ACT II SCENE 17
In case you missed the last episode, you should know that Princess Pamina has not only had to face the murderous anger of her mother (the Queen of the Night), but also Monostatos’s threats to have her mother killed if the girl refuses herself to him; Sarastro has punished the miscreant, but Pamina is now confronted with the silence of Papageno and Tamino. Of course she does not know that their refusal to speak is imposed by an initiatory trial – for her, it is ‘worse than a wounded heart, worse than death!’
Listen to the excerpt:
What? Am I to shun you? Do you no longer love me?
Am I to flee without knowing why? Tamino, gentle youth, have I you offended you?
Papageno, tell me, what is wrong with my friend?
What? You too? At least tell me the cause of your silence.
Oh, this is worse than a wounded heart, worse than death!
Dear Tamino, my only love!
Alas, I feel it has vanished –
Gone forever is the joy of love!
Never, hours of bliss,
Will you return to my heart.
See, Tamino, these tears
Flow, beloved, for you alone.
If you do not feel love’s longing,
I will find rest in death.
We read in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung that Mozart wanted to hear Pamina’s ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ (no.17) sung passionately, excitedly, restlessly, reflecting her feeling of being offended by Tamino’s silence. The description of the authentic tempo by the author of the article – who had performed the opera under the composer’s direction – is so precise that it can be converted into a metronome mark, with astonishing results: it would be much faster than the tempo usual today, despite the yearning for death inherent in the key of G minor. The melismas at ‘meinem Herzen’ (my heart) and ‘so wird Ruhe’ (I will find rest) should sound restless, because the longed-for ‘Ruh’ im Tode’ (rest in death) has not yet come; the demisemiquaver run on ‘Herzen’ also expresses this restlessness – but it sounds more natural at a faster tempo, when it can be sung in a single breath.