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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Saturday, March 17, 2007

entry arrow1:45 AM | Aria for Tree and Shade

Opera is a precarious thing to admire the first time around. I remember Edward, Richard Gere's character in Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman, telling Vivian (Julia Roberts) exactly this while they were watching La Traviata in a San Francisco opera house: "People's reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul."

Risky business it is then, the appreciation of opera. (Good thing I had dearest Francois to teach me the basics in the first place.) Which is why if there is one opera I will choose to see for my first time, it will be George Frideric Handel's Xerxes -- if only to listen to one of the greatest, most affecting arias in the history of opera: "Ombra mai fu." It's the first aria in the opera, sung by the main title character in praise of a tree and its shade. Sure, Xerxes may be what in the opera world is called a "pants role," but female singers have done more than justice to it. Listen to Marilyn Horne sing the aria, and you will swoon.



Here's the simple lyrics of the aria:

Ombra mai fu
di vegetabile
cara ed amabile,
soave più.

Ombra mai fu
di vegetabile
cara ed amabile,
soave più.

Cara ed amabile,
ombra mai fu
di vegetabile
cara ed amabile,
soave più.
soave più.

Translated, it means:

Never was shade
Of plant
More dear, amiable and sweet.

It's about a tree, dammit. But how we are moved.

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