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:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2018

Notes to Self

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Within Reach

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Bodies in The Forest

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Minds of Others

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Modern Despots

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before the Deluge

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Minds of Others·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
Article
Within Reach·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Before the Deluge·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
Post
CamperForce·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Chance that a Silicon Valley technology company started since 1995 was founded by Indian or Chinese immigrants:

1 in 3

A gay penguin couple in China’s Polar Land zoo were ostracized by other penguins and then placed in a separate enclosure after they made repeated attempts to steal the eggs of straight penguin couples and replace them with stones.

Trump’s former chief strategist, whom Trump said had “lost his mind,” issued a statement saying that Trump’s son did not commit treason; the US ambassador to the United Nations announced that “no one questions” Trump’s mental stability; and the director of the CIA said that Trump, who requested “killer graphics” in his intelligence briefings, is able to read.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today