The opera continues to develop in Act 2. Act 2 opens with Sarastro and his priests in a palm grove. This is often portrayed in a semi-religious manner by producers and is certainly a powerful moment in the opera. To begin with spoken dialogue is used, in which Sarastro states that he wishes to allow Tamino to join the sanctuary. Tamino is accepted and then Sarastro points out that the Gods had ordained that Pamina should be for Tamino and that this was why he had taken Pamina from her mother. The scene finishes with one of Mozart's more unusual operatic choruses, written entirely for male voices.
Next, Papageno and Tamino are brought to the forecourt of the temple where it's pitch dark and there are rolls of thunder every so often (remember that many 18th century theatres had machines under the stage which made noises of thunder - some still exist, for example in the Drottningholm theatre in Stockholm, Sweden). Papageno of course is terrified of the thunder. Two priests enter, and the first asks Tamino if he is prepared to undergo the trials which of course he is. The second priest talks to Papageno who isn't so sure about the situation, but when told that Sarastro has set aside Papagena for him he agrees to remain silent if the priest lets him see her. Tamino is also told that he must not speak to Pamina.
The Three Ladies appear (according to the libretto this is through a trapdoor in the floor but this doesn't always happen in productions), and try to persuade Tamino and Papageno that they shouldn't be where they are. Tamino refuses to talk with them and manages (almost) to stop Papageno from doing so, and then the "chorus" intervenes with the chorus from within the temple singing that the temple has been desecrated, so the ladies leave - not before they have revealed that the Queen of the Night has managed to break into the temple.
The Two Priests return and take Papageno and Tamino to their next trial.
We have another scene change, with Pamina asleep in an arbour. Monostatos comes in full of passion and desire for Pamina. He's all set to kiss her but the Queen of the Night comes in suddenly and he hides. Pamina wakes and the Queen is furious to hear that Tamino is now with Sarastro. She sings her second great aria, this time much darker, telling Pamina that she must kill Sarastro or be disowned. She leaves Pamina who is in great distress. Monostatos comes out of hiding, and tells Pamina that he has heard the whole thing and that she will only be safe if she agrees to love him. Sarastro enters having heard what was said and tells Monostatos to get out. He tells Pamina that he knows everything and reassures her that if Tamino remains steadfast everything will be all right. The aria he sings in this scene is most beautiful and another great moment of the opera.
We have another scene change and Tamino and Papageno are led into a hall. They are told to be silent, but of course Papageno won't stop talking for even a second. An old woman appears and Papageno starts up a conversation with her. She gives him a drink of water and tells Papageno when asked that she is eighteen years and two minutes old. Of course this scene always leads to a certain amount of joking ribaldry between the pair of them as the singers usually do their best to send it up as much as they can! The old woman limps off just as she is about to tell Papageno her name.
The Three Boys enter and return the Bells and the Flute to Papageno and Tamino, and remind Papageno to be quiet. A table appears well stocked with food and wine. Papageno of course helps himself to the food at once and soon has his mouth so full he can't talk.
Tamino starts to play the flute and Pamina enters. She cannot understand why Tamino won't speak with her, thinks that the world has ended because Tamino no longer loves her, and she leaves uncomforted. Tamino stands silent through all this but it's always an agonising scene in the opera.
We have a scene change to a vault where the priests, Sarastro and Tamino enter, and Pamina is brought in blindfolded. She asks where Tamino is and the blindfold is removed. She is told this is the final farewell but that she and Tamino will see one another again soon. A brief sequence follows and then Tamino has to go.
Papageno has been left behind in the hall but when he tries to go through the door which Tamino was taken through, the Second Priest blocks his way and asks if there is anything he would like. Papageno asks for a glass of red wine which he is given, then the priest leaves. It is only once he has drunk the wine that Papageno realises that what he really desires above all else is a wife. The old woman appears again and persuades Papageno that if he will stay faithful to her he will have a tender loving little wife. Papageno after a moment's hesitation agrees - and then the "old woman" transforms into a lovely young girl dressed in a similar fashion to Papageno. At this point the Second Priest removes her telling Papageno that he is not yet worthy of her.
Next we are in a garden and the Three Boys enter, and see Pamina who is in despair because she thinks she has been abandoned by her lover, Tamino. Pamina attempts suicide but the boys stop her and tell her that he loves her and is facing death for her. Pamina agrees to go with them.
The next duet is a most important piece of music in Mozart's writing. It is the defining moment at which we can say "I wonder what Mozart would have written had he lived?". The Duet of the Two Men in Armour is unlike anything else Mozart wrote, it is almost baroque in nature and the whole mood of the Flute changes dramatically following this scene.
Tamino is ready for his trial and Pamina is heard calling to wait, that she is coming. She is led in and Tamino and the Armoured Men sing that she will be consecrated. Pamina tells Tamino to play the magic flute as they go and she will lead him. This scene is always very solemn in the opera, as Tamino and Pamina walk through the flames and then through the water to undergo their trials of Fire and Water.
The scene finishes with a huge chorus and welcome for Tamino and Pamina.
Papageno appears next in a state of complete dejection as he is calling and calling for Papagena but she does not come. He places a noose on a branch of a tree and gets to the point of attempting suicide (this matches Pamina's attempt at suicide earlier) but is stopped in his tracks by the Three Boys. They remind him to play the bells and when he does, Papagena appears. A joyous duet follows and we leave Papageno and Papagena in a state of bliss.
In the next penultimate scene, the Queen of the Night, Monostatos and the Three Ladies attempt to storm the temple but are defeated by the light.
The opera concludes with another great chorus and Sarastro, Tamino and Pamina and the Three Boys on stage.
The plot of The Magic Flute can be quite convoluted to follow until you get used to it but it's a beautiful and most enjoyable opera to see and listen to and I would certainly recommend it as a first Mozart opera to get to know.