Carissimi Alma, che fai, che pensi?

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Alma, che fai, che pensi resembles allegorical the dialogue between The Body and The Soul found in Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, written for the Oratorio of St. Philip Neri in 1600 and numerous other conversation between allegorical representations of the spiritual and corporal realms from the 17th Century. Like the duet "Fuggi, fuggi" this dialogue was most likely composed in the late 1630s and shares with "Fuggi" the admonition to flee worldly delights in pursuit of lasting heavenly pleasures.

Magnificat
Warren Stewart, artistic director

Catherine Webster, soprano
Peter Becker, bass
David Tayler, theorbo
Hanneke van Proosdij, organ

lyrics

Text & Translation

Corpo
Alma che fai, che pensi?
Perché piangi e sospirir,
perché meco t’adiri
e de’ miei fidi sensi,
ch’a servirti son usi,
mille offerti piacer, folle, ricusi?

Dimmi, dimmi, o bell’ alma,
perché mi schivi e fuggi,
perché di duol ti struggi
e lasciar questa salma
(se per te solo è viva)
di vita or vuoi nonché di gioia priva?

Anima
O mio caduco albergo,
per te piango e sospiro
e teco ancor m’adiro,
che volto al cielo il tergo.
Non credi aver le porte
de’ sensi aperte alla vicina morte?

E mentre ch’a me chiedi
perché ti schivo e fuggo,
perché di duol mi struggo,
veggio ch’esser non credi,
pria ch’altro fine arrivi,
cadavero che spiri, ombra che vivi.

E veggio quasi spenta
nelle tue luce, o cieco,
la luce ch’io t’arreco.
Almen questo rammenta
ch’io dirti solo agogno:
l’uomo è sogno d’un ombra, ombra d’un sogno.

Corpo
Ma se teco son tale
or che m’avvivi, quando
nemica morte in bando
da me terratti, quale
rimarrà questo pondo,
che per te sembra un pargoletto mondo?

Anima
Qual tu deggia restarti,
privo di sensi e senza
la mia vital presenza,
io non saprei spiegarti,
ché solo, o fragil corpo,
in pensarvi, d’orror aggiaccio e torpo.

Dirò sol che la nostra
vita sì breve mena
i giorni suoi ch’appena
a questo ciel si mostra,
se tu vuoi meco intanto
aggiumger luce agl’occhi e voce al canto.

Corpo
Sì, voglio, e pria che lasso
rimanga il nostro suono
io, che formato sono
di terra, mi terrò basso,
ma tu, che spirto sei
sceso dal ciel, al ciel alzar ti dei.

Anima e Corpo
La nostra vita è polve
che, da rapido vento
alzata in un momento,
su per l’aria si volve;
ma tosto in secco nembo
sciolta sen riede alla gran madre in grembo.

Anima
Altri fumò la stima
che con oscuro velo
il chiaro volto al cielo
tenti ombrar, ma non prima
va con cieco furore
contra il sereno ciel ch’in aria more.

Corpo
Rassembra il mar, ch’armato
di turbini e procelle
osa infino alle stelle
gir con sembiante irato,
ma repente quell’ onda
che minacciava il ciel l’inferno inonda.

Anima
È simil alla spuma
che del mar che si frange
nascendo in modo piange
ch’in pianto si concuma,
sì che ben dirsi deve
che la vita è di morte un pianto breve.

Corpo
Anzi è voce ch’uscendo
fuor del materno seno
viene in maniera meno
ch’ella more nascendo,
ne’ labbri ha cuna e negl’orecchi ha tomba.

Anima e Corpo
Chiamala fior di campo
ch’aprendo al primo riso,
se dirla non vuoi lampo
che tra le nubi appare,
in guisa tal ch’in apparir dispare.

(English Translation)
Body
Soul, What are you doing, what are you thinking?
Why do you weep and sigh,
why do you take offense at me
and scorn my faithful senses
which have been used to serve you,
offered a thousand times to please you, foolish one?

Tell me, tell me, o gracious Soul,
why you shun and flee me,
why you are consumed with sorrow
and why do you wish to let this body
(which lives solely because of you)
be deprived of life now, as well as of joy?

Soul
O my fleshly dwelling place,
for you do I weep and sigh,
and I take offense at you again
because you turn your back on Heaven.
do you not think to hold the gates
of the senses open to the nearness of death?

And while you ask me
why I shun and flee you,
why I am consumed with sorrow,
I see that you do not believe that you are—
even before you reach your end—
a corpse that breathes, a shadow that lives.

And I see nearly extinguished
in your eyes, o blind one,
the light that I bring you.
therefore remember this
one thing, which I earnestly desire to say to you:
man is a dream of a shadow, a shadow of a dream.

Body
But if you say I am this sort of creature
even now when you give me life, when
cruel death sends you away
from me into exile, what
will be the prospect for this burdensome flesh,
that because of you is like an innocent child?

Soul
What would remain for you then,
deprived of your senses and without
my lifegiving presence,
I wouldn’t know how to explain to you,
o frail Body, because of the
shivering horror and shock in thinking about it.

I will only tell you that our
very short life goes through
its days as soon
as it shows itself to the heavens,
in case in the meantime you wish through me
to bring light to your eyes and your voice to song.

Body
Yes, I do, and I leave while
our song remains:
I will go down low to earth,
since I am made of earth,
but, since you are a spirit come down
from heaven, you must rise up into heaven.

Soul and Body
Our life is dust,
that, raised up
in a moment by a swift wind,
spins around up in the air;
but as soon as it is in a dry cloud,
it easily returns to the bosom of Mother Earth.

Soul
And then consider smoke,
that with a thick veil
tries to obscure
the clear face of heaven, but it no sooner
goes in blind fury
against the serene heavens than it dies in the air.

Body
The sea is like this, in that, armed
with whirlwinds and storms,
it dares to spin up
to the stars with a furious face,
but suddenly this wave
that once was threatening heaven now floods hell.

Soul
It is like the spume
of the sea that, as the sea breaks up,
in a way weeps as it grows,
and in its weeping it consumes itself.
thus it is, to put it nicely,
that life is a brief weeping of death.

Body
Likewise is the voice, which, in going
outside the chest that produces it,
comes to be, in a way, except
that it dies as it is born:
on the lips it has its cradle and in the ears its grave.

Soul and Body
Consider the flower of the field
that I see at its freshest bloom:
you could say it’s a like lightening flash
that appears amidst the clouds,
such that as it appears, it disappears.

credits

from Vanitas Vanitatem - Music of Carissimi's Rome, released November 1, 2004
Live performance September 26, 2004 St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church San Francisco. Mark Lemaire & David Tayler, engineers; David Tayler, mastering & editing.

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Magnificat San Francisco, California

For 20 years Magnificat has explored the emotionally charged music of the 17th Century, each season bringing together an assembly of internationally recognized musicians to present innovative programs that inspire the imagination. With dramatic flair and sensitivity to historical context, Magnificat imbues each concert with an infectious joy and a delight in musical make-believe. ... more

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