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8.550383 - MOZART: Tenor Arias

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Tenor Arias

In 1781 Mozart won independence from the ties that had bound him to his native Salzburg. After a childhood during which he had astonished Europe by his feats of musicianship, there had been a less satisfactory period of adolescence in which his gifts were the greater but his chances to display them the less. An attempt to seek an honourable position in Mannheim or in Paris in 1777 and 1778 led to nothing, but the successful reception of his opera Idomeneo in Munich in January 1781 encouraged him in his quarrel with his patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, during the course of a visit to Vienna immediately afterwards.

For the last ten years of his life Mozart lacked the security of patronage and was without the careful advice of his father, Leopold Mozart, who remained as Vice-Kapellmeister in Salzburg, unable any longer to guide and plan his son's career. An imprudent marriage did nothing to improve his position, but Vienna brought one very great advantage. At last it was possible to write directly for the theatre. Mozart's first Vienna opera during this period was the German Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), in 1782. This was followed in 1786 by the first of his collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte, the Italian opera Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). In 1787, the year of his father's death, came a further opera with Lorenzo da Ponte, Don Giovanni, and in 1790, with the same poet, Cosi fan tutte, otherwise known as La scuola degli am anti (The School of Lovers). The following year Mozart wrote two operas, La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) as a coronation opera for Prague and a German magic opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) for a suburban theatre in Vienna, where it was still running at the time of his death early in December.

The Magic Flute, which translates into popular theatrical terms something of the ritual and aims of free-masonry, deals with the passing of the young prince, Tamino, through ordeals of silence, fire and water, to acceptance in the society of Sarastro and union with Pamina, whose wicked mother, the Queen of the Night, has exhausted all the devices of coloratura in her attempts to thwart the forces of good. The libretto, by the actor-manager Emanuel Schikaneder, who played the part of the comic bird-catcher Papageno in the original production at the Theater-an-der-Wien, presents various problems of interpretation, but successfully follows a current pattern of magic opera, elevated now to a higher level of artistic achievement. The tenor aria "Dies' Bildnis ist bezaubernd schon" (This portrait is enchantingly beautiful) is sung by Tamino as he gazes lovingly at a miniature of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, having promised her mother that he will strive to release her from the power of the allegedly wicked Sarastro. "Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton" (How strong your magic sound) is sung by Tamino as he plays the magic flute, to which the animals of the forest emerge to dance. The prince has approached three temple doors and on the final attempt has been greeted by a priest, who tells him that Pamina still lives. With the flute he calls to her.

The Turkish Singspiel, Die Entfürung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), tells how the hero Belmonte eventually succeeds, largely through the magnanimity of the Turkish Pasha Selim, in winning the release from his palace of his beloved Constanze. "Hier soIl ich Dich denn sehen" (Now at last I shall see you) is Belmonte's opening aria, as he stands alone before the Pasha's palace, resolved to rescue Constanze. Belmonte is first united with his old servant Pedrillo, also a prisoner of the Pasha, and learns that Constanze is still alive. In the aria "Constanze! Constanze!" he longs to see her again, his passionate declaration interrupted by the arrival of the Pasha himself. "Wenn der Freude Tranen fiiessen" (When the tears of joy are flowing) is sung by Belmonte when he sees his beloved again and plans to outwit the Pasha and the comic overseer Osmin and arrange their escape. At midnight Belmonte and Pedrillo prepare to arrange the escape of Constanze and her servant Blonde from their quarters by setting a ladder to their window above. Belmonte sings to Constanze, resolved to succeed in his enterprise, claiming strength through the power of love - "Ich baue ganz auf Deine Starke" (I place my faith on the power of love). The attention of Constanze and Blonde is attracted by the following serenade, sung by Pedrillo, who accompanies himself on the mandolin. "Im Mohrenland gefangen war" (In Moorish land imprisoned was a maiden, fair and fine), Pedrillo's serenade, is the agreed sign, at which the women should appear at the window above, ready to climb down. Their escape is intercepted by Osmin, but the Pasha in the end allows his captives to go free.

