Sometimes it happens to me that I get a bit confused when a story is not like Hollywood: bad guys are bad and stay that way. Evil has to be vanquished, destroyed and overcome. Characters that switch sides in the middle of the story don’t fit that program. So this opera was confusing for me.
Two characters, one prince and one from the lower classes of society, meet and go through several ordeals. They have to overcome the tests to, in game terms, level up. Of course they make it, getting both their own girl in the process. All very happy.
My confusion was always from the image both heroes have of the high priest of the temple. That high priest is at the start described as an evil man. And he also doesn’t come across as very friendly. A beautiful bass voice, strengthened by authority and power. But at the end of the story, when all tests are successfully done, that same high priest is het one giving out the prizes.
Than there is the famous Queen of the Night. She sings what is maybe the most famous aria of all: Der Hölle Rache. It is famous for its upper register coloratura passages. She forces her daughter to kill the priest.
Once you know that this is actually meant as a masonic rite of passage, it all falls into place. The two heroes get to be better people by going through ordeals, and in the end evil is overcome and everybody is in a happy brotherhood. I mention that specifically, because this is very much a story from a masonic perspective. Women have no place in this brotherhood.