I was going thru old magazines, looking to discard and toss, and I came upon this lovely article in an old issue of The Classical Singer magazine (December 2007), an article about gratitute by Lisa Houston, in which she cites the aria “Ombra mai fu” from Serse by Handel:
“I include this piece as perhaps my favorite example of pure gratitude in all of opera. In terms of plot, this opening largo has little connection to the lover’s farce that succeeds it, and I must admit that the gratitude is inferred rather than explicitly stated. The simple text, appreciating the beauty of a tree, along with the nobility and beauty of the music, all in the character of the world’s most famous warrior (Serse), makes this an unforgettable and deservedly famous work.
The juxtaposition of the pain of war and the beauty of nature is a vivid reminder of why the practice of gratitude is important. Whatever suffering or struggles we experience in life, we have the human capacity to engage with a deep respect for beauty, nature and for life itself. And just like beautiful singing, that capicity can be cultivated. Just as Serse perhaps, fresh from battle and grateful for his life, wishes the beautiful tree safety from lightening, wind, and storms, when we are in touch with the grace that allows us to breath and eat, and love and sing, we wish each other safety and well being, too. This aria is remembered, and sung almost 300 years after Handel wrote it. That, I cannot help but believe, even on a cranky day, says something about our human need to pause and appreciate life’s gifts, whatever has come before, and whatever may follow”.