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La Lucrezia

Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)

Anna Devin

Anna Devin

Composer
Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Composition Year
1685 - 1759
Work Movements
1. Recitative
2. Aria
3. Recitative
4. Aria
5. Recitative
6. Arioso
7. Recitative
8. Arioso
9. Recitative
Artists
Anna Devin [soprano], Peter Spissky [violin], Camerata Øresund (Ida Lorenzen [violin], Tinne Albrechtsen [violin], Alison Luthmers [vioin], Rastko Roknic [viola], Hanna Loftsdóttir [cello], Joakim Peterson [double bass], Dohyo Sol [lute], Magdalena Karolak [oboe], Marcus Mohlin [harpsicord]) [baroque ensemble]

Programme Note Writer:
© Helen Dawson


O Numi eterni is the first recitative in La Lucrezia, one of the most famous cantatas, written by Handel from his days in Italy between 1706 and 1709. Secular cantatas had a far greater following in Italy than in Handel’s native Germany and the story of the Rape of Lucretia from Livy’s The Early History of Rome would have been widely known, Livy being one of the most read authors of the 17th century. The Rape of Lucretia was a favourite theme among musicians, poets and visual artists. The survival of an unusually large number of manuscript copies of La Lucrezia suggests that this was one of Handel’s most popular chamber music pieces during his lifetime.

 

Livy’s account of the Rape of Lucretia is as the catalyst for the overthrow of the early kings of Rome and the establishment of the Republic. King Tarquin the Proud had a son, Sextus, who raped Lucretia while her husband was away at war. When her husband returned she summoned him and her father, confessed what happened and then committed suicide. It is a part that allows a soprano to show off her powers, both musical and dramatic.

 

La Lucrezia is a miniature operatic scene for soprano solo and is a masterpiece of characterisation. We are led by the impassioned singing of Lucretia as she vacillates between rage and vengeance, and self-condemnation and shame. The drama takes place just before her suicide and the final verses describe the act itself. The opening O Numi eterni is a prayer oh eternal Gods! Oh stars who strike down impious tyrants, answer my prayers. The prayer calls for divine vengeance. Lucretia’s furious words are captured by the almost frantic nature of the melody, full of leaps and strongly accented notes.

 

The first aria is smoother and decidedly more plaintive and sorrowful. In this aria we see the foreshadowing of the dramatic and vocal powers required for the part as the soprano hits the climactic high note for the word Fate.

 

Next Lucretia expresses guilt and fear that the gods will not heed her prayers because of what has happened. This is where we begin to see Lucretia’s feelings move from rage at Sextus to recriminations against herself. But these are put aside for a classic vengeance aria, one of the most impassioned verses in the piece.

 

The drama continues with Lucretia’s intention to commit suicide the steel to which I fearlessly grasp. The music reflects the tragedy of her situation and her self-loathing, summed up in the single line arioso Brings to the faithless body its punishment, and the time given to this one line encapsulates Lucretia’s state of mind. An instrumental solo closes the verse.

 

As the end approaches she is no longer addressing the gods, but her father and husband. She declares once more her intention to put the family’s honour above her life and hopes that doing so will bring forgiveness. The second arioso is when we can imagine, were we watching an opera, the action would have taken place and Lucretia kills herself. It is quickly followed by the finale, full of sorrow and vengeance. The music is sorrowful, but agitated with heavily accented bowing in the accompaniment that seem to reflect the uneven final heartbeats of Lucretia.

Lyrics

Recitativo: O Numi eterni!

O Numi eterni! O stelle!

Oh eternal Gods! Oh stars

che fulminate empii tiranni,

who strike down impious tyrants,

impugnate a miei voti

answer my prayers;

orridi strali voi con fochi tonanti

fearful lightning with thundering flame,

incenerite il reo Tarquinio e Roma

incinerate the guilty Tarquin and Rome.

dalla superba chioma,

From the proud head

omai trabocchi il vacillante alloro,

let the waving laurel now be wrest.

s’apra il suolo in voragini, si celi,

Let a chasm open in the earth

con memorando esempio

as a memorable example

nelle viscere sue l’indegno – e l’empio

to swallow the unworthy villain.


Recitativo: Ma voi forse nel Cielo

Ma voi forse nel Cielo

But perhaps in Heaven,

per castigar maggior del mio delitto,

to punish my crimes more

state oziosi, o provocati Numi:

the Gods stand idle

se son sorde le stelle

if the stars are deaf,

se non mi odon le sfere,

if the spheres hear me not,

a voi tremende Deità del abisso mi volgo,

I turn to you, great God of the abyss,

a voi s’aspetta del tradito onor mio

my betrayed honor awaits

far la vendetta.

upon your vengeance.

 

Aria: Il suol che preme

Il suol che preme

May the earth he treads,

l’aura che spira

the air he breaths

l’empio Romano

the villainous Roman,

s’apra, s’infetti.

open, poison him.

