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Notes for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, November 16, 2004

  • "Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo," K. 584
  • "Non più andrai" from The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492

The one realm of music Bach's duties in Leipzig never required him to enter was opera. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), on the other hand, made some of his most important contributions to music as an operatic composer. He wrote his first operatic work, the three-part Latin intermezzo Apollo et Hyacinthus, when he was eleven, and he continued to write for the stage right up until his last year, when both The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito premiered in the same month. Aside from The Magic Flute, his most important contributions came in his three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte - The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790) - all of which revealed a new-found emphasis on the humanity and realism of their characters through Mozart's perfect musical dramaturgy.

Both of the arias on this program come from those Mozart-Da Ponte operas. They demonstrate Mozart's liberation of the aria from the strictures of da capo form by writing music and using structures that follow the expression of the text more closely. The first, "Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo," was originally intended for Così fan tutte, but it was replaced before the opera's first performance by a shorter number. The opera revolves around two couples, Guglielmo and Fiordiligi and Fernando and Dorabella. The two men test the faithfulness of their beloveds by returning in disguise to woo them. In the aria, we find Guglielmo unleashing a torrent of classical and geographical references to test Dorabella's fidelity.

"Non più andrai" comes at the end of Act One of Figaro. The Count suspects his page Cherubino of pursuing the Countess; when he discovers Cherubino hiding in the chambers of the Countess' servant Susanna, he orders the page to depart for a regiment in Seville. In the aria, Figaro gently mocks Cherubino, teasing the "little Narcissus" about his military fate, something underlined by the martial character of the number, with its trumpets and drums.

- John Mangum is the Philharmonic's Program Annotator/Designer.