24Apr

Erin's Playlist - Best of Pinchgut Laments

By Pinchgut Opera | Blog, Playlist | 24 Apr 2020 |

Playlist 5: Best of Pinchgut Laments

Beautiful and touching laments to assuage lost loves, missed opportunities, and the vicissitudes of cruel fate.

Baroque laments are among the most touching examples of music written for lost souls. In the seventeenth century, laments were often characterized by a repeated descending tetrachord (a four-note pattern). This hypnotic repetition seems to suggest entrapment within an emotional state, and laments were generally ascribed at that time to female characters (although Orfeo’s famous lament on the fields of Thrace in Monteverdi’s L’orfeo  is a notable exception). In the eighteenth-century laments still retained some of the features of the older style, but composers used more dramatic techniques taken from other scene types and genres to present a character’s despair, hopelessness, and delicious melancholy.


  1. Isifile in Cavalli’s Giasone is the classic lamenting woman of seventeenth-century opera. Her character provided the template for many to come. Here is her opening lament, in which she speaks of Giasone’s love that has betrayed her. Listen for the lirone, the many-stringed bowed instrument capable of harmony. There is some evidence that the lirone was associated with the lament genre. Laura Vaughan of the Orchestra of the Antipodes is one of the world’s finest exponents of the lirone and is featured on this recording.
  2. This is the final section of Orfeo’s heart-wrenching lament on the fields of Thrace, after he has left the underworld and lost Euridice forever. Listen to the beginning of this track—Monteverdi perfectly writes a kind of broken love song for Euridice. Orfeo cannot quite sing in time with his lute; his famed eloquence is diminished by grief, regret, and a kind of numb pain.
  3. The lamenting movement from the overture to Vivaldi’s Griselda: I think it is Vivaldi’s representation of the wordless cries of the main character, who undergoes in the drama a terrible series of trials in order to test her constancy.
  4. This is Costanza’s last aria from Griselda in which she tries to console herself of her impending arranged marriage: “Empty shadows, groundless terrors roiling my soul, stirring up pains and fears: your cruel, evil torments let them all fade away for pity’s sake!” Miriam Allan at her absolutely best. Those ornaments! That high C!
  5. Saul’s opening lament from David et Jonathas in which he rages, Lear-like, against his crumbling mental state. Charpentier at his most Italianate and dramatic.
  6. This is Mandane’s stunning lamenting aria from Artaserse. Court opera in the 1740s was very long and luxurious and so too is this aria. “If I believed I might triumph over a tyrant love, leave me in my delusion, let me persuade myself that I am no longer in love.” Vivica Genaux creates the role of Mandane in this award-winning recording. Vivica and I collaborated with the great Jory Vinikour on the ornaments for her role, and we followed closely the surviving ornaments of Faustina Bordoni herself, who premiered the role. We even included part of an extant and rarely utilised cadenza by Handel himself, taken from another opera.
  7. The great prison scene and lament of the title character of Dardanus. A classic moment of French baroque opera.
  8. Tracks 8 to 9 include one of the greatest laments of the seventeenth century: Isifile’s final aria from Giasone. Here she excoriates her ex-lover in an eviscerating series of unforgettable sequences at the end of track 8. Miriam really unfurls her voice in this one: devastating.
  9. Track 9 is the lament proper, accompanied exquisitely by the strings, as if to suggest a giant lirone.
  10. The wordless lament of the title character, in chains, from the overture of Vivaldi’s Bajazet.
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