Ludwig van Beethoven

Ah! perfido! . . . Per pieta, non dirmi addio, scena and aria for soprano & orchestra, Op. 65

    Description by Robert Cummings

    Ah, perfido! is an early Beethoven work, immersed in eighteenth century operatic tradition. The reason it bears an opus number high in relation to its date of composition is that, though it was written in 1796, it was not published until 1805. The piece was probably written for its first performer, the then-celebrated soprano Josepha Duschek. Composed in Prague and modeled on Mozart's Bella mia fiamma, which was also written for Duschek, this has generally been one of the composer's more popular vocal pieces down through the years. A decade or so after composing the work, Beethoven reflected that it was suited more to a theater setting than to the concert hall. He was unusually emphatic in stipulating that it needed "a curtain," or similar environs, to achieve its proper effect. The work is a setting of verses by Pietro Trapassi, a Roman who was court poet in Vienna (1729-1782) and who wrote under the name of Metastasio.

    The text deals with a young woman betrayed by her lover, expressing the rage she experiences. At first, she pleads with the gods to punish him, but then asks for mercy for him. Then she offers to die for him, instead. After bewailing her fate, she asks for mercy. The music begins dramatically with the soprano intoning the words, "Ah, perfido! spergiuro, barbaro traditor, tu parti?" (Ah, unfaithful liar! vile deceiver, you leave me?). The music then slows, and the young woman's emotions for a time seem contained, but tension quickly develops. Still, for all the rage she expresses, she does not erupt with a potent outburst to vent her feelings, but instead maintains an intensity that seems to border on just such an outburst. When the aria, "Per pieta, non dirmi addio" ("For pity's sake, do not leave me") is reached, the spirit of Mozart appears. (The character of the theme in the third movement of Mozart's "Gran Partita" Serenade No. 10, K. 361, is not unlike that of the attractive melody here.) The aria music, marked Adagio, is most moving and effective in its heartrending beauty. Even if it is strongly reminiscent of Mozart, it is it charming enough not to seem derivative. The tempo returns to Allegro as the soprano lashes out at her cruel treatment at the hands of fate. There is a brief return to an Adagio tempo before the Allegro conclusion.

    The orchestral writing is effective throughout, even if it, too, owes something to Mozart. While some may feel the music sounds less agitated in places than the text might seem to call for, Beethoven captures the spirit of Metastasio's verses. The range of emotions that he depicts in the music, together with the ebb and flow of tension, are remarkably well balanced. The work, known for its immense vocal difficulty, was premiered on November 21, 1796, in Leipzig. A typical performance of it lasts about from about 12 to 15 minutes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Ah! perfido
    2. Per pietà, non dirmi addio

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2021
    Decca
    2021
    Decca
    B003356502
    2021
    Decca
    4852093
    2020
    ABC Classic
    4819075
    2020
    Various Artists
    ABC Classic
    ABC 4819459
    2020
    Onyx
    4218
    2019
    Naxos
    8573882
    2018
    ABC Classics
    2017
    Sterling
    CDA 1804
    2017
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 485
    2016
    Decca
    4789679
    2016
    Warner Classics
    0825646016112
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795448
    2015
    Warner Classics
    553028
    2015
    Berlin Classics
    0300646BC
    2014
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    MDG
    MDGSC 9401854
    2014
    Decca
    4808139
    2014
    Warner Classics
    2564633629
    2014
    Warner Classics
    634010
    2014
    Decca
    4808161
    2013
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2013
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    94630
    2013
    Regis
    RRC 1401
    2011
    Newton Classics
    8802061
    2011
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    94052
    2011
    Ambroisie / Naïve
    AM 204
    2011
    Urania
    WS121113
    2011
    Various Artists
    MSI Music Distribution / Document
    22305
    2011
    Music Rough Guides / World Music Network
    RGNET 1242 CD
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2010
    Naxos
    8557264
    2010
    Signum Classics / Signum UK
    201
    2008
    Golden Melodram
    40086
    2008
    EMI Classics
    11973
    2007
    Cascade Records
    2200
    2007
    Brilliant Classics
    93525
    2007
    EMI Classics
    3777672
    2007
    EMI Classics
    87739
    2007
    Gala Records
    624
    2007
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    0946395918
    2006
    Hyperion
    55263
    2006
    PentaTone Classics
    5186134
    2006
    Warner Classics
    2006
    Music & Arts
    CD1191
    2006
    Archipel
    0142
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    68033
    2006
    Archiv Produktion
    000576202
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000638302
    2006
    Sony Music Distribution
    78763
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    68022
    2005
    Media Tag
    34
    2005
    Chandos
    3127
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    66465
    2005
    Archive
    2005
    Decca
    4756412
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    66618
    2004
    NM Classics
    97018
    2004
    Centurion Classics
    2120
    2003
    Decca
    2003
    Decca
    000017702
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    62685
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4744102
    2003
    Philips
    000150802
    2002
    Erato
    42141
    2002
    Angel Records
    55479
    2001
    Decca
    467911
    2001
    Gala Records
    568
    2001
    Bella Voce
    7234
    2000
    Rivoalto
    9908
    2000
    Testament
    1200
    2000
    High Bridge Audio
    56007
    2000
    Gala Records
    100539
    2000
    Simax
    1823
    2000
    Gala Records
    320
    2000
    Gala Records
    100541
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    63625
    1999
    Pearl
    0034
    1999
    VAI Audio
    1164
    1998
    Sony Music Distribution
    60577
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453794
    1997
    Sony Music Distribution
    63240
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453700
    1997
    Romophone
    81023
    1997
    Preiser Records
    89141
    1997
    Gala Records
    327
    1996
    Hyperion
    66830
    1996
    Berlin Classics
    0091 312BC
    1994
    Golden Legends
    105
    1994
    Preiser Records
    89301
    1993
    Archiv Produktion
    4353912
    1993
    Music & Arts
    CD-752
    1992
    Deutsche Grammophon
    435617
    1992
    VAI Audio
    1012
    1992
    EMI Music Distribution
    754437-2
    1992
    Nimbus
    7847
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    63201
    Legato Classics
    215
    Legato Classics
    126
    Brilliant Classics
    93525/68
    Cascade Records
    2271
    Golden Melodram
    28034
    Supraphon
    111118
    Eklipse
    15
    Eklipse
    42
    London
    421420
    Bella Voce
    7201