian do you want it?”

“I love rumors. Facts can be so misleading. Whereas rumors, true or false, are often revealing.” (Inglorious Bastards)

Christoph Waltz is what Austrians would call “ein gebornener Wiener.” Yet for many years, he only possessed the citizenship of his father, who was German. Fortunately, this beloved “Austrian” actor set the record straight in 2010, when his Austrian citizenship was formally recognized in a ceremony of the city of Vienna.

Waltz comes from a long line of actors and throughout his career, he has played everything from a bounty hunter to a circus director and most recently, he was back in Austria shooting his latest film in the role as a character named Oberhauser in the Bond film Spectre.

“You think too much. Women think too much.” (Carnage)



Fluent in three languages, debonair, sophisticated with the right sense of charm, irony, deadpan humor, and a last name of “Waltz” , no matter what the acting role, you can’t get more Austrian than Christoph Waltz.

Here he explains, as only an Austrian can, Krampus (who is definitely not a whimp), to Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. Elf on the Shelf got nothing on Krampus. (KC explains Krampus too here: and here:

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