Today we’re listening to…
“Der Hölle Rache” (popularly known as “The Queen of the Night Aria”) a coloratura soprano aria from Act II of the opera Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This aria is incredibly exciting but also terrifying and that is on purpose. The melody is aggressive, full of large leaps and jagged movements. In the aria, which is performed here by Diana Damrau, the soprano must hit a high F over and over again. 😳
It’s incredibly difficult and probably a good time for me to point out that opera singing is one of the most incredible physical feats humans can engage in. While you might dislike this piece, there is no denying that opera singers are professional athletes.
🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen):
The Magic Flute is a fairy tale, with themes of love, of good versus evil and finding your way in the world. The opera features some of Mozart's most beautiful pieces.
The Queen of the Night is in a fit of rage here. She gives a knife to her daughter Pamina (Pa-mee-nah) and tells her to kill the priest Sarastro (Sah-rah-stroh). If she refuses, the Queen says she will curse her.
The vengeance of hells boils in my heart,
Death and despair flame about me!
If Sarastro does not through you feel
The pain of death,
Then you will be my daughter nevermore.
Disowned may you be forever,
Abandoned may you be forever,
Destroyed be forever
All the bonds of nature,
If not through you
Sarastro becomes pale!
Hear, Gods of Revenge,
Hear a mother's oath!
Die Zauberflöte was the last opera Mozart composed. It premiered in September 1791 – three months before he died at 35.
From the Italian word for “coloring,” coloratura refers to elaborate vocal passages with heavy ornamentation. It may also describe a singer who possesses the agility and lightness necessary to perform such music. This aria is particularly memorable because of its crazy wide and demanding two octave vocal range. Mozart wrote it with his sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer, in mind.
Mozart wrote themes for each of his characters, so you can often tell someone is coming before they reach the stage. The Queen of the Night’s music is fast and very high. And how do you know you’re listening to Mozart and not another composer? The melodies are beautiful, and there are a whole lot of notes!
Thank you for listening,