No Comment, Quotation — January 31, 2010, 12:37 am

Rinuccini/Monteverdi – Lamento della ninfa

apollo_d

Non havea Febo ancora
recato al mondo il dì
ch’una donzella fuora
del proprio albergo uscì.

Sul pallidetto volto
scorgease il suo dolor,
spesso gli venia sciolto
un gran sospir dal cor.

Sì calpestando fiori,
errava hor qua, hor là,
i suoi perduti amori
così piangendo va:

“Amor,” dicea, il ciel
mirando il piè fermò
“dove, dov’è la fé
che ‘l traditor giurò?

Fa che ritorni il mio
amor com’ei pur fu,
o tu m’ancidi, ch’io
non mi tormenti più.”

Miserella, ah più no,
tanto gel soffrir non può.

“Non vo’ più che i sospiri
se non lontan da me,
no, no, che i suoi martiri
più non dirammi, affé!

Perché di lui mi struggo
tutt’orgoglioso sta,
che sì, che sì se ‘l fuggo
ancor mi pregherà?

Se ciglio ha più sereno
colei che ‘l mio non è,
già non rinchiude in seno
Amor si bella fé.

Né mai si dolci baci
da quella bocca havrai,
né più soavi; ah, taci,
taci, che troppo il sai.”

Sì tra sdegnosi pianti
spargea le voci al ciel;
così ne’ cori amanti
mesce Amor fiamma e gel.

Read an English translation here

Ottavio Rinuccini, Lamento della ninfa (1614?)

Listen to Claudio Monteverdi’s setting of the Rinuccini canzonetta in L’ottavo libro de madrigali: Madrigali amorosi altri canti di Marte (1638), the solo is sung by Emma Kirkby:

Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals, published in 1638, represent, in many ways, the culmination of this art form. The dramatic expressiveness of the genre is pushed to its outermost limits. Moreover, we see the emergence of a cycle as madrigals composed over a long period are skillfully strung together creating a magnificent tableau. Monteverdi attaches the name “madrigals of war and love” to the work, but there is a sense of progression to it. It owes something to the intermedio tradition of the Renaissance, but it moves in the direction of the early Baroque opera. The war-like madrigals are composed in a style that conveys great agitation and pumping adrenalin. Blows fall, heroes triumph, but they also make fatal mistakes. Monteverdi develops new techniques to convey this through the medium of the human voice, especially the rapid-fire repetitions of the stil concitato. But for pure theatricality and for dexterity that foreshadows the grand operatic tradition, nothing competes with the Nymph’s Lament found in the second part of the book. War, devastation, death are quickly followed by pity, expressions of loss and lamentation. The turning of the wheel of human emotion proceeds in a smooth glide. And while Monteverdi’s initial madrigals in the series aim to get the blood pumping and to build apprehension, the second group tug relentlessly at the heartstrings. The lament is certainly one of Monteverdi’s absolute masterpieces, its tonalities are rich and dynamic, and it marks a breakthrough for the early Baroque style. The truly operatic soprano solo is juxtaposed against a male trio, and all of this is built over a continuous, hypnotic four-note ground bass (similar to the technique used in many of the duets in L’Incoronazione di Poppea, but here to better effect). In Monteverdi’s instructions, the soprano is given license to vent passionate expression (a tempo dell’affetto dell’animo e non a quello della mano, he writes), while the trio adhere to a rigorous tempo. The effect is like nothing else in the madrigal literature, and indeed, Monteverdi is breaking out of it—opera is being born.

This performance of the lament, by Emma Kirkby, is probably the best now available. It takes several listenings to appreciate Kirkby’s brilliant nuances.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Percentage change since 1990 in serious golf-cart-related injuries:

+132

Vegetarians are more intelligent than normal people.

A leopard gained access to a private school in India.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today