Marc Chagall (Vitebsk, 1887 – Saint-Paul, 1985) was a Belarusian painter and printmaker who worked primarily in Paris, known for his use of bright, vivid colors to create dynamic and whimsical pieces. Chagall traveled frequently throughout his career, often using his travels as inspiration for his paintings and prints. Today, Chagall's famous paintings are more accessible through the prints the artist created of his paintings. Created in 1967, Marc Chagall's La Flûte Enchantée (The Magic Flute) is one of these a marvelous works, featuring bold blues and greens and fantastical figures.

Marc Chagall, La Flûte Enchantée (The Magic Flute), 1967

1. It adorns the Metropolitan Opera House

Chagall painted a large-scale mural entitled The Sources of Music, which features the scene present in this print on the left side of the mural. The mural occupies the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, created for the inauguration of the theater’s present-day Lincoln Center address. A poster edition of the print La Flûte Enchantée was used as advertisement for the theater and the edition of 200 hand-signed and hand-numbered lithographs were created for museums, collectors, and institutions alike.

Marc Chagall, The Sources of Music, 1966. The scene from The Magic Flute, 1967 is visible on the left side of the mural.

2. It was inspired by Mozart's The Magic Flute

In 1967, after moving to its new Lincoln Center location, the Metropolitan Opera House opened a new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, which Chagall drew inspiration from when creating the mural and prints. The animals in the print correspond with the characters in the opera, such as the serpent that attacks Prince Tamino in the opening scene and the two lions, who could represent Tamino and Pamina.1 At the center of the composition, a winged woman plays a flute.

The serpent and lions represent figures from Mozart's opera

3. The Magic Flute is one half of a series of prints

The Magic Flute is one of two prints featuring scenes from the Metropolitan Opera's murals that were used to advertise the theater, with the other print named Carmen and featuring a scene from The Triumph of Music.

The flute player at the center of the composition.

4. Chagall designed sets and costumes for the 1967 production of The Magic Flute

Initially, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned Chagall to design stage sets and costumes for their production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute. Chagall created 39 stage curtains and 121 costumes and masks, which were both celebrated and heavily critiqued. In 2015, some of these costumes were featured in an exhibition at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.2

Detail from Marc Chagall The Magic Flute, 1966. Marc Chagall's signature is visible on the right side.

5. The Magic Flute exemplifies Chagall's use of color.

Chagall is celebrated for his incredible control and use of color in his art. Deep, vivid hues of blue saturate the print, drawing the viewer's attention to the winged flute player at the print's center. Patches of sunny yellow contrast the blues and soft greens capture the natural, leafy environment. Three areas of red add further dimension to the colors of the print and move the viewer's eye around the composition. The flute player adds a musicality to this print, giving the highly saturated, bold colors a poetic, romantic feeling.

Detail from Marc Chagall The Magic Flute, 1966


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