Sunday Supplement – Cecilia Bartoli sings Lascia ch’io pianga

So far we haven’t really covered the voice at all in this blog (tsk tsk), so today’s Sunday Supplement is a bit of a departure for us. The composition we have chosen to feature is Lascia ch’io pianga, the beautiful soprano aria by George Frideric Handel.

Handel obviously liked the piece himself, as he used the music in not one, but two of his compositions. The version that we know and love today is from the 1711 opera Rinaldo.

The aria is a bit of a heartbreaking affair, with lyrics that sing of sadness and misery. It’s always odd to see lyrics translated into English, as you pick up on some details that you otherwise would probably miss. In this case, I found it a little amusing to see the phrase ‘for pity’s sake’ thrown in there. For some reason that sounds like such a modern English way to whine but it seems that these types of sayings have been doing the rounds for centuries. Perhaps in this case ‘for crying out loud’ would have been a better fit.

The lyrics in English are:

Let me weep
my cruel fate,
and I sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break these chains
Of my sufferings, for pity’s sake.

Anyway, getting back to the music, this is a truly beautiful recording and one of my wife’s favorites of all time. I have an interesting, probably slightly heretical, affair with opera in that some of the truly operatic voices that shake and warble a lot end up wearing me down somewhat. It’s a personal thing and probably something I shouldn’t admit to on a classical music blog but, well, horses for courses and all that.

But on this recording Cecilia Bartoli sings with such pristine purity that you cannot help falling into the deep sadness and melancholy of the aria. It is a truly exemplary rendition of a piece that has proved timeless in its beauty.


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