Examples on this page

  • Tu se’ Morta from Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo
  • Sarabande from Handel’ Suite in D minor, HWV 437
  • Cantata #140, Bach

Tu se’ Morta

This recitative is from Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo. It is an important for several reasons:

  • Orfeo is considered by many to be the first great Italian opera. It dates from the early 1600s and is one of the works used to mark the beginning of the Baroque era. It builds on the ideas of the earlier Florentine Camarata concerning the use of the recitative, and the homophonic texture in preference to polyphony.
  • The subject is the story of Orpheus, the great musician (and poet and more) from ancient Greek mythology.
  • This selection is an example of the recitative form.
    • The singing style is simple and designed to provide the singer with a vehicle for a dramatic delivery of the text rather than just a chance to show off his beautiful voice. This is the opposite of the aria, in which the beautiful melodic contour takes precedence over the text.
    • In the recitative there is usually one syl-lable or word per note with very little melodic embellishment.
    • Note the simple, chordal accompaniment, in this case provided by organ and lute.
  • Several striking examples of word painting occur in this recitative.
    • The words “abysses,” “death,” and “farewell” are sung on low notes.
    • The words “stars,” “sky,” and “sun” are sung on high notes.
Tu se’ morta, se morta, mia vita You are dead, you are dead, my dearest,
ed io respiro, tu se’ da me partita, And I breathe, you have left me,
se’ da me partita per mai piu, You have left me forevermore,
mai piu’ non tornare, ed io rimango- Never to return, and I remain-
no, no, che se i versi alcuna cosa ponno, No, no, if my verses have any power,
n’andra sicuro a’ piu profondi abissi, I will go confidently to the deepest abysses,
e, intenerito il cor del re de l’ombre, And, having melted the heart of the king of shadows,
meco trarotti a riverder le stelle, Will bring you back to me to see the stars again,
o se cia negherammi empio destino, Or, if pitiless fate denies me this,
rimarro teco in compagnia di morte. I will remain with you in the company of death.
Addio terra, addio cielo, e sole, addio Farewell earth, farewell sky, and sun, farewell.

Three questions — Based on the text of this recitative, as shown above…

  1. What has already happened?
  2. What is going on in the moment depicted here?
  3. What is going to happen in the future?

Play Music

Related, in a convoluted sort of way: Leonard Bernstein on the recitative:


Modern performance of a sarabande composed by George Frideric Handel: Sarabande from Suite in D minor, HWV 437. (This music was used in the Stanley Kubrick Film Barry Lyndon.)

Johann Sebastian Bach

(“Awake, A Voice is Calling Us”)

First movement – Chorus with Orchestra.

Rising scales in lower voices depict “high.”Brief orchestral inter-lude.wach auf, du Stadt Jerusalem!
“Awake, you city of Jerusalem!”

Orchestral ritornello. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme “Awake,” the voice of watchmen
Brief orchestral interlude. der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne, calls us from high on the tower,
Orchestral ritornello. Mitternacht heisst diese Stunde; Midnight is this very hour;
Brief orchestral inter-lude. sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde: they call to us with bright voices:
Brief orchestral inter-lude. wo seid ihr klugen Jungrauen? “Where are you, wise vir-gins?”
Long orchestral inter-lude. Wohl auf, der Bräut’gaum kömmt, Take cheer, the Bridegroom comes,
Brief orchestral inter-lude. steht auf, die Lampen nehmt! arise, take up your lamps!
Altos, jubilant melody in rapid notes Alleluja! Hallelujah!
Imita-tion by tenors, then basses. Alleluja! Hallelujah!
Sopranos, chorale in long notes. Orchestral interlude. Macht euch bereit Prepare yourselves
Orchestral interlude. zu der Hochzeit for the wedding,
Brief orchestral inter-lude. ihr müsset ihm entgegen gehn. you must go forth to meet him.
Orchestral ritornello.

Second movement – Recitative for solo tenor with continuo

Ihr Töchter Zions, Kommt heraus, (Daughters of Zion, come forth,)
sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe in euer Mutter Haus. he is hurrying from on high into your mother’s house.
Der Bräut’gaum kommt, der einem Rehe (The Bridegroom comes, )
who like a roeund jungem Hirsche glitch (and a young hart)
auf denen Hügeln springs (leaping upon the hills,)
und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit bringt. (brings you the wedding meal.)
Wacht auf, ermuntert euch! (Wake up, bestir yourselves!)
den Bräut’gaum zu empfangen; (o receive the Bridegroom;)
dort, sehet, kommt er hergegandgen. (here, look, he comes along.)

Er kommt, er kommt, der Bräut’gaum kommt! He comes, he comes, the Bridegroom comes!

Third movement – Duet for soprano and bass with violino piccolo and continuo

Fourth movement – Tenors of chorus sing chorale in unison; strings and continuo

Fifth movement – Recitative for bass, accompanied by strings and continu.

So geh herein zu mir, du mir erwählte Braut! Come enter in with me, my chosen bride!
Ich habe mich mit dir in Ewigkeit vertraut. I have pledged my troth to you in eternity
Dich will ich auf mein Herz, I will set you as a seal upon my heart,
auf meinen Arm gleich wie ein Siegel setzen, and as a seal upon my arm,
und dein betrübtes Aug’ergötzen. and restore delight to your sorrowful eye.
Vergiss, o Selle, Forget now , o soul
nun die Angst, den Schmerz, den du erdulden müssen; the anguish, the pain which you had to suffer;
auf meiner Linken sollst du ruh’n, on my left you shall rest,
und mein Rechte soll dich küssen. and my right shall kiss you.
Mein Freund ist mein! Soul: My friend in mine!
Und ich bin dein! Jesus: and I am thine!
Die Liebe soll nichts scheiden! Soul: I will feed with you among heaven’s roses,
Du sollst mit mir in Himmels Rosen weiden, Jesus: You shall feed with me among heaven’s roses,
Da Freude die Fülle, da Wonne wird sein! Both: There fullness of joy, there rapture shall be!!

Sixth movement – Duet for soprano and bass with oboe and continuo

Seventh movement – Chorus doubled by orchestra – chorale

Gloria sei dir gesungen Gloria be sung to you
mit Menschen- und englischen Zungen, with men’s and angel’s tongues,
mit Harfen und mit Zimbeln schon. with harps and beautiful cymbals.
Von zwölf Perlen sind die Pforten Of twelve pearls are the gates
an deiner Stadt; wir sind Konsorten at your city; we are consorts
der Engel hoch um deinen Thron. of the angels high about your throne.
Kein Aug’ hat je gespürt, No eye has ever sensed,
kein Ohr hat je gehört no ear has ever heard
solche Freude. such a delight.
sind wir froh, Of this we rejoice,
io, io! io, io,
ewig in dulci jubilo. forever in sweet joy.


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