The Magic Flute (libretto)

The libretto for Lev Ivanov and Riccardo’s Drigo ballet The Magic Flute


The stage represents a pretty French village among the hills. At the right, the house of a judge and at the left is that of a farmer. In the distance are the outlines of peasants’ homes.

At the beginning of the opening scene, the farmer enters and gestures for others to follow. Men and women enter, returning from work in the fields. The farmer’s wife and their daughter, Lise come out of the house. The farmer expresses satisfaction to the peasants for their work and rewards them with beer, which they accept with pleasure. The young Luc appears in the distance on a hill and tries to get Lise’s attention. When she notices him, she is overjoyed and rushes to meet him so as not to arouse her parents’ suspicions. The farmer and his wife help themselves to a beer and watch as the peasants engage in merry dancing.

Unnoticed by her parents, Lise joins in the dancing, taking several turns with Luc, but just as the dance comes to its conclusion, Lise’s mother spots her with Luc and rushes to separate them, dismissing Luc. Luc begs her for consent to marry Lise, but she laughs in his face and chases him away. Lise tries to follow him, but her furious mother restrains her and orders into the house. All in tears, Lise obeys. The peasants encircle the farmer’s wife and try to calm her, while the farmer rushes off after Luc, shaking his fists.

The Marquis’ courier appears on a hill with a message for the farmer. At the sight of him, the peasants break out laughing; the courier delivers the message and departs. The farmer and his wife read the letter, which explains that the Marquis is about to arrive and will choose one of the women as his fiancée. This no sooner happens than the courier returns, announcing the Marquis. Flustered, the women all hurry to improve their appearances. The Marquis enters, stops at the top of the hill and surveys the landscape through his pince-nez. Descending the hill, he greets the peasants and makes gracious gestures towards the women, bestowing some attention on each one. Caressing a head, patting a chin and blowing a kiss, the Marquis tried to appear young and risqué, but his gout takes its vengeance each time, making him constantly grab his leg.

The farmer greets him with a low bow and asks to present Lise. The farmer’s wife goes to find her, but Lise resists and her parents drag her forcibly. Smitten by her beauty, the Marquis chooses Lise as his bride. At the height of happiness, he would take her by the hand, but Lise, drawing out her curtsy, turns her back to him and rushes away. The Marquis insists that she give him her hand, but at every attempt, Lise turns away. Her parents place her hand in the Marquis’s and the latter makes a turn with her. Lise plods along at his side. Luc returns as the Marquis declares his love for Lise and promises her a merry happy existence; she will reign in his magnificent castle, where he will shower her with gifts. Luc prowls about, thinking how to put an end to the Marquis’s kind attentions, and the peasants mock the old man. The Marquis kneels and requests to kiss Lise’s hand, but suddenly, Luc, standing behind Lise, offers his hand upon which the Marquis, suspecting nothing, places a kiss. Lise steals away and the Marquis sees he has been tricked. He is annoyed, but cannot get up and several peasants rush to help him. He asks Lise if she dances the minuet and she says no, so he offers to demonstrate, performing with ridiculous gestures and becomes exhausted when he has barely begun. Lise takes a fan and shows how they dance in her native village; her example inspires the peasant women, who dance a Farandole. The men join and, unnoticed by her parents, Lise and Luc. However, the Marquis wants to embrace Lise, rushing in pursuit of her, but inadvertently falls into Luc’s arms. Witness to this contempt, Lise’s parents chase Luc away. The farmer’s wife invites the Marquis into their home. He takes Lise’s hand, who indulges him with ill humour and glances over to Luc, standing on the hillock. The peasants leave, saluting the Marquis.

Utterly miserable, Luc returns and makes a last attempt to sway Lise’s parents, entering the farmer’s house just to be thrown out by the Marquis’s courier. Dejected, he collapses by the judge’s house. Suddenly, a hermit enters exhausted and starving, walks to the farmer’s house, knocks and knocks again on the door. The farmer’s wife answers and pushes him away so rudely that he falls to the ground. Witnessing this, Luc rushes to the hermit’s aid, takes his only money from his pocket and gives it to the poor man. The hermit enquires why Luc is dejected. Weeping, Luc recounts his story, but during the recital, the hermit disappears. Luc is amazed and looks for him, but only finds a flute hanging from a rock. Above is inscribed in large letters: ‘Take this flute and play, all will begin to dance against their will, which will bring you happiness.’ Luc seizes the flute and runs to his seat by the judge’s house. He tries to play the flute, but cannot produce a melody. Hearing the flute, Lise appears and runs over to Luc. As she approaches, he begins to draw a melody from the instrument and charmed by the flute, Lise is compelled to dance. At the end of the melody, her dance also ends and she falls exhausted.

