The Significance of Three

By April 9, 2012Music

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There are several notable uses of “3” as the numerical pattern throughout the opera. For example the three boys who act as the guides on the journey of enlightenment, the Queen’s three ladies in waiting, and the overall key musical structure of the piece. From the outset of the overture there are three chords that are played very distinctly and they themselves are built on musical 3rds, progressions of 3rds in the melody and even in the bass descent, down a 3rd. So in fact from the very first references in the opera, there is a sense in which one is not just hearing chords; they are calling for the audience to be quiet that the piece is about to begin. It is actually signifying something as well; the Masonic symbolism embedded in the entire work.

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To a Freemason, hearing the opera for the first time, those chords instructed the audience to listen carefully for their resounding meaning. The number “3” was also the symbol of the deity, of divine guidance. Three or the Trinity was considered the perfect number; simply because 1, being the unity, and 1 +2 then produces 3. In other words, the whole world is derived from 1 + 2 =3.

Freemasons were also vitally concerned with three basic questions that every philosopher and every religion has dealt with: Where did I come from, why am I here and where do I go from here? Those are the essential questions that every human asks of themselves at some point or another, especially in those serious moments. In The Magic Flute, the lead character Tamino is forced to endure some of his own serious moments in order to confront these questions head on, as he journeys through three trials in order to save the Princess Pamina and to find meaning in his own existence.

Scene from Mozart's Magic Flute Diaries

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