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Mozart's Queen of the Night – Aria Code Episode 8

Outrage Out of This World

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When the Voyager spacecraft set off to explore the galaxy in 1977, it carried a recording to represent the best of humanity.

The “Golden Record” featured everyone from Bach to Chuck Berry, but there was only one opera aria: the rage-fest from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

In this episode, host Rhiannon Giddens and her guests consider why the Queen of the Night’s big moment – “Der Hölle Rache” – is an out-of-this-world achievement, how Mozart created a profound fairy tale for adults and what it takes for a soprano to reach the stratosphere. You’ll hear Kathryn Lewek hit all those high notes onstage at the Metropolitan Opera and talk to Timothy Ferris, the man who produced NASA’s “Golden Record.”

The Guests

Soprano Kathryn Lewek describes singing “Der Hölle Rache” as throwing darts with your eyes closed. But after performing the part more than 200 times, she certainly knows how to hit the bullseye.

Harvard University professor Carolyn Abbate once took her son to see The Magic Flute and he declared it to be “bad, but not in the way I expected it be bad.” Her latest book is A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years.

Composer and author Jan Swafford was a graduate student when he spent his last $50 to buy a copy of The Magic Flute and immediately regretted it: he hated the opera. To say he’s warmed to Mozart over the years would be a wild understatement.

Timothy Ferris produced the Golden Record that went up with NASA’s Voyager space probes in 1977. It was the only record he ever produced, but he's written many books including Coming of Age in the Milky Way, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.


Aria Code is a new podcast that pulls back the curtain on some of the most famous arias in opera history, with insight from the biggest voices of our time, including Plácido Domingo, Diana Damrau, Sondra Radvanovsky, and many others.

Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments have imprinted themselves in our collective consciousness and what it takes to stand on the Met stage and sing them.

Hosted by Grammy Award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Aria Code is produced by WQXR in partnership with The Metropolitan Opera. The team includes Merrin Lazyan, Brendan Francis Newnam, Matt Boynton, Ricardo Quiñones, Ania Grzesik, Khrista Rypl and Matt Abramovitz. Original music by Hannis Brown.

  • Mozart's Queen of the Night – Aria Code Episode 8

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