Once believed to have been composed in Bonn, Beethoven's "O care selve, oh cara," WoO 119, was actually sketched in 1794 or early 1795. The song was not printed until 1888 as part of the complete edition of Beethoven's works published by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. The song was originally intended for tenor solo with unison chorus.
The text of "O care selve, oh cara" (Oh beloved forest, beloved, [blessed liberty]) is taken from the drama Olimpiade, by Italian poet Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782). In 1730, Metastasio succeeded Apostolo Zeno (1668 - 1750) as court poet in Vienna. Although he wrote innumerable examples of various types of verse, Metastasio's fame lay chiefly in the success of his 27 librettos for heroic operas, among them Semiramide and La clemenza di Tito. The narrator of Metastasio's "O care selve, oh cara" enjoys being at liberty in the forest, where there can be no pleasure through deceit, only through love and fidelity.
Beethoven wished the chorus to join the soloist on the first two lines, "O care selve, o cara/Felice libertà!" This is clear because the piano accompaniment exactly traces the melodic line with no embellishment, and the lines appear three times, creating a melodically and harmonically self-contained unit. The writing for the rest of the poem is more like that of a genuine Lied for solo singer. The voice part is independent of the accompaniment, while the melody itself is more intricate. The piano repeats the melody of last two measures of the voice part to close the diminutive piece.