Carissimi - Vanitas Vanitatem Part 7: Omnia vanitas et umbra sunt

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Though lacking the dramatic narrative that propels most of Carissimi's oratorios, Vanitas Vanitatum is nevertheless a tightly constructed and compelling meditation on the ephemeral nature of material pursuits. With it's highly structured architecture, clearly punctuated by ritornellli, Carissimi's effervescent and engaging oratorio belies its weighty subject matter of the transience of human existence. Here, the admonition to forego worldly pleasures for heavenly ones, a theme common in the spiritual literature of Counter Reformation Italy is communicated in a style only one step removed from the first operas.

Warren Stewart, artistic director

Catherine Webster, soprano
Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano
Paul Elliott, alto
Scott Whitaker, tenor
Peter Becker, bass
Rob Diggins, violin
Jolianne von Einem, violin
Warren Stewart, violoncello
David Tayler, theorbo
Hanneke van Proosdij, harpsichord, organ


Text & English Translation

Omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

Ubi sunt præclari reges
qui dederunt orbi leges,
ubi gentium doctores,
civitatum conditores?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi septem sapientes,
et scientias, adolentes,
ubi rectores discordes,
ubi artifices experti?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi fortes sunt gigantes,
tanto robore præstantes,
ubi invicti bellatores,
barbararorum domitores?

Pulvis sunt et cineres.

Ubi heroum inclita proles,
ubi vastæ urbium moles,
ubi Athenæ, ubi Carthago,
veterisque Thebæ imago?

Solum nomen superest.

Ubi dictatorum gloriæ,
ubi consolum victoriæ,
ubi laureæ triumphales,
ubi decus immortale
romanorum onorium?

Solum nomen superest.

Heu, nos miseros.
Sicut acquæ dilabimur
et sicut folium
quod vento rapitur,
deficimus, eripimur.

Votis decipimur,
tempore fallimur,
moret deludimur;
quæ nos anxii quærimus,
quæ solliciti petimus,
omnia vanitas et umbra sunt.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

All are vanities and darkness.

Where are the famous leaders
who created laws for the world,
where are the guides of the people,
the founders of the cities?

They are dust and ashes.

Where are the seven wise ones,
the adorers of the sciences,
where are disputing orators,
where are the creative experts?

They are dust and ashes.

Where are the giant strong ones,
outstanding for their power,
where are the invincible fighters,
where are the tamers of barbarians?

They are dust and ashes.

Where is the famous descent of the heroes,
where are the vast piers of the cities,
where is Athens, where is Carthage,
and the ancient face of Thebes?

Only the name remains.

Where are the glories of the dictators,
where are the victories of the counselors,
where are the triumphal laurel leaves,
where is the immortal dignity
of the honorable Romans?

Only the name remains.

Oh, we the miserable.
We disperse like water
and like a leaf
that is taken by the wind,
we fall, we are dragged away.

We are deceived by our dreams,
fooled by time,
deluded by death;
the things we anxiously sought,
that we urgently asked for,
all these are vanity and darkness.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.


from Vanitas Vanitatem - Music of Carissimi's Rome, released November 1, 2004
Live recording at St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church on September 24, 2004. Mark Lemaire & David Tayler, engineer; David Tayler, editing & mastering.


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