Classical Music | Soprano

George Frideric Handel

Lucrezia, a cantata  Play

Alicia Berneche Soprano
Jeffrey Panko Piano

Recorded on 06/02/2004, uploaded on 04/20/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Before permanently settling in London in 1712 where he would write his greatest compositions, Handel first left his native Germany for Italy in 1706 at the invitation of the Medicis. While in Italy, Handel concentrated on writing sacred music for the Roman clergy as well as operas for the Italian stage. La Lucrezia, a solo cantata, was likely composed in 1709, around the time Handel was in Venice preparing for the premiere of his opera Agrippina, which ultimately brought Handel international recognition.

Through termed a solo cantata, La Lucrezia is more or less a miniature operatic scena. Its story is based on the legend of Lucretia, told mainly by the Roman historian Livy. Appalled at her rape by the king's son and her consequent suicide, the prominent families of Rome rebelled against the tyrannical rule of the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. They effectively expelled the entire Tarquin family and formed the Roman Republic.

The libretto of La Lucrezia, written by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, focuses on the inner turmoil Lucretia faced after her rape and leading up to her suicide. In a succession of recitatives and arias, she beseechs the Roman gods to unleash a ruthless vengeance on the both the king and his son, whom she calls the "foul Roman" and "wretched monster." Finally, in the last recitative and aria pair, she contemplates her suicide before plunging the knife into herself, condemning her soul to hell to "seek [the king's] ruin" in the final arioso.     Joseph  DuBose

Recitative:       O Numi eterni

O Numi eterni! o stelle stelle! che fulminate empii tiranni, impugnate a miei voti orridi strali,  voi con fochi tonanti incennerite il reo Tarquinio e Roma; dalla superba chioma, omai trabocchi il vaccilante alloro s'apra il suolo in voragini, si cli, con memorando essempio, nelle viscere sue l'indegno e l'empio.

Oh eternal deities, oh stars, stars, whose rays strike down the heinous tyrants, answer my prayers, grasp your deathly arrows and with thunderous fires turn the wicked Tarquinius and Rome to ashes. May then the uneasy laurels now fall from his proud head and the ground become an abyss to swallow in its bowels, as memorable example, the unworthy evil one.

Aria:               Già superbo del mio affanno

Già superbo del mio affanno, traditor dell'onor mio Parte l'empio lo sleal.  Tu punisci il fiero inganno del fallon, del mostro rio, giusto Ciel, parca fatal.

The cruel and disloyal traitor of my honour now departs, rejoicing in my misfortune. Avenge, fate and righteous heaven, the vile misdeed of the felon, of the wretched monster.

Recitative:       Ma voi force nel Cielo

Ma voi forse nel Cielo, per castigo maggior del mio delitto, stateoziosi, o provocati Numi; se son sorde le stelle, se non mi odon le sfere, a voi tremende Dietà, Dietà del abisso mi folgo, a voi, a voi s'aspetta del tradito onor mio far la vendetta.

But if in heaven, to greater punishment of my dishonour, the provoked gods remain unmoved; if the stars are deaf and do not hear my pleas, I turn to you, tremendous deity of the abyss, from you my betrayed honour awaits its revenge.

Aria:               Il suol che preme

Il suol che preme, l'aura che spira l'empio Romano, s'apra s'infetti. Se il passo move, se il guardo gira, incontri larve, ruine aspetti.

May the ground, upon which the foul Roman treads, open under him, may the air he breathes become infected. As he walks or looks around, may he meet only with larvae and ruins.

Recitative:       Ah! che ancor nell'abisso

Ah! che ancor nell'abisso dormon le furie, i sdegni e le vendette. Giove dunque per me non la saette, e pietoso l'inferno? Ah! ch'io già sono in odio al Cielo ah! dite: e se la pena non piomba sul mio capo a' miei rimorsi è rimorso il poter di castigarmi. Questi la disperata anima mia puniscan, sì, sì, puniscan, sì. Ma il ferro che già intrepida stringo. Alla salma infedel porga la pena.

Alas that still in the abyss the Furies, wrath and vengeance, sleep. Has Jupiter no arrows for me, has hell no pity? Alas that the gods already hate me; alas, tell me, and if their sorrow does not fall upon my head, their power to punish me shall be the penance of my remorse. Let them punish me, yes, punish my desperate soul but with that sword which I fearlessly hold in my hand. Let it give this deceitful body its retribution.

Aria:               Questi la disperata anima mia

Recitative:       A voi, a voi padre

A voi, a voi, padre, consorte, a Roma, al mondo presento il mio morir; mi si perdoni il delitto essecrando ond'io macchiai involontaria il nostro onor, un'altra più detestabil colpa di non m'aver uccisa pria del misfatto mi si perdoni.

To you, to you, father, husband, to Rome, to the world I offer my death. May my execrable sin be forgiven, as unwillingly I blotted our honor; may I be pardoned for an even more detestable guilt, that of not having sought my death before sinning.

Arioso:            Già nel seno comincia

Già nel seno comincia, comincia a compir questo ferro i duri uffizii; sento ch'il cor si scuote più dal dolor di questa caduta in vendicata, che dal furor della vicina morte. Ma se qui non m'è dato castigar il tiranno, opprimer l'empio con più barabro essempio, per ch'ei sen cada estinto stringero a danni suoi mortal saetta, e furibonda e cruda nell'inferno faro, faro la mia vendetta.

Already in my bosom this sword begins its deathly task. I feel my heart tremble more with the grief of this unavenged fall than with the fury of approaching death. But if here on earth I was not granted the punishment of the tyrant, or that he may be crushed with a more barbarous example, from hell I shall seek his ruin with mortal arrows and with savage and implacable fury, from there I shall achieve my vengeance.

More music by George Frideric Handel

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Sonata opus 1 no.12 Adagio
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Sonata in G minor
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Chaconne in G Major, G 229
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Concerto Grosso in a minor
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Presto
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La Resurrezione, excerpts

Performances by same musician(s)

Richard Strauss
Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67
Hector Berlioz
La Mort d’Ophélie

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