Mozart’s musical comedy/opera, The Magic Flute, has a story that’s confused even by the loose standard of opera. No matter, it has a lot of good tunes and offers the opportunity for creative stagings. One of its characters, The Queen of the Night, seems to be an OK person at the opera’s start, but ends up being cast into eternal night. But that’s after she’s sung two arias. The subject of this post is the second of these. Its German text followed by an English translation is below. There’s a lot of politically incorrect stuff in the opera that I will in the interests of enlightenment pass over.
As you can see from the text the Queen is out for blood. She’s addressing her daughter, Pamina, the story’s female love interest. But as the opera is full of a lot of foolishness Mozart, being Mozart, mixed vengeance with silliness. The staccato high notes speak (or sing) for themselves. Irrespective of whether you find the aria thrilling or a little goofy, it’s incredibly difficult and accordingly requires a coloratura soprano of great skill and agility to fully realize its musical and emotional content.
So, here are 9 versions with a special 10th as a bon bon. I’ll start with Joan Sutherland’s (1926-2010) singing of the aria. La Stupenda was so gifted that she probably could have sung the title role in Boris Godunov had she been in the mood. This recording was made in 1962. Sutherland The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Cristina Deutekom (1931-2014) was a Dutch soprano who made her Met debut as The Queen of the Night. She only gave 17 performances with the company. She moved to some of the big Verdi roles as her career developed. She opened the Met’s 1974 season as Elena in I Vespri Siciliani with Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes. Deutekom The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Rita Shane (1936-2014) also made her debut at the Met as The Queen of the Night. She sang the role 29 times with the company. She sang at most of the world’s major houses, but didn’t make the impact that her talent deserved. Her voice had a rich timbre that allowed her to go beyond roles that only birds can mimic. For example, she sang Traviata at the Met. Shane The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Lucia Popp (1939-93) died prematurely from brain cancer, but not before she had become a star at all the big opera companies. She too made her Met debut as The Queen of the Night. Of her 28 performances with the company, 26 were as The Queen. The remaining two were as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. Though she did move to some lighter lyric roles, she was at her best in the high soprano repertoire. Lucia Popp The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Edda Moser (b 1938) gave 110 performances with the Met. The Queen of the Night was one of her roles, which included Mussetta, Liu, Donna Anna, and Armida in Handel’s Rinaldo. As you can hear, her voice was full enough for heavier lyric roles. Edda Moser The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Edita Gruberova (b 1946) is yet another soprano who made her Met debut as Mozart’s angry Queen. The Slovak coloratura was especially noted for this role. Her 28 shows with the Met included Lucia di Lammermoor, I Puritani, Ariadne auf Naxos, and La Traviata. Gruberova The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Luciana Serra (b 1946) is an Italian coloratura soprano who also made her Met debut as Mozart’s Queen. Her career was largely built around this role. She now spends her time teaching in Rome and Milan. Luciana Serra The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Sumi Jo (b 1962) is a South Korean soprano who sang 47 performances at the Met between 1989 and 2000. All her roles were in the high soprano repertoire, but she did not sing in The Magic Flute at the Met. She did do the Queen in Chicago. Sumi Jo The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Diana Damrau (b 1971) is probably the leading exponent of the high soprano roles currently active. Her rendition of The Queen of the Night’s Aria is as close to perfection as one could wish. She has sung 137 times and counting at the Met in a variety of operas. This season she added Violetta in Traviata to her Met list. She’s only sung the Queen twice at the New York house.
Now for the bon bon. Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) was infamous for her butchery of operatic standards. She attracted a wide following who were amused at her awful singing. But there was something cruel about this adventitious admiration. I don’t think Ms Jenkins was aware of her failings and the fake love she received, at least until her one appearance at Carnegie Hall. But look at her career this way. How many of the sopranos presented above will have a major movie devoted to their lives acted by the world’s greatest actress? The answer, of course, is none. And cruel sophistication is sinful. Florence Foster Jenkins The Queen of the Night’s Aria
Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen,
Tod und Verzweiflung flammet um mich her!
Fühlt nicht durch dich Sarastro
So bist du meine Tochter nimmermehr.
Verstossen sei auf ewig,
Verlassen sei auf ewig,
Zertrümmert sei’n auf ewig
Alle Bande der Natur
Wenn nicht durch dich!
Sarastro wird erblassen!
Hört der Mutter Schwur!
The vengeance of Hell 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!