“Dies Bildnis” is Prince Tamino’s first aria of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. After saving Tamino from a giant serpent, the Three Ladies show Tamino a picture of Pamina – the daughter of the Queen of the Night. He is immediately smitten and sings:
|Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön
Wie noch kein Auge je geseh’n!
Ich fühl’ es, wie dies Götterbild
Mein Herz mit neuer Regung füllt.
Dies’ etwas kann ich zwar nicht nennen,
O, wenn ich sie nur finden könnte!
Was würde ich?
Ich würde sie voll Entzücken
|This image is enchantingly lovely,
Like no eye has ever beheld!
I feel it as this divine picture,
Fills my heart with new emotion.
I cannot name my feeling,
Oh, if only I could find her,
What would I do?
I would – full of rapture –
Thoroughly taken with her, he is easily persuaded to rescue her from Sarastro in the next part of the scene.
The basic poem – written by librettist Emanuel Schikaneder – is set in iambic tetrameter. If one were to read the poem aloud, it would have a “da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM” quality.1 One would never sing it like that, though.
The structure of the rhyme scheme is [AABB][CCDD][EEF][GGF] except for the “Was würde ich?” lyric. Mozart gives each quatrain and tercet their own discreet musical section. The “Was würde ich?” is used to divide the aria between his initial excitement and his understanding of what he actually wants. Mozart sets this moment with a full measure rest to allow the mental transition.
The Character of the Piece
The Magic Flute – while being fantastical – is about enlightenment and self-restraint. Tamino exemplifies this and must therefore pull his punches vocally so to speak. Just as Sarastro later mustn’t grind his low notes, Tamino must make singing high look easy and elegant.
That shouldn’t be confused with weakness. The Prince is very determined, and he undergoes rigorous tests of character and passes them all. His strength is that of stability and reliability rather than brute force.
The Mozart singer must find that strength to sing this material. As is typical for Mozart, the orchestration is very light and leaves the singer exposed. The singer is tasked with maintaining clarity of the text while also navigating some tricky vocal passages all while making it all look like the most natural thing in the world.
Time to Listen
Let’s listen to Fritz Wunderlich sing it as a recital piece.
* Some info taken from Wikipedia’s entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dies_Bildnis_ist_bezaubernd_sch%C3%B6n