Seeing Lise exhausted; Luc rushes to help her. She describes the strange feeling that took possession of her and forced her to dance. During the testimony to the power of his flute, Luc tells Lise about the hermit and declares his resolve to take vengeance on her parents. Lise, however, opposes vengeance and Luc accuses her of not really loving him. He is about to leave, but Lise begs him to stay and they reaffirm their love.

However, the farmer’s wife comes out of the house and is furious when she sees the lovers together. She throws herself between them, pushes Luc away and chases Lise back into the house. Enraged, she calls the farmer, the Marquis and the courier and explains what happened and that it is up to the Marquis, as her daughter’s fiancé, to punish Luc. The Marquis takes his sword, the farmer his cane, the farmer’s wife her broom, the courier his sceptre and all rush at Luc. Unperturbed, he begins to play his flute and as if compelled by an invisible power, his assailants begin to dance, jump and turn. The Marquis does his best to run Luc through, but each attempt is repelled by a mysterious hand. The courier circles around Luc, trying to deliver a blow, but he is rejected from above and from the side. Nor can the farmer and his wife reach Luc and the unbridled dance continues as long as the melody plays. At the last note, the farmer and his wife sink down to the ground and the Marquis falls into his courier’s arms, who himself can barely stand. Coming around, the Marquis accuses Luc of sorcery and orders his courier to fetch the police. The courier heads off and returns with a superintendent and four soldiers. A crowd gathers. The superintendent asks the cause of the alarm and then tries to have his soldiers seize Luc, but Luc continues his melody and the dance recommences until he stops.

Fatigued and annoyed, the superintendent insists that Luc hand over his flute, but Luc refuses and tries to flee, but is seized by the soldiers. The superintendent wrests the flute from his hands and sends a soldier to fetch the judge. The lazy judge, after several exchanges between the soldiers and his clerk, enters malcontent and yawning. The superintendent explains what has happened.

“But I see nothing wrong in that,” the judge responds, “one dances, one becomes merry and this is all.”

“But everyone was forced to dance unwilled by a mysterious power.”

“Is such a thing possible?” exclaims the judge, “give him back the flute, I want to convince myself of a power that would force a judge to dance.”

The judge and his clerk take a seat.

Luc plays the tune with the same effect. The judge and his clerk jump up above their seats; the judge clings to the table, but no avail and he continues to jump with his chair as long as the melody sounds. Choking with an indescribable fury, the judge declares to Luc:

“Ah, I see now that you are a sorcerer; I shall punish you.”

Luc kneels, begging for a pardon, but the judge refuses.

“There is no hope for you. Prepare to die; you will be hanged.”

He orders for Luc to be seized and led to the tribunal.

Suddenly, Oberon appears on a rock, playing Luc’s melody on his hunting horn. Those present begin to dance again, but softly. Uneasy, they turn to see Oberon on the rock in all his splendour. Surprised and frightened, they prostrate themselves before him and Luc rushes to Oberon for mercy. Oberon promises him protection, comes down from the rock and addresses the judge:

“Do not dare to judge or condemn this man; he has a heart of gold and he is under my protection.”

Then he calls the farmer’s wife, who prostrates herself.

“You are an evil woman,” Oberon tells her, “today; you rejected a poor old man who asked alms of you. I was that old man.”

Seeing who it was, the farmer and his wife beg Oberon to pardon them.

“You shall obtain my pardon only when you have joined these two loving hearts.”

He points to Luc and Lise.

The farmer and his wife happily consent and the Marquis, seeing that he is being mocked, makes off quietly with his courier. Oberon remounts the rock and disappears.

A wedding celebration is held for Lise and Luc’s marriage.


Résumé of scenes and dances

Taken from the published piano score and the original program of 1893.

  • no.01 Prélude et scène
  • no.02 Danse villageoise
  • no.03 Scène: La fermière
  • no.04 Arrivée du coureur
  • no.05 Arrivée du Marquis
  • no.06 Pas d’action
  • no.07 Le menuet du Marquis
  • no.08 Variation de Lise (Mlle. Stanislava Belinskaya)
  • no.09 La Farandole
  • no.10 Scène: Désespoir de Luc
  • no.11 Scène: Arrivée de l’ermite
  • no.12 “Une Flûte enchantée”: Danse forcée (ancien air de ballet d’auter inconnu)
  • no.13 Scène d’amour I: Lise et Luc
  • no.14 Scène d’amour II: andante
  • no.15 Scène: Fureur de la fermière et danses forcées
  • no.16 Scène: L’apparition d’Obéron
  • no.17 Grand Pas d’ensemble —
a. Grand adage (cadence de violon pour M. Léopold Auer)
b. Variation pour quatre danseuses
c. Variation de Luc (M. Mikhail Fokine)
d. Pizzicato de Lise (Mlle. Stanislava Belinskaya)
e. Grand ballabile



  • Wiley, Roland John (1997) The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press