Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spine chilling and beautiful aria - "Lascia ch'io Pianga"

I watched the 2009 released movie "The Antichrist" recently. It was uncomfortable viewing in many ways, yet interesting and very captivating artistically. In fact the opening 5 minute scene was the most compelling and well produced piece of artistic cinematic experience I've ever witnessed in terms of overall visual and aural impact. It needed to be viewed many times to sink in and absorb all elements which made it so great. Huge credit to the writer and director Lars von Trier for this masterpiece of slow motion.

In particular the music running through this opening scene made my hair stand up. I just had to research it more. Turns out it's an aria called "Lascia ch'io Pianga" which was composed by Handel for his opera Rinaldo - performed in Italian. This first aired in 1711 which makes this music a baroque piece and is much older than I expected, it just feels more modern. The instrument running through it is beautiful - I'm assuming its a harpsichord which would be typical of that period. But it was the female singer's voice which really made the aria magical. Again some research reveals her to be a Danish mezzo-soprano called Tuva Semmingsen. Never heard of her? Neither had I. But I also since then listened to well known classical singers like Katherine Jenkins and Hayley Westenra sing this "Lascia ch'io Pianga" piece and to me they just did not offer the same chilling and powerful impact. The original aria - from what I can tell in translation - is a sad lament of a captive for freedom and Tuva Semmingsen interprets this sentiment so well in her performance. The clarity and sharpness of her voice is wonderful - it suits a horror movie! I'm no expert in classical singing - but maybe it's also partly a feature of the mezzo-soprano range, her voice seems fuller and more dramatic for this piece.

This sadness conveyed so well is compatible with the Antichrist movie's strong opening theme - a couple in sexual ecstasy just at the point where their toddler child meets his death (unknown to them but all seen by the viewer in slow motion) and with an understandable large element of guilt and pain thereafter for the couple.

You can watch and listen to the movie prologue on YouTube here...



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