An Allegory of Eden: Marc Chagall’s Magic Flute Poster

In 1964, the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City commissioned Marc Chagall to design the stage sets and costumes for its first production of Mozart’s acclaimed opera The Magic Flute, scheduled for 1967. In three years, Chagall created 13 large curtains, 26 smaller curtains, and 121 costumes and masks.

In addition, the Metropolitan Opera asked the artist to produce two monumental murals entitled The Sources of Music (1966) and The Triumph of Music (1966), which pay tribute to the world’s great opera composers and which were permanently installed in the foyer of the new Lincoln Center opera house. Although these images were not intended as part of the 1967 production of The Magic Flute per se, one of them, The Sources of Music, does contain overt references to Mozart. One group of figures in The Sources of Music reappears almost unchanged in the poster Chagall made in 1966 to serve as an advertisement for the Met’s production of The Magic Flute. This composition, entitled The Magic Flute, Main Poster (fig. 1), depicts a small group of animal characters that correspond to the main figures from the narrative of Mozart’s opera. Compared to the art historical importance of the stage designs and the Lincoln center murals, the poster is probably the least significant.

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