Monday, March 07, 2005

Au cimetiere - Berlioz "Les Nuits d'ete"

This is a song from Berlioz' song cycle "les nuits d'ete" or "summer nights" and is entitled "in the graveyard." I'm presently listening to a rendition by Jessye Norman--personally, for this song I'd prefer a slightly lighter, more ethereal voice (i.e. Dawn Upshaw), because of its eerie and haunting nature.

Here's a CD booklet translation of the french:

Do you know teh white gravestone
Which the shade of a yew-tree
Touches like a sigh?
On the yew a solitary white dove
As the sun goes down
Sings its sad song:

A sickly sweet air
At once enchanting and full of doom,
Which affects you unpleasantly
And which one would like to listen to forever;
Like a song sighed out to heaven
By a love-lorn angel.

One would think the awakened soul
Wept under the earth
In tune with the song,
And from grief at being forgotten
Complained in a soft murmur
Like the moaning of a dove.

You feel that a memory
Is ebbing back,
Recalled by the music.
A shade, a shimmering form
Brushes past you,
Shrouded in white.

Round you,
From the half open amaryllis flowers
Comes a faint perfume,
And the phantom whispers to you,
Softly stretching out its arms:
You will come back.

Oh never again, when the evening
Comes darkly down,
Will I go and stand near the grave
And hear the pale dove
From teh top of the yew-tree sing
Its plaintive song!

--I just love it because it seems like a far more potent portrait of the graveyard scene from the Phantom of the Opera (this could be applied to the book, not just musical). Sure, it has other connotations--as in a person recovering from the loss of a loved one and bordering between reality and the insanity awaiting (and probably pending death) should grief overcome...etc... But I love how he sets the "you will come back" can hear that it is the phantom or ghost speaking the line. And also at the end, it tries to be major and happy, but the woodwinds (probably oboe) keep softly playing a dissonant note...leaving the conclusion of the song and poetry rather open...

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