Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
"Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"), commonly abbreviated Der Hölle Rache, is the second aria sung by the Queen of the Night, a soprano coloratura part, in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). It is considered to be one of the most famous opera arias, highly memorable, fast paced and menacingly grandiose. It is often referred to as the Queen of the Night's Aria despite the fact that the Queen of the Night character sings another distinguished aria earlier in the opera, "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn".
The aria forms part of the second act of the opera. It depicts a fit of vengeful rage, in which the Queen of the Night places a knife into the hand of her daughter Pamina and exhorts her to assassinate Sarastro, the Queen's rival, on pain of denying and cursing Pamina if she does not comply.
The aria is written in D minor, and is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, and trumpets, along with timpani and the string section. This is a larger orchestra than for "O zittre nicht" and comprises all the players from the opera as a whole, except the clarinets and trombones.
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The words were written by Mozart's friend Emanuel Schikaneder, who also played Papageno in the first performances.
Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen,
The vengeance of hell boils in my heart;
Metrically, the text consists of a quatrain in iambic pentameter (exceptional for this opera, which is mostly in iambic tetrameter), followed by a quatrain in iambic trimeter, then a final pentameter couplet. The rhyme scheme is [ABAB][CCCD][ED].
The first singer to perform the aria onstage was Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer, who at the time was 33. By all accounts, Hofer had an extraordinary upper register and an agile voice and apparently Mozart, being familiar with Hofer's vocal ability, wrote the two blockbuster arias to showcase it.
An anecdote from Mozart's time suggests that the composer himself was very impressed with his sister-in-law's performance. The story comes from an 1840 letter from composer Ignaz von Seyfried, and relates an event from the last night of Mozart's life—December 4, 1791, five weeks into the opera's initial (very successful) run. According to Seyfried, the dying Mozart whispered the following to his wife Constanze:
Quiet, quiet! Hofer is just taking her top F; – now my sister-in-law is singing her second aria, 'Der Hölle Rache'; how strongly she strikes and holds the B-flat: 'Hört! hört! hört! der Mutter Schwur!'".
In modern times a great number of notable sopranos have performed or recorded the aria. June Anderson sings it in the film Amadeus. The aria was also a favorite of the famously incompetent singer Florence Foster Jenkins.
- Quoted from Deutsch (1965, 556). The B-flat to which Mozart referred is a long, powerful note, sung on the third repetition of "Hört!," to unexpected Neapolitan harmony in the orchestra and forming the climax of the aria. The original German reads: "Still, still! Jetzt nimmt die Hofer das hohe F; – jetzt singt die Schwägerin ihre zweite Arie: 'Der Hölle Rache'; wie kräftig sie das B anschlägt und aushält: 'Hört! hört! hört! der Mutter Schwur!'". Source: "Die Verdienste des Herrn Schikaneder", Hamburger Abendblatt (3 January 1994) (German)