Pegasus Talent Rachel Duckett at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Mozart’s fiendish Queen of the Night aria – how on earth do you sing it? This soprano explains…

Published on 13 May 2024, by Ally Dunavant at Classic FM

The dramatic aria from Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ is one of the most famous tunes in classical music. Rising star soprano Rachel Duckett shows off its signature super-high notes and tells us how she brings it to the stage…

From Amazon Alexa ads to Gossip Girl and Eat, Pray, Love – even if you’re not an opera buff, chances are you’ll know this famous melody. ‘The Queen of the Night’ aria has been played countless times in films, TV shows and ads – and those staccato high notes make for the perfect ear worm.

That famous aria belongs to a dramatic moment from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Premiered in 1791, the opera is set in ancient Egypt. Its story centres around Tamino, a young prince who seeks to win the hand of the princess, Pamina. To marry her, Tamino must undergo a series of initiation rites, which test his character.

The Queen of the Night character is Pamina’s mother, and she is traditionally seen as the villain in the story. Her famous aria, ‘Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen’ (which translates as ‘Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart’), comes in the second act, when she places a knife into Pamina’s hand and commands her to assassinate the Queen’s rival character – threatening to disown and curse Pamina if she does not.

Coloratura soprano Rachel Duckett introduced us to the magic of this aria backstage at the Royal Albert Hall, where she performed the fan-favourite at Classic FM Live. Watch her full breakdown of this vocal obstacle course in the video above.

Rachel Duckett performing ‘Der Hölle Rache’ at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 22 April 2024. Picture: Matt Crossick

Rachel Duckett is a soprano of British and Jamaican heritage from London, supported by Pegasus Opera Company. She made her Royal Albert Hall debut at Classic FM Live, performing this show-stopping number.

Talking to us backstage ahead of her performances, she began by popping out the famous, stratospheric ‘Der Hölle Rache’ high notes. Rachel then shared how she approaches this fiendishly difficult aria, from first learning the music to stepping up to the mic on the storied Royal Albert Hall stage.

She says she starts with the basics. “First of all, I like to look at the text, making sure I translate every word, word-for-word, so that I know exactly what I’m saying,” Duckett told us.

After getting to know the German text set by Mozart, she moves on to the singing.

“Then I do some vocalisations, some exercises,” she says. “I try to stay low in my body, try to stay grounded.”

When it comes to those famous, high-pitched arpeggios – leading up to a few dazzling high Fs – she told us it comes down to trial and error in the practise room.

“See what happens the first time [you try to sing it], and then you can sort of build it up in levels,” Rachel said. “Just play around with it, have fun with it. Because it is fun, it’s really fun to get up to those notes.”

Watch above as she steps on stage and aces every note in this aria with crystalline precision, recorded before an audience of 5,000 at Classic FM Live.

Soprano Rachel Duckett showcasing her super-high notes backstage at the Royal Albert Hall. Picture: Classic FM

The aria remains an epic for singers and audiences alike. Though Rachel may make it look effortless on stage, we loved hearing just a little bit of the immense work it takes to bring it to life on the stage, giving all those assembled a vocal treat they will never forget.