Handelian Self-Plagiarism

Ever notice how the king’s Act II aria in Ariodante, “invida sorta avara” / “cruel, envious fate” sounds a lot like Alcina’s “mi restano le lagrime”?

Here is “invida sorta avara,” sung by Matthew Brook:

The ornamentation in the repeat of the A section is expressive and elegantly done. The king in Ariodante is not normally a character who emerges with a lot of depth — he clearly has deep feelings, as Brook expresses here, but he is rarely what you would call complex. Then again, I’m not sure that ‘complexity’ should be the goal with this character to begin with. There’s probably a reason the king is just ‘the king’ and has no other name.

And here is “mi restano le lagrime,” sung by Renée Fleming and then Joyce DiDonato.

It makes sense, I guess, that Handel would rework material from one or the other of these. Ariodante and Alcina were both first performed early in 1735, so their composition may have overlapped. And these arias are of similar emotional flavor. In the the first the king of Scotland believes he has lost Ariodante, whom he loves like a son, and fears that he will somehow lose his daughter Ginevra too. In the second, Alcina laments that since she has lost Ruggiero and her powers are waning, tears are all that are left for her.

(Also, YouTube wins again with tags. For the first video, it suggested “George Frideric Handel,” which makes perfect sense, and also “Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority,” which makes less sense. Perhaps buses tend to run really, really late in southwestern Ohio?)

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