Francesca Caccini: Lasciatemi Qui Solo

Context

Francesca Caccini was born in Florence in September 1587. Her parents were both musical, so she grew up in the artistic community of the Medici court – one of the most cultured in all of Europe. At a very young age Caccini, taught by her father, began learning to play the guitar, lute and she also learnt how to sing. She grew up receiving a humanistic education meaning she learned Latin, literature, mathematics and modern languages.

Due to her language training, Caccini sung as a part of a family ensemble called ‘Concerto Caccini’ and they sang before the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de Medici. She began catching the attention of others for her musical talents and she began singing as part of a soprano trio comprised of Francesca, her sister and the famous Italian singer, Vittoria Archilei. Through singing in both chamber ensembles and operas, Caccini became famous and was recognised around Italy for her virtuosi and technique.

Between the years 1604-05, the Caccini family travelled to France, at the request of Maria d’Medici. The King was impressed by the family ensemble, but especially took a shine to Francesca. 

In 1607, Caccini married singer Giovannibattista Signorini in Florence. During the next few years she began composing music for events for the courts around Italy. It has been shown that Caccini was the first woman to write and publish an opera – which is a massive achievement in such a competitive business.

In 1618, Caccini had her first volume of works published – Il primo libro delle musiche. A lot of works in Caccini’s Il primo libro reflect the characteristics of her father’s music. One of the main things that Caccini took from her father’s music was the use of vocal ornaments to embellish the melody. Although on the manuscripts there are no clear direction for these ornaments, Caccini uses words such as ‘trillo’ and ‘passaggi’ to infer a vocal trill of some sort. If we look back at Giulio’s music, he uses a technique called ‘gorgheoggiao’, which consists of stopping the vocal sound by the quick opening and closing of the vocal folds whilst air is passing through. The technique is tricky to master as it requires a lot of breath and vocal control to create the desired effect. The effect is often called referred to as ‘trembling of the voice’, which lies on a single note, and often ends as a cadential ornament. There are some notable differences in their compositions, however, for example most of Caccini’s father’s music were more song-like, whereas Francesca’s collection reflects an early attempt at recitative style.

 

The Text

Il primo libro is a big indicator to how the Florentine musical style was shaped over this period. The book is divided into two very large sections. The first section, ‘spirituali’ is characterised by sacred texts, thus includes sonnets, madrigals, arias, motets and hymns. The second section, ‘temporali’ consists of secular texts and lighter melodies. Lasciatemi Qui Solo is number 12 in the book, and is an aria. Here is the text, with English translations:

 

Stanza 1

Lasciatemi qui solo – Leave me here alone,

Torante augelli al nido – Return, birds, to your nests,

Mentre l’anim’e ‘l duolo – While my soul, and my pain

Spiro su questo lido – I give up on these shores.

Altri meco non voglio – I want no one else with me

Ch’un freddo scoglio – Other than a cold rock,

E ‘l moi fatal martire – And my fated death.

Lasciatemi moirire – Leave me to die

 

Stanza 2

Dolcissime sirene – Sweetest sirens

Che’n si pietoso canto – Who with such merciful song

Raddolcite mie pene – Sweeten my sufferings and 

Fate soave il pianto – Soften my weeping

Movet’ il nuoto altronde – Go elsewhere to swim

Togliete all’onde – Dampen the waves’

I crudi sdegni, e l’ire – Cruel scorn, and their ire

Lasciatemi morire – Leave me to die.

 

Stanza 3 

Placidissimi venti – Calmest winds

Torante al vostro speco – Return to your cave

Sol miei duri lamenti – I ask that only my harsh laments

Chieggo che restin meco – Remain with me 

Vostri sospir non chiamo – I do not call upon your sighs

Solingo bramo – Alone I wish 

I miei dolor finire – To end my sufferings 

Lasciatemi morire – Leave me alone to die.

 

Stanza 4 

Fekicissimi amanti – Happiest lovers

Torante al bel diletto – Return to your beautiful pleasures

Fere eccels’o notanti – Wild beasts, whether birds or fish

Fuggite il mesto aspetto – Flee from this sad countenance 

Sol dolcezza di morte – Only the sweetness of death

Apra le porte – Should open its doors

All’ ultimo Languire – To this final languishing 

Lasciatemi morire – Leave me to die.

 

Stanza 5 

Avarissimi lumi – Most avaricious eyes

Che su ‘l morir versate – That on point of death spill 

Amarissimi fiumi – The bitterest rivers

Tard’e vostra pietate – Your pity comes too late

Gia mi sento mancare – Already I feel myself fail

O luci avar’e – Oh eyes, stingy 

Tarde al mio conforto – And slow to comfort me

Gia sono esangu’e smorto – I am already bloodless and lifeless. 

 

 

The Music

Caccini was very meticulous and particular as to where syllables of words were placed in coherence with the harmonic development. Her use of ornaments, especially the ‘gorgheoggiao’ technique can be heard throughout the aria, which alludes back to the style that both dominated her father’s music and the musical style within Florence. 

Full of vocal melismas, Lasciatemi Qui Solo powerfully communicates every single word that Caccini has placed. The beautiful harp/lute/continuo accompaniment is a mere harmonic tool, so that the voice can stand out and take centre stage. This hauntingly beautiful aria is one of many incredible vocal works by Caccini.

 

Final Thoughts

Throughout the rest of her life, Francesca Caccini composed music for courts around Italy and also around Europe, which makes her one of the most successful women composers to have ever lived. There is no record of when Caccini actually died, although it is certain to be after 1641, as that is when she left Medici service. Throughout her life, Caccini achieved many things: composition, teaching and performance opportunities, as well as being regarded as a woman who has given more to early Baroque music than most.

 

This blog is dedicated to my friend and early music lover Annabelle Page.

Happy Reading!

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