Monday, October 15, 2007

The Magic Flute III, or Queen of the Night

The high point of the opera, for our family at least, came in the second act. It is the famous aria, "Das Holle Rache," sung by the Queen of the Night.

I personally love the title "Queen of the Night." To me it sounds peaceful and benevolent, and I think of the night spreading her wings over the landscape and protecting the little animals nestled in their burrows. Mozart seems to have taken a different view; the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute is a figure representing malevolence and disorder.

An interesting aside to all this is that this opera was written with specific performers in mind. Some of them were not such great singers, and their parts are both easier to sing, and supported by the orchestra, which gives them the right note to start on and plays their melody along with them. The Queen of the Night's music, on the other hand, is known as some of the most challenging in all opera. As Lesley mentioned in some previous comments, it was written for Mozart's sister-in-law.

The aria that she sings in the second act is nothing short of electrifying. The quick series of arpeggios in the upper register may have been meant to suggest demonic crazy laughter. To me, though, they are just beautiful.

It's easy to get lost in all the various versions of this aria on YouTube. This one is my favorite:

Having watched many, many clips, I can tell you that it is apparently impossible to hit those high notes without the facial contortions. Oh, and how high are those high notes? Three Fs above middle C. Go look at a piano and see how high that is. I can't even sing two Fs above middle C, and I've had vocal training.

There is a certain perception of classical music/opera as the province of some elite, long-haired, intellectual minority. So I was surprised to see that when I did a search for Mozart on YouTube I got more hits (27,700) than I did for Eric Clapton (11,700). And speaking of Eric Clapton ....

I like his music, too.


Blogger Lesley said...

Thank you for the You tube clip.
It made me cry watching it. So amazingly beautiful! As I was listening, Audrey walked in the room (drawn in by the music....) Audrey knows the music from a Barbie Mermadia DVD.... she thought I was watching it.

And, as always, thanks for the correction.... sister-in-law... not sister. Right.

6:18 PM  

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