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.

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Stefano Donaudy: Come l’alodoletta (Like the little skylark)

19 11 2009
A skylark

by aaardvaark, under Creative Commons

“Peace and happiness flee a gentle heart in which love rules alone”

 

Stefano Donaudy’s music is timeless. Though written in the style of the 17th and 18th centuries, Donaudy himself lived early in the 20th century, and is known almost exclusively for his Arie di stile antico, the most commonly performed being Vaghissima sembianza (made popular by Enrico Caruso’s early recording), Sento nel core, O del mio amato ben, and Spirate pur spirate. They remain favorites of singers and teachers alike for their heartfelt texts (written by Donaudy’s brother, Alfredo) their simple yet effective accompaniments, and their exquisite sense of line.

Roberto Guarino recorded all 36 of the songs, which remains the gold standard reference recording. Though the University of Rochester only has the first 24 songs available online, there are volumes of all 36 songs commonly available for purchase in both high and low keys. Every singer should have these songs in his or her possession for their simplicity and beauty, as demonstrated in this song about the skylark.





Giovanni Maria Bononcini: Deh piú a me non v’ascondete (Hide from me no more)

17 09 2009

by Paul J Everett (under Creative Commons)

by Paul J Everett (under Creative Commons)

“You could bring this soul out of sorrow”

When it comes to teaching, I’ve got the 24 Italian Songs and Arias down, but there are quite a few out of the Anthology of Italian Song of the 17th & 18th Centuries that I’m not as familiar with. Playing them through at the piano is one thing, but hearing is quite another. “Italian Thursday” will be heavily weighted toward exploring this volume in the coming weeks.

Bononcini’s Hide from me no more has both a grace and a playfulness to it. Dame Janet Baker’s is on the graceful side, while this unknown recording on YouTube tends toward the playful. The music, with its running notes at the end of phrases, seems to suggest the “sorrow” the singer mentions isn’t terribly serious.

Translation behind cut

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Giuseppe Martucci: Cantava il ruscello (The little brook sang)

30 04 2009
O... la pace fedel de la foresta!

O... la pace fedel de la foresta!

For me, Martucci’s song cycle La Canzone dei Ricordi (The Song of Memories) was a wonderful discovery. These beautifully crafted songs call to mind the music of Puccini, and it surprises me that they are not performed more often. The second song, presented here, with its undulating harmonies in the accompaniment suggest not only rushing water the title might suggest, but also the spring breezes, and even the underlying emotional excitement that comes with the arrival of spring.

New translation behind cut:

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Antonio Vivaldi: Vedrò con mio diletto (I will see with delight)

2 04 2009
Soul of my soul, heart of my heart

"Soul of my soul, heart of my heart"

Researching yesterday’s post, I discovered countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (well, I guess he was “discovered” long before yesterday, lol!). I am so taken with his voice and interpretation, particularly of this aria. The strings staccato playing are a lovely counterpoint to Jaroussky’s angelic voice.

There is an audio recording on last.fm, but there’s something much more exciting and spontaneous in the live performance. Perhaps the nerves leading up to his announcement of French Singer of 2007 had something of an intensifying effect?





Francesco Paolo Tosti: Ideale (The Ideal)

26 03 2009
Come back, dear ideal one, to smile on me again for a moment

"Come back, dear ideal, to smile on me again"

Francesco Paolo Tosti was something of an in-between composer. His works lived between the world of the classical and the popular, causing critics to judge his works harshly, precisely because of his songs’ popular appeal. Today, that distinction has faded, and all one hears is Tosti’s ability to write glorious melodies and set texts beautifully.

This piece is one of the tenor “national anthems” with so many recordings that it is difficult to make a selection. I hesitate to include one particular recording as the model, but feel it is worth noting; Alessandro Moreschi is the only male castrato soprano to have made recordings, and if you’ve never heard him– well, judge for yourself.





Franz Liszt: Pace non trovo (I find no peace)

19 03 2009

Death has me in a prison which he neither opens to me nor shuts

"Love has me in a prison which he neither opens to me nor shuts"

Liszt’s three Petrarch Sonnets are virtuosic for both singer and pianist, and the introduction of the first song is one of the most memorable in all of song, in my opinion. Nothing less could accurately express Petrarch’s obsession with a woman whom he could never have.