"Lascia ch'io pianga," from Handel's Rinaldo
performed at Staunton Music Festival
August 23, 2019
Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, VA
Daniel Moody, countertenor
Fiona Hughes, violin
Jacob Ashworth, violin
Ingrid Matthews, violin
Kathleen Overfield-Zook, viola
Carl Donakowski, cello
Erik Higgins, violone
Adam Cockerham, theorbo
Mark Shuldiner, harpsichord
video by Stewart Searle
About the Music
Invented by Torquato Tasso for Gerusalemme liberata (1581), the legend of Rinaldo and Armide was set as an opera on many occasions, including by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). In 1711 Handel offered Rinaldo as the opening salvo in his campaign to conquer London audiences with Italian opera seria. Six months earlier Handel had become court composer to Prince Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover in Germany. Georg would eventually become George I of England in 1714, but Handel preceded his royal employer in London by several years.
London audiences knew little about Handel in 1711, but Italian opera was already enjoying great popularity. Having lived and studied in Italy for several years, Handel was well-placed to exploit the latest craze. He received a commission in late 1710 to compose music based on Tasso. Written in barely two weeks, the glittering score for Rinaldo was successful from the start and would be revived many times throughout the 1720s and 1730s. Considering the blistering speed of composition, and knowing something about Handel’s usual working methods, we know that he borrowed heavily from his own previous Italian operas.
A case in point is the beloved aria “Lascia ch’io pianga,” sung by Rinaldo’s beloved Almirena. This melody first turns up in Almira (1705) and was recycled in 1707 for the oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. In Rinaldo the music gives voice to pure pleading as Almirena laments her captivity and separation from the knight. The mood is established by slow triple meter, suggesting a noble sarabande, and perfectly restrained accompaniment that allows all attention to focus on the lyric aspect. With these attributes, it is little wonder that “Lascia ch’io pianga” has taken on life as a concert aria and encore favorite quite apart from its role in Rinaldo.
(c) Jason Stell, 2019
Countertenor Daniel Moody has appeared in the title opera roles of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Rinaldo, Arsamene in Handel’s Xerxes, Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and most recently, Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea with Cincinnati Opera. Mr. Moody has performed with the Atlanta Symphony, Les Violons du Roy, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in a duet concert with Anne Sophie von Otter, Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Group, among many others. Mr. Moody recently made his Carnegie Hall debut and his Off-Broadway debut in a production of Hans Christian Andersen.
Vivaldi wrote dozens of scintillating stage works, including Orlando Furioso. In this video from 2014, contralto Sara Couden gives a commanding performance of the signature aria "Nel profondo."
Carsten Schmidt leads this performance for chorus and orchestra of Handel's Coronation Anthem ("Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened"), written in 1727 for the installment of George II. With program notes.
In 2019 Staunton Music Festival presented Handel's late masterpiece, the oratorio Theodora. In this Perspective, stage director Timothy Nelson reflects back on his conception for the production of Theodora as well as the magical combination of people and events that brought the performance to fruition.
Composed in 1749, Theodora is Handel's only full-scale oratorio in English on a non-Biblical subject. The story deals with conflicts between love and sacrifice, duty and conscience, set against the Roman occupation of Antioch. In HD with program notes.
EXPLORE OTHER PERSPECTIVES