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"Ah perfido!", scene and aria for soprano and orchestra op. 65

Listening samples
Ah, perfido (365 kB)

First months of 1796

Text poet: Pietro Metastasio

In February 1796 Beethoven, then a successful pianist, set out on his one and only concert tour. His first destination was Prague, where he stayed until April and wrote the scene and aria Ah perfido for soprano and orchestra, op. 65, although he had already completed some drafts before his departure.
Which singer did Beethoven have in mind when he composed the piece? The Prague nobility often invited him and held him in high esteem. On one of its two title pages the only preserved source of op. 65 bears a dedication to 'Signora Comtessa di Clari'. The composer had already composed two pieces for Countess Josephine von Clary-Aldringenon (later Clam-Gallas): the mandolin works WoO 43 and 44a. It would thus not be surprising if he gave the countess a copy of op. 65 with a dedication. Yet he probably did not write the aria explicitly for her, as she is not mentioned in the first edition, published in Leipzig in 1805.

Another possibility is Josepha Duschek. She sang the scene and aria in Leipzig on 21 November 1796, and the concert announcement mentions an Italian scene composed for her by Beethoven. This need not have been the case, as even back then advertising was not always truthful and the composition had not yet appeared in print. But Mme Duschek must at least have owned a copy of op. 65.

The intended recipient of op. 65 thus eludes discovery. Its length and structure suggest, however, that it was not intended for a professional soprano like Josepha Duschek. Beethoven performed op. 65 for the first time at one of his Vienna concerts on 22 December 1808, together with the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Choral Fantasy and parts of the C-major Mass. Initially Anna Milder (Beethoven's first Leonore) was meant to take part in the concert, only to withdraw when Beethoven fell out with her husband, the jeweller Peter Hauptmann. Josephine Killitschky, Ignaz Schuppanzighs sister-in-law, then accepted the part, unfortunately with lukewarm success. (J.R.)

Music manuscripts
Abschrift, op. 65, Partitur, NE 235

First editions
Originalausgabe, op. 65, Stimmen, Hoffmeister und Kühnel, 410, HCB C op. 65
Erstausgabe, op. 65, Partitur, Peters, 3933, C 65 / 3
Titelauflage, op. 65, Klavierauszug, Kühnel, 410; Teilscan, C 65 / 9

Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) - Kupferstich, von Arrigo Minasi, vielleicht nach einer eigenen Zeichnung, 1. Viertel 19. Jahrhundert ?, B 2547
Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) - Stich von Paolo Caronni nach einer eigenen Zeichnung, 1812, B 2187
Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv
Frankreich, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Musique, MS-79
Großbritannien, London: The British Library
Österreich, Wien: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

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E-Mail: bibliothek@beethoven-haus-bonn.de