Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön
"Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" (This image is enchantingly lovely) is an aria from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 1791 opera The Magic Flute. The aria takes place in act 1, scene 1, of the opera. Prince Tamino has just been presented by the Three Ladies with an image of the princess Pamina, and falls instantly in love with her.
Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön,
This image is enchantingly lovely,
The meter is iambic tetrameter, which is the metre Schikaneder used throughout most of The Magic Flute. The stanzaic form and rhyme scheme involves two quatrains followed by two rhymed tercets, thus: [AABB] [CCDD] [EEF] [GGF].
David Freedberg offers an appreciation of Schikaneder's work: "[the aria] describes in extraordinary detail something of the mental movements that one can imagine accompanying the revelation of the picture. Tamino's heart is stirred, and then more powerfully so; he cannot name the emotion, he calls it love. Thus identified, the sentiment grows stronger; he moves from beautiful picture to the beautiful woman represented on it. Tamino is overwhelmed with a sense of her potential presence, her potential liveliness. He speaks of pressing her to his breast, and he wants to possess her forever."
Mozart's musical setting mostly follows the scheme of Schikaneder's poem. There is an opening section in E-flat corresponding to the first quatrain, a modulation to the dominant key of B-flat for the second quatrain, a chromatic and modulating passage for the first tercet, and a return to E-flat for the last.
The third to last line "Was würde ich? Ich würde sie voll Entzücken" is not strictly a iambic tetrameter, and may reflect a change of the text by Mozart, who places a dramatic full-measure pause after Tamino's self-directed question.
The orchestra for the most part plays a discreet accompaniment to the soloist. There is a solo for the clarinets between the first and second quatrains, and the first violins play a thirty-second note motif, evoking Tamino's surging emotions, in the third section.
Premiere and reception
The aria was first sung by Benedikt Schack (1758–1826), a friend of Mozart's, who performed the role of Tamino at the premiere of The Magic Flute. It is frequently performed and recorded today, both as part of The Magic Flute and separately in recitals and recorded compilations.
Criticism and commentary
Hermann Abert offered background to the work thus: it "deals with a theme familiar not only from fairytales but also from French and German comic operas, namely the love of a mere portrait, a true fairytale miracle that music alone can turn into a real-life experience." Abert goes on to contrast Tamino's love with that of other male characters in Mozart opera:
Few, if any, experiences lend themselves to musical treatment as much as the mysterious burgeoning of love in a young heart. It was an experience that already preoccupied Mozart's attentions in the case of Cherubino. Now, of course, we are no longer dealing with an adolescent but with an already mature young man. Moreover, Tamino does not experience love as a state of turmoil in which all his senses are assaulted, as is the case with Count Almaviva, for example, but nor is it a magic force that paralyses all his energies, as it does with Don Ottavio. Rather, it is with reverent awe that he feels the unknown yet divine miracle burgeoning within him. From the outset, this lends his emotions a high degree of moral purity and prevents him from becoming sentimental.
Grout and Williams suggest that the opening notes of the aria spill over into other numbers: "The opening phrase of 'Dies Bildnis ist bezauberned schön' turns up at a half-dozen unexpected places in the second finale. These and similar melodic remembrances are not to be regarded as leitmotifs in the Wagnerian sense but as partly unconscious echoes of musical ideas that were in Mozart's mind throughout the composition of the opera." They do not specify these locations but Christoph Wolff points out one of them: the phrase to which Pamina sings the words "Tamino mein! O welch ein Glück!" ("My Tamino! Oh what happiness!") when they are reunited shortly before their trials of fire and water.
- Branscombe (1991, 50). In terms of length and stanza structure Branscombe is correct, but a rhyme scheme of paired couplets is unusual for a sonnet; see Sonnet for discussion.
- Branscombe (1991, 50)
- Freedberg (2013:unpaginated)
- See the online New Grove, article "Benedikt Schack" (subscription required)
- Branscombe (1991)
- Abert, p. 1265
- Grout and Williams (2003:331)
- See Wolff (2011:126). Other possible parallels are Tamino's part on "Wir wandeln durch des Tones Macht" ("We wander by the power of the sound") and the third and fourth bars of the flute solo he plays during the trials.
- Abert, Hermann (2007) (original edition 1920) W. A. Mozart. Translated by Stewart Spencer and edited/footnoted by Cliff Eisen. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Branscombe, Peter (1991) W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte. (Cambridge Opera Handbooks). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Freedberg, David (2013) "Arousal by image", chapter in Bill Beckley, ed., Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetics. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
- Grout, Donald Jay and Hermine Weigel Williams (2003) A Short History of Opera, 4th ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Wolff, Christoph (2012) Mozart at the Gateway of his Fortune. New York: Norton.
- Text, with a different English translation
- Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön: Score in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe