Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cecilia Bartoli: Händel's Rinaldo—'Lascia ch'io pianga'

Cecilia Bartoli performs the aria, "Lascia ch'io pianga" ("Let me weep") from Handel's Rinaldo, Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano, at the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, in June 1998. [You can hear another version by Cecilia Bartoli here, with The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood conducting, in Paris, on January 6, 1999.]

Georg Friedrich Händel often recycled his work, a standard practice among artists who often make changes to their work, with the aim of finding some "perfection." This work appeared in a different form in the 1707 oratorio "Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno"; although with different words and name, "Lascia la spina." For his 1711 opera Rinaldo, Handel gave the aria to the character Almirena in Act II. Rinaldo was a major triumph for Handel, and it is with this work that the aria is chiefly associated. Rinaldo is the first Italian opera written for the London stage. [You can find the synopsis here.]

You can find further information on the opera;s history and production here:
The libretto was prepared by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill. The work was first performed at the Queen's Theatre in London's Haymarket on 24 February 1711. The story of love, battle and redemption set at the time of the First Crusade is loosely based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), and its staging involved many original and vivid effects. It was a great success with the public, despite negative reactions from literary critics hostile to the trend towards Italian entertainment in English theatres.
Handel composed the music for Rinaldo quickly. Much of it is borrowings and adaptations from operas and other works that Handel had composed during his long stay in Italy during 1706–10. In the years following the premiere, Handel frequently introduced new numbers, discarded others, and transposed parts to different voice ranges. Despite the lack of a standard edition, Rinaldo's spectacular vocal and orchestral passages make it one of Handel's greatest operas. Of its individual numbers, the soprano aria "Lascia ch'io pianga" has become a particular favourite and is a popular concert piece.
Handel went on to dominate opera in England for several decades. Rinaldo was revived in London regularly up to 1717, and a revised version was presented in 1731. The opera was also performed in several European cities. During Handel's lifetime, Rinaldo was the most frequently performed of all the composer's musical dramas.
After this earlier success, the opera was not performed for more than 200 years, until there was an renewed interest in baroque music; a production was mounted at Handel's birthplace, Halle, Germany, in 1954. Further, a successful run at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1984 led to other productions worldwide, such as this one in Italy in 1998.
Lascia ch'io pianga
mia cruda sorte,
e che sospiri la libertà.
Il duolo infranga queste ritorte
de' miei martiri sol per pietà.

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