Mozart: “Queen of the Night” Aria: Transcribed for Cello

From the opera “The Magic Flute” here is the sheet music for one of Mozart‘s most dramatic and well-known opera arias, transcribed for cello with piano accompaniment. The title of this aria in german is “Hell’s Vengeance” (Der Hölle Rache) and it certainly helps our interpretation to know the singer’s words:

hell’s vengeance boils in my heart ….  death and despair blaze all around me …. kill him, or you will no longer be my daughter” etc.

This is not at all the delightful, charming music that we often associate with Mozart! We would in fact normally associate this type of murderous hot-blooded fury with Verdi and Italian opera tragedies, rather than with a Germanic Mozartian fairytale fantasy about a magic flute!

Transposed into F# minor, the aria actually lies very well for the cello because now we can use our natural harmonics in the famous, excruciatingly high (for the singer), arpeggio passages. The piano part has of course needed to be rewritten in the new key, but no other note modifications apart from the key transposition have been made for this cello transcription. Some interpretative changes have however been made. Mozart often writes “p” as the dynamic for the orchestral accompaniment, but this is probably just to avoid the orchestra covering the singer. For the piano part of this cellofun version, some of those “p” indications have been suppressed in order to maintain the high energy level, while others have been changed to”f” (for example the very first bar of the piano introduction).

Another change that has been made – rhythmic this time – is in the passage between bars 53 and 63. Here, the repeated rhythmic figure has been double-dotted (the upbeat is played shorter and later than in Mozart’s version). Singers need time to enunciate their words, but on a string instrument, we can gain in dramatic intensity and virulence by making these upbeats semiquavers instead of Mozart’s quavers.

In the “Easier Version” all the higher passages have been transposed down an octave to keep the piece always in the Neck Region.

  1.   Edited Performance Version
  2.   Clean Performance Version
  3.   Easier Version
  4.   Piano Score

A play-along audio of the piano accompaniment can be found here below. If we actually download it then we can play it at different tempi with the wonderfully useful and simple Amazing Slowdowner program:


By clicking here a YouTube video recording of this cello transcription can be seen.