In 1783, when Mozart joined his first Freemasons lodge in Vienna, Zur Wohltatigkeit, he was already on familiar terms with its highest members. By joining the Freemasons, he became part of a society that was formed to advance the ideals of the Enlightenment, as well as promote works of charity. Freemasonry has a mystic origin and obtained some of its rituals from medieval times.
Though Mozart was a Catholic, he believed that his participation in the lodge was not in conflict with his beliefs, although Freemasonry was officially condemned by the Catholic Church in 1751. As John Irving states in, “The Treasure of Mozart”, the musician probably saw the group as a means to make contacts that may normally have been out of his reach. In the group, men were considered “brothers” to each other and were therefore on a more equal footing. In fact, it was in this group that Mozart was able to solicit some financial help from his fellow masons.
After Mozart joined the Freemasons, his work fell under the term “Masonic”, and this includes The Magic Flute and other pieces such as “Die Maurerfreude” (“Masonic Joy”). People have even found clues of Freemasonry hidden in his music, all which centre around the number three. The use of a three-flat note key signature, which is found in the overture of The Magic Flute, may symbolize the titles that people obtained in the society – Apprentice, Master-Mason and Fellow-Craft.
The overture begins with three main chords – a possible symbol for the knock of the Fellow-Craft, which is one short knock, followed by two long knocks. The piece also features triads (three note-groupings) throughout. Some of the central themes of the opera are also deeply rooted in Masonic principles, such as enlightenment, self-discovery and rituals.
For more information about Mozart’s connection to the Freemasons, check out Mozart Decoded – a documentary made by Kevin Sullivan about Mozart’s ties to the secretive society.
Source: “The Treasures of Mozart” by John Irving