Ombra Mai Fù
Never was there a shade
Sweeter, more refreshing
Or more gentle.
This is the famous aria from Handel's opera Xerxes. It is also known by the title "Largo from Xerxes" in orchestral versions. You have undoubtedly heard it, for example, played by the organist at church during the offering, or in a poignant moment of a movie. In the opera, it is an ode in praise of a shade tree. The words seem a bit silly when compared to the music. They sound wonderful, however, if you don't speak Italian. I recently heard it on an episode of The Choir on BBC America. It made me think of this photo from my yard. In florid eighteenth century language, the text continues:
Tender and beautiful fronds
Of my beloved plane tree
Let fate smile upon you
May thunder, lightning and storms
Never bother your dear peace
Nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
The music invites contemplation and reflection. The eagle appears to have found that moment. It has been arranged for many voices and instruments including organ, cello and full choir. If you are still not recalling the music, here are five performances to jog your memory:
London Symphony Orchestra
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment