George Frideric Handel: Rend’il sereno al ciglio (Bring serenity to your mien)

13 05 2010

by kashif (CC)

One of the first steps in learning an aria is to explore the words of the libretto, or at least a very good synopsis; this allows a singer to better relate to the character he or she is portraying. This often takes some digging, particularly when the aria is from an obscure opera, like today’s song.

The opera from which this aria is excerpted went through several revisions, with the libretto first titled, “Dionysius, King of Portugal;” the setting was moved to Spain in the first version of the opera — “Fernando, King of Castille” — and finally moved to ancient Mesopotamia with “Sosarme, King of Media.” The reason for the repeated change of venue was to distance Handel and his librettist, Antonio Salvi, from the reference to the quarrels at the British Court between King George II and his son Frederick Lewis.

In Sosarme, King Heliate has named his illegitimate son the heir to the throne, causing Argone, the legitimate son and proper heir, to prepare for war. The queen’s daughter, Elmira, delivers the news that her brother is preparing to go to battle to restore his place and return peace in the kingdom. Elmira advises, “Bring serenity to your mien, mother,” continuing that this is not a day for tears. The queen, however, has been informed by the goddess Hecate that peace will come at the cost of royal blood.

When Rend’il sereno al ciglio is presented outside the opera — which, for almost all singers, will be where it will be presented — the aria’s context may serve to confuse rather than clarify matters. Most singers can relate to the idea of consoling a someone, and would perhaps do better to motivate this piece from their own experience.

Despite its inclusion in several common vocal anthologies, I cannot find many performances of this lovely aria, either professional or amateur. The best comes from the 2007 recording of Fernando, re di Castiglia.

Rend’il sereno al ciglio, madre, non pianger più!
Temer d’alcun periglio, oggi come puoi tu?

Bring serenity to your mien, mother. Do not cry any more!
To fear any peril — today, how could you?

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4 responses

23 03 2011
Ellen

This is fantastic! Thank you so much for doing this. As a young vocalist, I am constantly researching songs, composers, works, and languages. This made it so much easier!

14 02 2014
Carol Joy Evans, M.M.

I agree! This background is very helpful. Thank you again.

1 04 2016
Sarah Weiner Jamison

Thanks. Very concise and easy to understand for students.

25 09 2016
Robert Perry Lancaster

Elisabeth Rethberg left a couple lovely recordings of this aria back in the 1920’s.
1/2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwLp-wuMmTc

2/2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFc-Un1dbf8

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