Apollo e Dafne (Handel)

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Apollo e Dafne (Apollo and Daphne, HWV 122) is a secular cantata composed by George Frideric Handel in 1709–10. Handel began composing the work in Venice in 1709 and completed it in Hanover after arriving in 1710 to take up his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Elector, the later King George I of Great Britain. The work is one of Handel's most ambitious cantatas and is indicative of the brilliant operatic career to follow in the next 30 years of his life.

The work's overture has not survived and therefore another of the composer's instrumental works is sometimes performed as an introduction.[citation needed] The cantata's instrumentation is bright, as Handel adds a flute, a pair of oboes and a bassoon to the usual strings.

The work takes just over 40 minutes to perform.


Apollo Chasing Daphne (1681) by Carlo Maratta

Apollo, having released Greece from tyranny by killing the menacing dragon Python, is in an arrogant mood. He boasts that even Cupid’s archery is no match for his own bow and arrow. When he sees the lovely Daphne his conceit is shattered. He is instantly smitten and deploys all his charms to win her favour. Naturally distrustful, she rejects his advances and declares that she would rather die than lose her honour. Apollo becomes more forceful in insisting that she yield to his love and takes hold of her. When all seems lost, Daphne manages to escape from his grasp by transforming herself into a laurel tree. Overwhelmed by sorrow, Apollo pledges that his tears will water her green leaves and that her triumphant branches will be used to crown the greatest heroes.

Dramatis personae[edit]


Movement Type Voice Text (complete) – translated from the original Italian
1 Overture
2 Recitative Apollo

The earth is set free! Greece is avenged! Apollo has conquered!
After such terrors and such slaughter that have devastated and depopulated the country
the Python lies dead, put to death by my hand.
Apollo has triumphed! Apollo has conquered!

3 Aria Apollo

The good of the universe relies on this saving bow.
With my praises let the earth resound and sacrifices be prepared to my protecting arm.

4 Recitative Apollo

Let Cupid in his pretty pride give way to the force of my arrows;
let him boast no more of the fatal point of his golden arrows.
One Python alone is worth more than a thousand ardent wounded lovers.

5 Aria Apollo

Break your bow and cast away your weapons, God of idleness and pleasure.
How can you ever hurt me, naked spirit and blind archer?

6 Aria Daphne

Most blest is this soul, that loves only freedom.
There is not peace, there is no calm if the heart is not unfettered.

7 Recitative Apollo

What a voice! What a beauty!
This sound, this sight pierces my heart. Nymph!


What do I see, alas?
And who is it that surprises me?

Apollo I am a God, whom your beauty has aroused

I know no other God in these woods but only Diana;
do not come near, profane God.


I am Cynthia's brother;
If you love my sister, fair one, pity the one who adores you.

8 Aria Daphne

You burn, adore, and beg in vain; only to Cynthia am I faithful.
To her brother's flames of love Cynthia would have me cruel.

9 Recitative Apollo How cruel!
Daphne How importunate!
Apollo I seek an end to my troubles.
Daphne And I shall survive it.
Apollo I am consumed with love
Daphne I am burning with anger.
10 Duet Apollo,
A war rages in my breast that I can bear no longer.
Apollo I burn, I freeze.

I fear, I suffer.
If this ardour is not checked I can never have peace.

11 Recitative Apollo

Be calm now, my dear one.
The beauty that inflames me will not flower for ever;
the fairest that Nature creates passes, and does not last.

12 Aria Apollo

As the rose with its thorn quickly comes and quickly goes,
so with sudden flight, passes the flower of beauty.

13 Recitative Daphne

Ah! A God should follow after no other love than for objects eternal;
the fleeting dust will perish, will end,
that makes me pleasing to you,
but not the virtue that protects me.

14 Aria Daphne

As in gentle heaven the star of Neptune calms the storm,
so in an honest and fair soul, reason holds love in check.

15 Recitative Apollo Hear my reason!
Daphne I am deaf!
Apollo A bear you are, a tigress!
Daphne You are no God!
Apollo Yield to love, or you will feel my force.
Daphne In my blood this ardour of yours will be quenched.
16 Duet Apollo Ah! Soften that harsh severity.
Daphne To die is better than to lose my honour.
Apollo Ah! Cease your anger, O beloved of my heart.
Daphne To die is better than to lose my honour.
17 Recitative Apollo Always will I adore you!
Daphne Always will I abhor you!
Apollo You shall not escape me!
Daphne Yes, I will escape you!

I will follow you, run after you, fly in your steps:
swifter that the sun you cannot be.

18 Aria Apollo

Run, my feet: hold tight, my arms, the ungrateful beauty.
I touch her, I hold her, I take her, I hold her tight...
But what sudden change is this?
What did I see? What behold?
Heavens! Fate! Whatever is it!

19 Recitative Apollo

Daphne, where are you? I cannot find you.
What new miracle has taken you away, changed you and hidden you?
May the cold of winter never harm you nor the thunder of heaven touch your sacred and glorious foliage.

20 Aria Apollo

Dear laurel, with my tears I shall water your green leaves;
with your triumphant branches will I crown the greatest heroes.
If I cannot hold you in my bosom, Daphne, at least on my brow will I wear you.

External links[edit]