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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Cécile Chaminade: L’anneau d’argent (The Silver Ring)

27 03 2009
Obstinate receiver of so many memories

"Obstinate receiver of so many memories"

Shimmering sounds emanate from the piano and the singer sings a simple melody. The image of a glinting silver ring is easy to call to mind. Chaminade avoids low notes until the singer considers that they want the ring to shine on, even after they have died.

Cecile Chaminade was a pianist who wrote lovely character pieces for piano and for voice at the turn of the Century; clubs devoted to her music sprang up in Europe and America, and she was a regular contributor to popular womens’ magazines, where her music was included along with articles on “How to play my music.” Her works usually have a lovely, catchy main melody, a contrasting middle section, and finally a return to the main melody.

This song is familiar to singers and teachers from its inclusion in Joan Frey Boytim’s First Book of Mezzo-Soprano Solos, but her lovely works in several volumes are definitely worth investigation. The first volume is available online (see above), and additional volumes can be found in libraries and in reprints.

I have submitted a translation to recmusic.org, but until it is posted, I’ve included it here Read the rest of this entry »