The Magic Flute (includes the Queen of the Night's aria, Der Holle Rache, the Birdcatcher's Song)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The 15th of Mozart's 20 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame. This peaked at number 42 in 2006, the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Mozart is at his most Masonic and magical in this riot of life, lust and ludicrous plot in which a prince and a bird-catcher go on a journey to enlightenment and marital bliss.
The Magic Flute is not so much an opera, but a Singspiel, a popular theatre form that mixed both singing and spoken dialogue. It came out of Mozart's friendship with the theatre troupe of actor and impresario, Johann Schickenader, who wrote the text and played the birdcatcher Papageno.
Mozart wrote specifically for the skills of the singers which included both experienced voices and ordinary comic actors. You can hear how the vocal lines for some are often stated first by the strings so the performer can find his pitch, and are frequently doubled by instruments. Mozart's sister-in-law who played the Queen of the Night needed little help: her songs are famous for their difficulty, including an ear-busting top F.
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