Ombra Mai Fu

Ombra Mai Fu, this beautiful aria from the Handel opera Serse has had an interesting story. Known commonly in its instrumental version as “Handel’s Largo” it was first written as an aria for a castrato in which the main character, Xerxes I of Persia, admired the shade of a plane tree:

Ombra mai fu
di vegetabile,
cara ed amabile,
soave più.

(Never was a shade of any plant dearer and more lovely, or more sweet.)

On Christmas Eve 1906, Canadian inventor and radio pioneer Reginald Fessenden broadcast the first AM radio programme in which he played a phonograph recording of Ombra Mai Fu, followed by his own performance of Oh Holy Night on the violin. This makes Ombra Mai Fu the first piece of music to be broadcast on the radio!

First time on the site? Find out more about the 365 Songs project or see all of my March songs here.