“Ach, ich fühl’s”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden,
Oh, I feel that it is gone,
Ewig hin der Liebe Glück!
forever gone – the happiness of love!
Nimmer kommt ihr Wonnestunde
No more come the hours of joy
Meinem Herzen mehr zurück!
to my heart!
Sieh’, Tamino, diese Tränen,
See, Tamino, these tears
Fließen, Trauter, dir allein!
flow, dearest, for you alone!
Fühlst du nicht der Liebe Sehnen,
Do you not feel my love and longing?
So wird Ruh’ im Tode sein!
I’ll only find peace in death.
Pamina’s aria Ach, Ich Fühl’s is a beautiful, tragic lament and love song. Pamina is in shock: she has just had a horrible nightmare in which her mother commands her to kill her father or else she will never speak to her again, and so she runs to her lover Tamino for comfort. Tamino will not speak to her and turns away, hiding his face: he has taken a vow of silence as part of the trials he must undergo to join the sacred brotherhood in order to win her father’s blessing for him to marry Pamina. Pamina expresses her grief at what she perceives as Tamino’s cruel, sudden rejection but reminds him that she loves only him.
The aria is as much a love song as a lament. Indeed, part of what makes it so powerful is Pamina’s emotional reliance on Tamino. He rescued her from her ill-intentioned captor Monostatos – and is the first young man she has ever really come into contact with. Tamino has expressed only pure, platonic love, devotion, and strength for her, but in her moment of need he has turned from her. Pamina feels completely betrayed and warns darkly that she’ll only find solace in death.
Within the sorrow Pamina expresses are also hints of resignation. This isn’t the first time she has been betrayed (by her parents’ separation; by her mother, who failed to protect her and who now curses her), but it may well be the last. While Pamina is a weak character, in this aria even in her grief and shock she has a flash of anger. When she tells Tamino that his heart is cold and loveless, the orchestra swells and pushes with her in bitterness; then she repeats the words in sorrow over her blind love for him. The aria’s beauty also comes from the spectral melismas and ornamentation, such as the chilling unaccompanied melisma on “Tode” near the aria’s end.
As in most Mozart, the orchestra serves only to support and highlight the voice. It gently pulses under Pamina’s lament and sometimes echoes the weeping in her descending melodies. In this aria the pulses serve to sustain the emotion and remind me of beating one’s breast. A fuller orchestration would lend a different meaning to the aria.
A different language would also create a different feel. For me, German creates a purer, harder sound. The roundness of the vowels and emphasis lent by the consonants accentuates what the singer is saying differently than Italian does. German is for preciseness: for naked emotion on an examining table under fluorescent lights. Italian is for melodrama, and for me it is far less stirring than German.