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Monteverdi: Lamento della ninfa

What fun it’s been to host this week and ponder my favorite songs and performances! For my last day, I thought I’d look back to one of my earliest singer memories, one of the first pieces to leave a huge impression on me as a singer, and the first piece that got me hooked on early music. My big solo senior year of high school was Monteverdi’s Lamento della ninfa. There’s so much to love about this piece. One thing I adore is the little trio of shepherds acting as the nymph’s “back-up singers” (2 tenors and a bass). This clip I’ve shared leaves out the first part, but the piece as a whole includes an ensemble section both before and after the nymph’s lament where they set up and conclude the story. In the main section, there is a totally different vibe as she passionately laments her fate, and the shepherds interject with narration and commentary. There is something about the relentlessness of that very simple, repetitive four-note ground bass that is so heart-rending. I can’t get enough of those excruciatingly beautiful dissonances and the shape of the line and the rhythms he uses so wonderfully to evoke her distress.

I looked to see if i could find a recording of it that I liked, and was pleased to see one of my favorite mezzo-sopranos, Bernarda Fink, had recorded it, and gorgeously so! (Figures I should end this week with a nod to yet another mezzo role model!) Fink is maybe not quite as famous as some of the big names I’ve mentioned on previous days, but I look up to her very much as she comes up quite often for me when I’m researching repertoire, especially art song – she very often seems to have recorded whatever it is I’m working on, and I always love what she does. On this piece I think she has the perfect balance, for my taste, of the clarity of tone needed for this style but still with so much body and color and spin. And on top of that she gives such a detailed and emotional delivery of the text and character. I was very glad to happen upon this interpretation of one of my all-time favorite pieces!

Thanks to NYFOS for inviting me to host!

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