Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Music: Handel, Lascia Ch'io Pianga from Rinaldo

In Chapter Six of So Faithful a Heart a poignant moment occurs between Nancy and Wolfgang when she sings Handel's Lascia Ch'io Pianga during an impromptu concert in the Baroness Waldtst├Ątten's music salon at her estate in Klosterneuburg.

     “It’s your turn, Nancy, dear. We’ve not heard from you yet,” Elisabeth said as she slipped her arm through Nancy’s and led her to the harpsichord.
     Mozart turned and walked to the wine table to pour himself another glass as Michael moved from the fortepiano to take a seat to listen.
     “Why don’t you sing that ravishing little aria that you sang for me the other day?” she suggested as she gracefully positioned herself at the keyboard. “I’ll accompany you.”
     “What was it you sang, Nancy? We’d love to hear you perform it for us,” Michael said cheerfully as he made his way to a comfortable, overstuffed settee.
     Mozart, who stood with his back turned, teased, “It’s probably a bawdy little pub song that she learned back in England!” But almost before he could finish his sentence, the Baroness began to play. He stood motionless as he heard the opening notes and instantly recognized the introductory chords of the continuo. He was overtaken with emotion as he remembered the day at the Baron van Swieten’s home when he suggested to Nancy that one day she should sing this aria for him, for it was on that day he realized he had begun to fall in love with her.
     “Lascia ch’io pianga, mia cruda sorte…
     He turned around, his gaze intense and fixed upon her.
     “…e che so spiri, la liberta!” Her voice was plaintive and full of longing. She understood perfectly well the suffering of which she sang. “Let me weep over my cruel fate, for I long for freedom. I pray for mercy for my sufferings!”
     Mozart stood transfixed, overcome with tenderness for this young woman who stole his heart in that very moment.
     “Il duolo ingfranga, queste ritorte, de miei martiri, sol per pieta!"
     Their gaze met across the divide as she sang to him.
     “Have pity! Shatter my chains out of mercy for my suffering!”
     When she finished there was only silence. She had ripped her heart from herself and held it out for everyone in the room to see. Finally Michael broke the silence by quietly suggesting to the Baroness that they take a turn around the rose garden, leaving Mozart and Nancy alone in the salon.
     Nancy, who remained stationed by the harpsichord, watched intently as Mozart sat his wine glass on the table and silently crossed the room toward her. As he drew nearer, she saw the tears that pooled in his eyes and her heart began to race once again as she felt the blush return. He stood close to her, barely breathing, and gently enveloped her in his arms, pulling her to him. She wrapped her arms softly around his neck and closed her eyes as he kissed her tenderly on the forehead. There they stood silently, for several moments holding one another in their arms. Then, without a word, he took her by the hand and led her out of the salon, into the great hall and up the stairs to her bedchamber, quietly closing the door behind them.


  1. After reading this, I closed my eyes while listening to the song in the background. I imagined the scene and went through it over and over again. It really left me speechless I really enjoyed it.

  2. I'm so glad you were able to picture the scene with the music! That's exactly what I hoped to accomplish with this post. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jorge.