Tune of the Day: Largo from Xerxes
“Ombra mai fù” is the first aria of G.F. Handel's opera Xerxes. It is sung by the main character, Serse (Xerxes), in praise of a tree's shade as he sits underneath it. It is commonly known as Handel's “Largo”, although the original tempo was larghetto.
Never has there been a shade
of a plant
more dear and lovely,
or more gentle.
The opera was a commercial failure when it came out, lasting only five performances in London after its premiere. In the 19th century, however, this aria was rediscovered and became one of Handel's best-known pieces. Originally composed to be sung by a soprano castrato (and sung in modern performances of the opera by a countertenor or a mezzo-soprano), it has often been arranged for other voice types and instruments.