Classical 91.5

Long live the Queen (of the Night)!

Aug 11, 2017

During our “Opera Intervention” on Connections, I promised that I would send some links to great opera productions that you can watch online. I’m still working on it!  But I thought you might enjoy this rather specific slice of opera life. 

The arrival of the Queen of the Night. Stage set by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for an 1815 production

The Queen of the Night is a character in Mozart’s Opera The Magic Flute – she an evil sorceress, and she wants her daughter to stop the rather Masonic/Enlightenment-type character Sorastro.  The queen's words to her daughter in the famous aria “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” are not exactly the most tender example of maternal affection:

The vengeance of hell boils in my heart;
Death and despair blaze around me!
If not by thee Sarastro feels the pains of death
Then you will be my daughter nevermore.

Outcast be forever,
Forsaken be forever,
Shattered be forever
All the bonds of nature

And the music that Mozart uses to set these words by Emanuel Schikaneder – the Queen of the Night aria is famously intense, high-flying, and fiendishly difficult to sing. 

I’m part of a Facebook group for fans of the Met Opera Live in HD Broadcasts, and a recent discussion posed the question: "Who is your favorite Queen of the Night?"

Here are a few of the top contenders that were mentioned by several members of the group (and one famously “so bad its good”)

You can see a great combination of singing and acting in this crowd favorite from the Met – Diana Damrau:

My favorite queen of the night is this performance by Patricia Petibon – proof that no costume or stage are needed to create operatic drama.

Another great singing actress – Natalie Dessay  has been featuring prominently in the list I’m making of favorite opera scenes. 

A historic favorite – the great Lucia Popp:

Another great is a Rochester favorite -- Classical Idol winner Kathryn Lewek. She has terrified and fascinated with this role all around the world, including at the Met:

Singer Eda Moser's rendition is traveling through space, on the famed Voyager Golden Record

And finally, the infamous Florence Foster Jenkins made her mark with this aria, as a case of "Murder on the High Cs"

Plenty others made the discussion in our opera group (which you can join if that is your sort of thing!), but I picked just a few of the highlights. Feel free to suggest more Queens of Night in the comments.