WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Mar­riage Of Fi­garo aria

We re­turn to the mu­si­cal ge­nius of Mozart and an aria from the opera, Mar­riage Of Fi­garo. Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges this exquisitely beau­ti­ful vo­cal duet for solo clas­si­cal gui­tar.

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You’ve had Men­delssohn’s Wed­ding March so here’s Brid­get’s sea­sonal take on an­other great piece of be­trothal mu­sic, from The Mas­ter.

In this lat­est in­stal­ment of our clas­si­cal se­ries we tackle a work by the mu­si­cal ge­nius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). It’s hard to com­mu­ni­cate in a short piece of text the ex­tent of Mozart’s bril­liance and phe­nom­e­nal out­put, but to give you an idea, one might con­sider that by the time he com­posed the opera Mar­riage Of Fi­garo (from which this ar­range­ment is taken), he was barely 30 and had al­ready com­posed 38 sym­phonies, 37 in­stru­men­tal con­certi, 16 other operas as well as hun­dreds of oth­ers, of out­stand­ing tech­ni­cal and ex­pres­sive qual­ity.

The Mar­riage Of Fi­garo com­posed in 1786 (for which, in­ci­den­tally, he was paid 450 florins – roughly ap­prox­i­mated to £3,000 in to­day’s money – or one hour of Bey­once’s salary) is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be one of the most sem­i­nal and in­flu­en­tial operas in the en­tire genre. Writ­ten to an Ital­ian li­bretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte it con­tains a num­ber of pieces that have en­dured in their own right in­clud­ing the arias Aprite Un Po’ Quegli Oc­chi, Hai Già Vinta La Causa!, Non So Più Cosa Son, Voi Che Sapete and (ar­ranged here) the ab­so­lutely stunning duet Sull’aria Che Soave

Zef­firetto (On the breeze...What a gen­tle lit­tle Ze­phyr). This duet (or duet­tino – a short duet) ap­pears in Act III and is for two so­pra­nos (the char­ac­ters Count­ess Al­ma­viva and Su­sanna) in which the Count­ess hatches a plot with her maid Su­sanna to ex­pose her hus­band’s in­fi­delity. The tran­scen­dent beauty of the melody thus has a darker ironic un­der­tone – lost to all un­fa­mil­iar with the lan­guage or dra­matic con­text. Its dra­matic func­tion with the opera aside, the aria’s in­cred­i­bly en­gag­ing melody as well as how the two voices in­ter­weave and merge through the course of the short work has an ir­re­sistibly time­less qual­ity with an ef­fect of heav­enly joy. For this rea­son it is of­ten associated with tran­scen­dence in screen, most fa­mously per­haps in the 1994 seven-Os­car nom­i­nated film The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion when the lead character Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Rob­bins) – who has been wrong­fully ac­cused and im­pris­oned for mur­der­ing his wife and her lover in a fit of jeal­ous rage – in an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic moment of de­fi­ance uses the PA loud­speak­ers to play the aria over the prison grounds. Know­ing that he will be pun­ished se­verely for the act, Andy (and the prison com­mu­nity) is seen snatch­ing a few pre­cious and joy­ous mo­ments of feel­ing truly free, bask­ing in Mozart’s tran­scen­dent work, the prison walls but for a moment fall away. Andy’s fel­low pris­oner and friend Red (played of course by Mor­gan Freeman) nar­rates: “I have no idea to this day what those two Ital­ian ladies were singing about... I’d like to think they were singing about some­thing so beau­ti­ful it can’t be ex­pressed in words, and it makes your heart ache be­cause of it” is again ironic (and lost to the au­di­ence – and per­haps film mak­ers) given the na­ture of Andy’s ac­cused crime.

Orig­i­nally scored for oboe, bas­soon and strings ac­com­pa­ny­ing the two ‘con­spir­ing’ in­ter­wo­ven melodic lines; the chal­lenge of ar­rang­ing this won­der­ful work for solo gui­tar seems steep. How­ever, the power of Mozart’s melodic and har­monic writ­ing tran­scends in­stru­men­ta­tion and with the help of

Bb trans­pos­ing the orig­i­nal key of to C, this has cre­ated a very playable ar­range­ment, which res­onates nicely on the gui­tar.


Mozart: one of clas­si­cal mu­sic’s great ge­niuses

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