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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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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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?





Alessandro Scarlatti: Se tu della mia morte (If you of my death…)

12 03 2009
If you wont give me death, give me your eyes

"Il dardo del tuo sguardo..."

A mournful song in which a spurned lover blames the beloved for dooming them to death. The two-voice imitation in the piano is a nice illustration of the two characters represented in this song.

Many singers begin by studying what I call the “24 greatest hits.” Sometimes, though, teachers and students alike weary of these tried-and-true friends. The Anthology of Italian Song of the 17th and 18th Centuries includes not only all of the 24 Italian Songs and Arias, they include many less-familiar gems, as well.

There was no translation at recmusic.org, so I’ve written one:

If you, by this strong right hand,
do not want to give the glory of my death,
you give it with your own eyes,
for the dart of your gaze
is that which kills me and consumes me.





J.S. Bach: Bist du bei mir (You are with me)

8 03 2009

J.S. Bachs window at the University of the South

J.S. Bach's window at the University of the South

“Bist du bei mir” is from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook, and it is uncertain whether or not Bach wrote it. In any case, the song is a gem and one of my personal favorites.

I had a long day of singing at the Basilica today and don’t yet have a cache of posts to make up for such an occurrence. My apologies for the late and incomplete posting.