O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn ("Tremble not, my dear son") is the first aria performed by the Queen of the Night character (a famous soprano coloratura part) in Mozart's singspiel opera The Magic Flute. It is not as well known as the Queen's second aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, though no less demanding; the aria requires a soprano coloratura with extremely high tessitura and great vocal flexibility.
Among all famous coloratura soprano arias, this aria along with Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen are the two most commonly named. The Queen of the Night was one of the first well known roles which demanded a range that until Mozart's time was never called for, and this opened the door for many followers to call for specific kind of singers (lyric, dramatic, coloratura etc.) rather than just "soprano", "tenor" etc.
The part, in whole, calls for two arias, O zittre nicht and Der Hölle Rache. The first calls for a rather lyric and flexible voice while the second requires a dramatic and powerful voice. Originally, the part was written for Josepha Hofer, the composer's sister-in-law, whose voice possessed both of these qualities. Most modern performers are specialists in either lyric or dramatic style. This, along with the difficulty of the two arias, makes the role of the Queen of the Night one of the most demanding roles in operatic repertoire.
In the preceding scene, Prince Tamino was shown a portrait of the Queen's daughter Pamina and fallen instantly in love with her, singing of his feelings in the aria "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön". The Queen then makes a dramatic entrance, preceded by the Three Ladies calling to Tamino "Sie kommt! Sie kommt!" ("[Here] she comes!"). The grand entrance music for the Queen is in B flat, marked Allegro maestoso, with the following stage direction:
The mountains [in the scenery] are parted, and the stage is transformed into a magnificent chamber. The Queen is seated on a throne decorated with transparent stars.
Not all modern productions adhere to this prescription.
In the aria, the Queen first quiets Tamino's fears and attempts to befriend him, then tells the sad tale of Pamina's abduction by Sarastro, then finally makes a stirring plea to Tamino to rescue her daughter. As the aria ends, the Queen and the Three Ladies leave the stage, leaving the astonished Tamino to ponder his task and gather his resolve.
The lyrics for the aria were written by the opera's librettist Emanuel Schikaneder. Schikaneder was the impresario for whom the opera was written as well as the first performer of the role of Papageno.
Oh, tremble not, my dear son!
You are innocent, wise, pious;
A youth like you must do his best
to console this deeply troubled mother's heart.
I am chosen for suffering
For my daughter is gone from me;
Through her all my happiness has been lost,
A villain fled with her.
I can still see her trembling
with fearful shaking,
her frightened quaking,
her timid effort.
I had to see her stolen from me,
Oh help! Oh help! was all that she said.
But in vain was her pleading,
For my powers of help were too weak.
You, you, you will go to free her,
You will be the rescuer of my daughter.
And if I see you return in triumph,
Then she will be yours forever.
There are five quatrains, of which the third is written in amphibrachic dimeter and the remaining ones in iambic tetrameter, which is the normal meter for The Magic Flute. Mozart repeats the words "Ach, helft!" ("Oh, help!") and "Du" ("you", twice), so the lines with these words are not iambic tetrameters as they are actually sung. The rhyme scheme is [AABB][CDCD][EEFF][GHGH][IJIJ].