Handel: Ombra Mai Fu - aria from the opera Serse (score, parts, midi & mp3)

Handel's opera "Serse" (Xerxes) was not a major success for the composer, and was rarely performed until the 20th century. However the opera is famous for its first aria called "Ombra Mai Fu", which is often played in instrumental form under the name Handel's Largo. In this format it is often played in churches and on ceremonial occasions, and with alternative words has even been turned into a hymn.

Here we present Handel's original aria, scored for voice (Serse) and strings. Act 1 Scene 1 begins with Serse singing a few bars of recitative (a form of sung speech used in opera) describing a particular tree. This is followed by the aria itself which is not very long and describes the shade offered by the tree (in Italian). The basses part should be interpreted as a "basso continuo" and played by basses and/or cellos with a harpsichord (or possibly an organ) improvising chords as per the figured bass. In the score, the voice part is shown above the "basses" part, so that the music can be more easily "directed from the keyboard" i.e. the conductor plays the hapsichord part and controls the overall performance. For this version we have not used a harpsichord and have replaced the voice with a horn sound for playback purposes. Here is the full score and parts for 1st Violins, 2nd Violins, Violas, Voice (Serse) and Basso Continuo. The midi and mp3 versions can be downloaded using the links on the left.



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