Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute whimsically portrays a cosmic contest between two forces: one of light, enlightenment, and love, represented by Sarastro, priest of the sun, and the other of darkness, craft, and vindictiveness, represented by the Queen of the Night. This contest comes to a head in scene three of the second act, where the Queen of the Night, furious that her daughter Pamina wishes to join Sarastro’s company, gives her a dagger and – singing at the highest pitch of excited anger and vocal range – commands her to kill him “else you will never again be my daughter.”
She leaves, Sarastro enters, and Pamina begs him not to avenge himself against her mother. Sarastro responds with an aria of great beauty and incredibly low notes (the low E is at 4:22): only those who embrace love and forgiveness are worthy to be considered human.
In diesen heil’gen Hallen
Kennt man die Rache nicht
Und ist ein Mensch gefallen,
Führt Liebe ihn zur Pflicht.
Dann wandelt er an Freundes Hand
Vergnügt und froh ins bess’re Land
In diesen heil’gen Mauern,
Wo Mensch den Menschen liebt,
Kann kein Verräter lauern,
Weil man dem Feind vergibt.
Wen solche Lehren nicht erfreun,
Verdient nicht ein Mensch zu sein.
Within these holy halls
Revenge is known to no one.
And should someone fall,
Love will guide him to duty.
Then, on the hand of a friend, he will wander
Cheerful and happy into a better land.
Within these holy walls,
Where each one loves the other,
No traitor can lurk,
Because each forgives the enemy.
Whoever is not pleased by these teachings,
Is not worthy to be a man.