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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Composer

Un bacio di mano, for bass and orchestra, K.541

Performances: 10
Tracks: 10
  • Un bacio di mano, for bass and orchestra, K.541
    Year: 1788
    Genre: Solo Song / Lied / Chanson
    Pr. Instrument: Bass
Mozart often received commissions to write music for operas by other composers. This aria, Un bacio di mano, was the result of one such commission: it was written in 1788 for Pasquale Anfossi's Le gelosie fortunate. That wasn't the first time Mozart worked with Anfossi: in 1777 he wrote two arias for Anfossi's Curioso indiscreto, and in 1783 he composed two more for the opera's revised version. While Anfossi's music is largely forgotten today, Mozart's contributions for them, understandably, aren't. Un bacio di mano is performed with some regularity and has generally been available on a dozen or more recordings over the years, with memorable efforts by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Bryn Terfel, Thomas Hampson, and other well-known artists.

Though the singers mentioned above are baritones, the aria was scored for bass soloist and orchestra. The music features a main theme that many listeners will recognize from Mozart's reuse of it in the first movement of his Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter." Un bacio di mano (A Kiss on the Hand) is sung by Monsieur Girò, a worldly wise Frenchman who advises the naïve Don Pompeo to be cautious in his attempts at courtship. The text of the opera has generally been attributed to the renowned Lorenzo da Ponte.

The aria's music is lively and witty in the outer sections, imparting a zany sort of character, especially in the theme's closing phrases, sung to the words "andate a studiar." In the middle section there is a sort of buffoonish and comically harried quality to the music, as the connoisseur on courting, Monsieur Girò, confidently lectures his student, Don Pompeo, on the pitfalls of marriage. Lasting just under two minutes, the aria is a gem that is instantly recognizable as Mozart in its melodic charm, wit, and deft orchestration.

© Robert Cummings, Rovi
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