looks backwards in text and models and forwards in what Beethoven does with them. The text is partially by Pietro di Metastasio (1698-1782), doyen of librettists for the formal kind of opera seria which was already falling out of fashion when the 21-year-old Mozart wrote Idomeneo
, his first operatic masterpiece. In 1796 Beethoven was wrestling with operatic ideas that would only find fruit in Fidelio
a decade later, but he also evidently learnt from Mozart’s concert arias how to shape a formal lament without the encouraging sniff of greasepaint. Indeed, once past the formal exclamations of the recitative, the aria alternates compassion and fury with an ambition that looks beyond the innovations of Gluck towards an embrace of feminine sympathy that would, half a century later, become synonymous with Verdi in characters such as Violetta.
from notes by John Wates © 2010