Se il passo move,

Where he walks,

se il guardo gira,

where he looks

incontri larve,

may demons meet him

uine aspetti.

ruin await him.


Recitativo: Ah! che ancor nel abisso

Ah! che ancor nel abisso

Ah! Still in the abyss

dormon le furie, i sdegni e le vendetta;

the furies, rage, and revenge sleep;

Giove dunque per me non ha saette,

Has Jove no thunderbolts for me?

è pietoso l’inferno?

Is hell merciful?

Ah! ch’io già sono in odio al Cielo, ah! dite:

Ah! I am already despised in Heaven, ah! say:

e se la pena non piomba sul mio capo,

if punishment does not rain down upon my head

a’ miei rimorsi è rimorso il poter

for my remorses, remorse itself

di castigarmi

will have the power to punish me.

Questi la disperata anima mia puniscan, sì, sì

Punish my hopeless soul, yes, yes

Ma il ferro che già intrepido stringo

But the steel which I fearlessly grasp

 

Arioso: Alla salma infedel porga la pena

Alla salma infedel porga la pena

Brings to the faithless body its punishment.

 

Recitativo: A voi, padre

A voi, padre, consorte, a Roma, al mondo

To you, Father, husband, to Rome, to the world,

presento il mio morir;

I offer my death;

mi si perdoni il delitto esecrando

May I be forgiven for my horrible crime

ond’io macchiai involontaria il nostro onor,

with which I unwillingly stained our honor;

un’ altra più detestabil colpa

for another more detestable sin,

di non m’aver uccisa

that of not killing myself

pria del misfatta, mi si perdoni

before the misdeed, may I be forgiven.


Recitativo: Sento ch’il cor si scuote

Sento ch’il cor si scuote

I feel my heart shudder

più dal dolor di questa caduta invendicata,

more with sadness at this unavenged defeat

che dal furor della vicina morte.

than with horror of approaching death.

Ma se qui non m’è dato

But if I am not granted

castigar il tiranno, opprimer l’empio

to punish the tyrant here and now

con più barbaro esempio

or defeat him with the barbarous cruelty he deserves,

per ch’ei sen cada estinto

I will see to it that he falls dead,

stringerò a danni suoi mortal saetta,

I will grasp the deadly arrow,

e furibonda e cruda

and furious and cruel

nell inferno farò la mia vendetta.

I will avenge myself in Hell.

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La Lucrezia

Composer: Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Performance date: Sunday 7th July 2019
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Georg Frideric Handel (b. 1685 - d. 1759)
Work Title La Lucrezia
Composition Year 1685 - 1759
Work Movements 1. Recitative
2. Aria
3. Recitative
4. Aria
5. Recitative
6. Arioso
7. Recitative
8. Arioso
9. Recitative
Language Italian
Artist(s) Anna Devin [soprano], Peter Spissky [violin], Camerata Øresund (Ida Lorenzen [violin], Tinne Albrechtsen [violin], Alison Luthmers [vioin], Rastko Roknic [viola], Hanna Loftsdóttir [cello], Joakim Peterson [double bass], Dohyo Sol [lute], Magdalena Karolak [oboe], Marcus Mohlin [harpsicord]) [baroque ensemble]
Performance Date Sunday 7th July 2019
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:25:54
Recording Engineer Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ
Instrumentation Category Baroque Ensemble
Instrumentation S-solo, 2vn, va, vc, lu, hpd
Programme Note Writer © Helen Dawson


O Numi eterni is the first recitative in La Lucrezia, one of the most famous cantatas, written by Handel from his days in Italy between 1706 and 1709. Secular cantatas had a far greater following in Italy than in Handel’s native Germany and the story of the Rape of Lucretia from Livy’s The Early History of Rome would have been widely known, Livy being one of the most read authors of the 17th century. The Rape of Lucretia was a favourite theme among musicians, poets and visual artists. The survival of an unusually large number of manuscript copies of La Lucrezia suggests that this was one of Handel’s most popular chamber music pieces during his lifetime.

 

Livy’s account of the Rape of Lucretia is as the catalyst for the overthrow of the early kings of Rome and the establishment of the Republic. King Tarquin the Proud had a son, Sextus, who raped Lucretia while her husband was away at war. When her husband returned she summoned him and her father, confessed what happened and then committed suicide. It is a part that allows a soprano to show off her powers, both musical and dramatic.

 

La Lucrezia is a miniature operatic scene for soprano solo and is a masterpiece of characterisation. We are led by the impassioned singing of Lucretia as she vacillates between rage and vengeance, and self-condemnation and shame. The drama takes place just before her suicide and the final verses describe the act itself. The opening O Numi eterni is a prayer oh eternal Gods! Oh stars who strike down impious tyrants, answer my prayers. The prayer calls for divine vengeance. Lucretia’s furious words are captured by the almost frantic nature of the melody, full of leaps and strongly accented notes.

 

The first aria is smoother and decidedly more plaintive and sorrowful. In this aria we see the foreshadowing of the dramatic and vocal powers required for the part as the soprano hits the climactic high note for the word Fate.

