About this work
Handel wrote a number of cantatas during his Italian years, mostly for solo voice and instrumental ensemble, intended for performance at private occasions hosted by nobles in their great houses. They were generally dramatic portrayals, substituting for operas, particularly in Rome, where opera was not permitted. This cantata, which has a prominent solo part of the viola da gamba, was probably written in 1708. The main text tells the story of Icarus, who with the wings designed by his father, Daedalus, flew bravely, but approached to near the sun, melting the wax which held the apparatus together. A few verses framing this make it clear that the story is intended to be an allegory about the heart of a man lured by love, deceived by a pretty face, into flying "among the flames, " seeking happiness. It is a fairly lengthy piece, about 17 minutes in duration, and is one of the finest secular vocal works of the Baroque era.