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This was the first of the two great concert arias which Mozart wrote for the celebrated Czech soprano Josefa Dušek. She was two years older than Mozart, having been born in Prague in 1754, and had married the well-known Czech composer and pianist Franz Xaver Dušek (1731-1799) in 1776. In August of the following year the couple met the Mozarts while visiting Josefa’s grandfather in Salzburg, and this meeting resulted in the composition of Ah, lo previdi.

The text was taken from a libretto by Vittorio Cigna-Santi (who had previously written the libretto for Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto) for the opera Andromeda. This libretto had already been set by at least four composers—most recently by Giovanni Paisiello in 1774—and the story of Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda from a sea monster had been one of the most popular subjects throughout early opera; by 1800 over twenty-five independent librettos had been written on the subject. In Cigna-Santi’s version of the story, Andromeda is in love with Perseus but is obliged to marry Euristeo, the successor to the King of Argos. When Euristeo tells Andromeda that he has seen Perseus wandering about dementedly with an unsheathed sword, she supposes that Perseus has killed himself. She turns her fury on Euristeo for not having prevented the imagined suicide, before subsiding into resignation and acceptance as she envisages following her beloved on his journey to Hades. In an exquisite cavatina, she begs Perseus to await her arrival so that they can cross the River Lethe together, a sorrowful oboe solo plaintively interweaving with her expressions of grief and yearning.

This work was clearly close to Mozart’s heart. A year after its composition he sent a copy of the music to Aloysia Weber—with whom he had fallen deeply in love—urging her to study the aria. In his only surviving letter to her, dated 30 July 1778, he offers her impassioned guidance on how to prepare the music, writing: “I advise you to observe the expression marks—to think carefully of the meaning and the impact of the words—to put yourself in all seriousness into Andromeda’s situation and position!—and to imagine that you really are that very person.” This document offers a fascinating insight into the depth and intensity with which Mozart connected to his material, and the work remains one of the composer’s most extraordinary, though curiously little-known, masterpieces.

from notes by Ian Page © 2017

Recordings

Perfido!
Studio Master: SIGCD485Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

No 1. Recitativo: Ah, lo previdi!
Track 13 on SIGCD485 [1'04] Download only
No 2. Aria: Ah, t'invola agl'occhi miei
Track 14 on SIGCD485 [3'12] Download only
No 3. Recitativo: Misera! Invan m'adiro
Track 15 on SIGCD485 [2'56] Download only
No 4. Cavatina: Deh, non varcar quell'onda
Track 16 on SIGCD485 [4'50] Download only

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