music of the week – Francesco Rasi: Ahi, fuggitivo ben

by ada

I have mentioned Francesco Rasi before: he was that wild, adventurous, and quite impetuous singer, who took the script of Claudio Monteverdi‘s opera L’Orfeo with him to Salzburg, where he, with the help of Archbishop Markus Sittikus, produced and sung the leading role of the first opera performance in the German world ever and became thereby responsible for that exaggerated Teuton love of operas, which, some 250 years later, resulted in Wagner‘s Götterdämmerung. I try really hard not to blame him for it.

Rasi was also on quite bad terms with his stepmother, and after murdering her servant who was in charge for her estate, he tried to kill her too. He didn’t succeed though and had to flee. He was condemned to death by the court of Arezzo so he took refuge at first in Prague and then in Salzburg. Apart of his murderous nature, Rasi was a very talented, virtuoso and well-known singer of his time, who was a student of Giulio Caccini and whom “not only Italy but even all Europe venerated.” * ** He also played various instruments and composed a few volumes of music, mostly short songs in the early seventeenth century style of pure monody. One of these songs is Ahi, fuggitivo ben from his 1608 collection Vaghezze di Musica per una voce sola, where he, from a perspective of the abandoned lover, complains about the misery of being a fugitive. The moral of the story? Don’t try to murder your relatives (or anybody, actually) if you want to lead a relaxed life and plan to retire at your birthplace.

* letter from Don Gregorio Rasi to his nephew Giulio Francesco Rasi around 1650

** He was also deeply impressed by the weapons of the Hungarian artillery which he encountered during his 1601 travels. Am I the only one to find this small detail of his life quite charming? Oh, those times when music was still real as life! Why, why do I have to live in this boring age of global warming, genetically modified food and tumblr aesthetics?

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