Don Giovannifollows the amorous escapades and terrible fate of the legendary Spanish lover Don Juan (Don Giovanni), the subject of a play by Tirso de Molina in the early seventeenth century. The title role of the opera is entrusted to a baritone, while his rival, Don Onavio, the true lover of Donna Anna, who has been wronged by Don Giovanni and whose father he has killed, sings to his beloved the two great romantic arias of the opera, the first, "Dalla sua pace" (My peace depends on hers), an attempt to console her, when he learns what has happened. In the second, "Il mio tesoro" (My treasure), Don Onavio's only aria in the original Prague version of the opera, he re-assures his hearers that all will soon be well and Don Giovanni brought to justice. This is in the end achieved by supernatural means, as the stone statue of Donna Anna's murdered father accepts Don Giovanni's invitation to dinner and drags him down to Hell.

In Cosi fan tune, the cynical Don Alfonso persuades the young lovers Ferrando and Guglielmo to test the loyalty of their betrothed by pretending to leave for the wars but actually returning in foreign disguise to tempt the two girls. At first they resist, and Ferrando in "Un' aura amorosa" (A loving breath) praises the apparent constancy of his beloved. Soon Guglielmo has proved successful with Ferrando's Dorabella, while Fiordiligi still forthe moment stands firm, although nearly convinced by Ferrando's "Ah lo veggio quell' anima bella" (Now I see this lovely soul cannot resist my pleas). In the recitative "In qual fiero contrasto" and the following aria "Tradito, schernito" (Betrayed, spurned), Ferrando reacts strongly to the news that Dorabella has fallen to the wiles of his friend. Matters are later brought to a crisis when a mock-wedding is interrupted by the return of the young men as themselves, disguises cast aside, and the general conclusion that equanimity in changing fortune is no bad thing.

(The Clemency of Titus) makes use of a libretto adapted from Metastasio, court poet of an earlier age. The Empress, after the performance to mark the coronation of the Emperor in Bohemia, is reputed to have dismissed the piece as "porcherfa tedesca" (German piggishness), possibly too heavy for fashionable Italian taste. The story of the magnanimity of the Roman Emperor Titus was well suited to the occasion, praise of imperial enlightenment, however little this was to be exercised in the composer's favour. The aria "Del piu sublime soglio" (This is the only success of the highest monarch) allows Titus to reflect on the power of a ruler to reward virtue after his announcement that he will marry Servilia, sister of Sextus, and, unknown to the Emperor, in love with Annius. In his later aria, again to the original words of Metastasio, "Ah, se fosse" (If only everyone were so honest) Titus praises the noble behaviour of Annius and the frankness of Servilia, who now have acknowledged their love for one another. In the second act Titus, in his Metastasian aria "Se all' impero" (If an Emperor needs sternness, then take my empire away from me), while still pretending the sternest justice, has resolved to pardon Sextus, who has conspired against him, suborned by the jealous Vitellia, also to be forgiven, through the clemency of Titus.

John Dickie
John Dickie was born in London and grew up in Vienna, where his father was for thirty years a singer with the Vienna State Opera. After leaving school, he spent three years at the Vienna Musikhochschule as a student of Luise Scheid, followed by two years at the Conservatory as a pupil of Hilde Zadek, undertaking study of Italian roles in Florence under Flaminio Contini during the summer months. After three years experience at the Vienna Volksoper, John Dickie's first engagement was at Wuppertal, where he was able to study and perform various lyric tenor roles under the direction of Hellmuth Matthiasek and Hans-Martin Schneidt. He followed this with three seasons at Mannheim. During this period he made his first appearance at the Vienna State Opera in The Barber of Seville and at the German Opera in Berlin in The Merry Wives of Windsor. From Mannheim he moved to Hamburg for two further seasons at the Staatsoper, at this time making his Covent Garden debut as Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. John Dickie was invited by Eberhard Waechter, the new director of the Vienna Opera Houses, to return to Vienna. He has since then fulfilled engagements in Hamburg, Cologne and other important opera-houses. He has appeared, in addition, at the German Opera of the Ahine, the Theatre National de l'Opera de Paris and the Grand Theatre de Geneve. In 1981 he sang for the first time at the Bregenz Festival, appearing as Tamino in the famous Savcary production of The Magic Flute. John Dickie has appeared often on television, in particular in a distinguished production of Gluck's Orphée in Paris, a project of OAF and East German Television. He sang the part of the Evangelist and the tenor arias of the St. Matthew Passion for the first time in Leipzig in the autumn of 1989 under the direction of Max Pommer.

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