Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"

"Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" better known as the Queen of the Night's Aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute has been Ana's favourite since she was about three years old. When we were still living in Lisbon, she used to spend long hours with me in the car, stuck in traffic jams or just driving around, and the music was always on. I'm a big Mozart fan and I also believe that a lot of his music is very appealing and beneficial to young children.
Anyway, the Queen of the Night's aria is this week's pick for this blog and it's now playing on the iPod (click on the "My Player" icon or on this picture from one of the opera's scenes to listen to it).
A long, long time ago, I used to dream I'd be able to sing like this one day...
"It is considered to be one of the most famous opera arias (or arias at all, in fact) in the musical world, though the debate is ongoing as for the reason why.
First, the arias is highly memorable, fast paced and grandiose. Slower arias always tend to be less publically adored than their fast counterparts, which is perhaps the reason why the abovementioned first aria of the Queen is less known.
Secondly, the aria is widely renowned for being an extremely difficult piece to execute at all, not to say gracefully and artfully. It requires the singer not only to carry very long phrases with stable or even increasing intensity and not only requires flexibility even greater than that of a regular feminine voice, it requires a range not possesssed by the majority of singers. The aria's range is two octaves, from F4 to a stunning F6. The piece requires an extremely high tessiture of B4 to B5, and therefore singers with a lower natural tessiture may damage their voice by repeatedly singing this part over a long period. Basically all contraltos and mezzo-sopranos cannot reach this note, at least not singably if at all, and even most sopranos cannot produce it at all, not to say clearly and musically. Most sopranos who were previously able to reach this note, lose it at a later point in their career.
Lastly, even if the singer is able to produce the notes with the agility and range required, it needs to be done very gracefully and musically, otherwise ruining the piece. The high notes (especially G3-Bb5) need either a very fine voice or a highly developed piano in order to be produced singably, in contrast to a screech. The singer has to be able to change the effect of her voice to emphasize the meaning behind the words, which is very difficult in this kind of trickily composed pieces."

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