 

Next Lucretia expresses guilt and fear that the gods will not heed her prayers because of what has happened. This is where we begin to see Lucretia’s feelings move from rage at Sextus to recriminations against herself. But these are put aside for a classic vengeance aria, one of the most impassioned verses in the piece.

 

The drama continues with Lucretia’s intention to commit suicide the steel to which I fearlessly grasp. The music reflects the tragedy of her situation and her self-loathing, summed up in the single line arioso Brings to the faithless body its punishment, and the time given to this one line encapsulates Lucretia’s state of mind. An instrumental solo closes the verse.

 

As the end approaches she is no longer addressing the gods, but her father and husband. She declares once more her intention to put the family’s honour above her life and hopes that doing so will bring forgiveness. The second arioso is when we can imagine, were we watching an opera, the action would have taken place and Lucretia kills herself. It is quickly followed by the finale, full of sorrow and vengeance. The music is sorrowful, but agitated with heavily accented bowing in the accompaniment that seem to reflect the uneven final heartbeats of Lucretia.

Lyrics

Recitativo: O Numi eterni!

O Numi eterni! O stelle!

Oh eternal Gods! Oh stars

che fulminate empii tiranni,

who strike down impious tyrants,

impugnate a miei voti

answer my prayers;

orridi strali voi con fochi tonanti

fearful lightning with thundering flame,

incenerite il reo Tarquinio e Roma

incinerate the guilty Tarquin and Rome.

dalla superba chioma,

From the proud head

omai trabocchi il vacillante alloro,

let the waving laurel now be wrest.

s’apra il suolo in voragini, si celi,

Let a chasm open in the earth

con memorando esempio

as a memorable example

nelle viscere sue l’indegno – e l’empio

to swallow the unworthy villain.


Recitativo: Ma voi forse nel Cielo

Ma voi forse nel Cielo

But perhaps in Heaven,

per castigar maggior del mio delitto,

to punish my crimes more

state oziosi, o provocati Numi:

the Gods stand idle

se son sorde le stelle

if the stars are deaf,

se non mi odon le sfere,

if the spheres hear me not,

a voi tremende Deità del abisso mi volgo,

I turn to you, great God of the abyss,

a voi s’aspetta del tradito onor mio

my betrayed honor awaits

far la vendetta.

upon your vengeance.

 

Aria: Il suol che preme

Il suol che preme

May the earth he treads,

l’aura che spira

the air he breaths

l’empio Romano

the villainous Roman,

s’apra, s’infetti.

open, poison him.

Se il passo move,

Where he walks,

se il guardo gira,

where he looks

incontri larve,

may demons meet him

uine aspetti.

ruin await him.


Recitativo: Ah! che ancor nel abisso

Ah! che ancor nel abisso

Ah! Still in the abyss

dormon le furie, i sdegni e le vendetta;

the furies, rage, and revenge sleep;

Giove dunque per me non ha saette,

Has Jove no thunderbolts for me?

è pietoso l’inferno?

Is hell merciful?

Ah! ch’io già sono in odio al Cielo, ah! dite:

Ah! I am already despised in Heaven, ah! say:

e se la pena non piomba sul mio capo,

if punishment does not rain down upon my head

a’ miei rimorsi è rimorso il poter

for my remorses, remorse itself

di castigarmi

will have the power to punish me.

Questi la disperata anima mia puniscan, sì, sì

Punish my hopeless soul, yes, yes

Ma il ferro che già intrepido stringo

But the steel which I fearlessly grasp

 

Arioso: Alla salma infedel porga la pena

Alla salma infedel porga la pena

Brings to the faithless body its punishment.

 

Recitativo: A voi, padre

A voi, padre, consorte, a Roma, al mondo

To you, Father, husband, to Rome, to the world,

presento il mio morir;

I offer my death;

mi si perdoni il delitto esecrando

May I be forgiven for my horrible crime

ond’io macchiai involontaria il nostro onor,

with which I unwillingly stained our honor;

un’ altra più detestabil colpa

for another more detestable sin,

di non m’aver uccisa

that of not killing myself

pria del misfatta, mi si perdoni

before the misdeed, may I be forgiven.


Recitativo: Sento ch’il cor si scuote

Sento ch’il cor si scuote

I feel my heart shudder

più dal dolor di questa caduta invendicata,

more with sadness at this unavenged defeat

che dal furor della vicina morte.

than with horror of approaching death.

Ma se qui non m’è dato

But if I am not granted

castigar il tiranno, opprimer l’empio

to punish the tyrant here and now

con più barbaro esempio

or defeat him with the barbarous cruelty he deserves,

per ch’ei sen cada estinto

I will see to it that he falls dead,

stringerò a danni suoi mortal saetta,

I will grasp the deadly arrow,

e furibonda e cruda

and furious and cruel

nell inferno farò la mia vendetta.

I will avenge myself in Hell.