Lascia ch'io pianga
Its melody is first found in act 3 of Handel's 1705 opera Almira as a sarabande; the score for this can be seen on page 81 of Vol. 55 of Friedrich Chrysander. Handel then used the tune for the aria "Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa", or "Leave the Thorn, Take the Rose", for the character Piacere in part 2 of his 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (which was much later, in 1737, revised as Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità).
Four years after that, in 1711, Handel used the music again, this time for his London opera Rinaldo and its act 2 aria "Lascia ch'io pianga", or "Let me weep", sung by the character Almirena. Rinaldo was a triumph, and it is with this work that the aria is chiefly associated.
The aria is written in the key of F major with a time signature of 3
2 and a tempo marking of Largo. In the first edition published by John Walsh, the orchestration is unspecified, giving only a solo melody line above an unfigured bass line. There is the mention 'violins' at bar 23 where the singer breaks (bar 31 in most modern editions which include an 8-bar introduction). Chrysander claimed to have worked from Handel's 'performance score' and stated that the autograph manuscript had been lost (although RISM state that the British Library hold a fragment of the autograph missing 53 bars); Chrysander's edition shows two violins and a viola with a cello. He does not provide figuring for the continuo. It is not clear whether he invented the additional string parts himself (as he often did) or found them in the performance score to which he referred. Most modern editions seem to be based upon Chrysander's version, as can be seen from the different placement of certain syllables in the melismata in his version and in the Walsh first edition.
A performance takes about five minutes.
The aria has been recorded by many artists, and is featured in several films including Farinelli; All Things Fair by Bo Widerberg; L.I.E. by Michael Cuesta; Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, both by Lars von Trier.
Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili's text and lyrics for the 1707 version of the aria are:
Lascia la spina, cogli la rosa;
tu vai cercando il tuo dolor.
Canuta brina per mano ascosa,
giungerà quando nol crede il cuor.
Leave the thorn, take the rose;
you go searching for your pain.
Gray frost by hidden hand
will come when your heart doesn't expect it.
The libretto for Rinaldo was written by Giacomo Rossi from a scenario provided by Aaron Hill. Almirena is addressing the Saracen king of Jerusalem, Argante, who is holding her prisoner and has just disclosed his passion at first sight for her.
Lascia ch'io pianga
mia cruda sorte,
e che sospiri
Il duolo infranga
de' miei martiri
sol per pietà.
Let me weep over
my cruel fate,
and let me sigh for
May sorrow shatter
for my torments
just out of pity.
- Dean and Knapp, pp. 176–78
- The songs in Rinaldo, first edition
- Haynes, Bruce (2007). The End of Early Music. US: Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-195-18987-6.
- Lærerinden – Musikstycken (in Swedish). Swedish Film Institute. Retrieved on 28 July 2008.
- Antichrist Pressbook Archived 2009-07-30 at the Wayback Machine (PDF). Artificial Eye. Retrieved on 28 July 2009.
- The following is the original text of Aaron Hill (from the booklet annexed to Jean-Claude Malgoire's first full recording of Rinaldo, released by CBS in 1977):
Permit the wretched to complain
Of their unhappy fate;
The loss of liberty's a pain
That should our sights create.
When you wou'd comfort an afflicted mind,
Pity, not love, shou'd make you kind.