|CD 1 (72:03)|
|1.||PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE: Voici ce qu'il écrit (Maeterlinck-Debussy)||7:56|
|ca. March 1927 ([W]LX265/266) D 15026 / with Armand Narçon, bass|
|2.||A la musique [An die Musik], D. 547 (Schober-Schubert)||3:05|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L683-1) D13032|
|3.||Les berceaux, Op. 23/1 (Sully Prud'homme-Fauré)||2:58|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L684-1) D13034|
|4.||Clair de lune, Op. 46/2 (Verlaine-Fauré)||2:44|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L685) D13033|
|5.||Die Schöne Müllerin, D. 795, no. 2: Le ruisseau [Wohin?] (Müller-Schubert)||2:18|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L686-1) D13032|
|6.||Prison, Op. 83/1 (Verlaine-Fauré)||2:10|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L722) D13033|
|7.||Romance [Voici que le printemps] (Bourget-Debussy)||1:58|
|ca. October 1927 ([W]L723) D13034|
|8.||Le bestiaire, ou Le cortège d'Orphée (Apollinaire-Poulenc)||3:59|
|No. 1: Le dromadaire|
|No. 2: Le chèvre de Thibet|
|No. 3: La souterelle|
|No. 4: Le dauphin|
|No. 5: L'ecrevisse|
|No. 6: La carpe|
|April 1928 (WLX328) D15041|
|with Francis Poulenc, piano|
|9.||L'invitation au voyage (Baudelaire-Duparc)||3:48|
|ca. May 1928 (WLX363) D15041 / with Francis Poulenc, piano|
|10.||Ariettes oubliées, no 2: Il pleure dans mon coeur (Verlaine-Debussy)||2:38|
|June 1928 (WL1212) D13084 / with Francis Poulenc, piano|
|11.|| Poèmes d'Alcoöls, no. 3: Automne (Apollinaire-Honegger)||2:38|
|ca. November 1928 ([W]L1294) D13082 / with Arthur Honegger, piano|
|12.||Chansons de la petite sirène (Morax-Honegger)||2:42|
|No. 1: Chanson des sirènes|
|No. 2: Berceuse de la sirène|
|ca. November 1928 ([W]L1295) D13082 / with Arthur Honegger, piano|
|13.||Deux mélodies, Op. 20/2: Sarabande (Chalupt-Roussel)||2:49|
|ca. November 1928 ([W]L1328) D13084 / with Albert Roussel, piano|
|14.||Deux poèmes chinois, Op. 12/2: Les amoureux séparés (Roche-Roussel)||2:04|
|ca. November 1928 (WL1329) D13082 / with Albert Roussel, piano|
|15.||Une jeune fille parle (Moréas-Pierre de Bréville)||3:01|
|ca. November 1928 (WL1334) D13085 / with Pierre de Bréville, piano|
|16.||La belle au bois (Lorrain-Pierre de Bréville)||2:51|
|ca. November 1928 (WL1335) D13085 / with Pierre de Bréville, piano|
|17.||Deux mélodies, Op. 19/1: Light (Aubry-Roussel)||3:21|
|ca. December 1928 (WLX657) D15129 / with Albert Roussel, piano|
|18.||Quatre poèmes, Op. 8/2: L'invocation (H. de Régnier-Roussel)||4:04|
|ca. December 1928 (WLX658) D15187 / with Albert Roussel, piano|
|19.||Deux rondels (attr. Villon-Pierre de Bréville)||3:48|
|No. 1: Adieu vous dy|
|No. 2: Le souvenir de vous me tue|
|ca. December 1928 (WLX682) D15129 / with Pierre de Bréville, piano|
|20.||Les fées (Gauthier-Villars; Pierre de Bréville)||4:03|
|ca. March 1929 (WLX964) D15187 / with Pierre de Bréville, piano|
|21.||JUDITH: Act I, no. 4. Cantique funèbre (Morax-Honegger)||3:28|
|September 1929 (W52010) D15240 / with Mlle. J. Van Hertbruggen, soprano|
|22.||JUDITH: a) Act I, no. 5. Invocation; b) Act II, no. 6. Fanfare; c) Act II, no. 7. Incantation (Morax-Honegger)||3:45|
|September 1929 (W52012) D15240|
|CD 2 (71:54)|
|1.||JUDITH: a) Act III, no. 10 bis. Retour de Judith; b) Act III, no. 11. Cantique de la bataille (Morax-Honegger)||3:41|
|December 1928 ([W]LX717) D15241|
|2.||JUDITH: Act III, no. 13. Cantique de victoire (Morax-Honegger)||3:55|
|September 1929 (W52017) D15241|
|soloist: Claire Croiza|
|3.||L'ORESTIE D'ESCHYLE, II, Op. 24: LES COËPHORES: Exhortation et conclusion (Claudel, after Aeschylus-Milhaud)||3:25|
|September, 1929 (W52013) D15243|
|4.||Soir, Op. 83/2 (Samain-Fauré)||2:55|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 31) LF63|
|5.||L'amour de moy (trad., arr. Tiersot)||2:58|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 32) LF61|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 33) LF59|
|7.||Jardin d'amour (trad. French-Émile Vuillermoz)||2:52|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 34) LF61|
|8.||Ma poupée chérie (D. De Sévérac-Joseph de Sévérac)||2:50|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 35) LF60|
|9.||Après un rêve, Op. 7/1 (Anon., trans Bussine-Fauré)||2:26|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 36) LF63|
|10.||Chanson triste (Henry Cazalis as "Jean Lahor"-Duparc)||2:59|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 37) LF59|
|11.||Albado [Aubade] (Marguerite de Navarre-Joseph de Sévérac)||2:40|
|ca. July 1930 (WM 39) LF60|
|12.||Cinque poèmes de Baudelaire, no. 3: Le jet d'eau (Baudelaire-Debussy)||4:35|
|ca. July 1930 (WMX 5) LFX109|
|13.||Jazz dans la nuit, Op. 38 (Dommange-Roussel)||4:26|
|ca. July 1930 (WMX 6) LFX109|
|14.||Les Prières, no. 1: Oraison dominicale (André Caplet)||2:59|
|publ. 1933 (XL21) 30008|
|15.||Les Prières, no. 2: Salutation angélique (André Caplet)||1:25|
|publ. 1933 (XL22) 30008|
|16.||Trois ballades de Villon, no. 2: Ballade que Villon feit à la requeste de sa mère (Villon-Debussy)||3:56|
|publ. 1936 (YL91) 32045|
|17.||Deux romances, no. 2: Les cloches (Bourget-Debussy)||1:55|
|18.||Les angélus (G. Le Roy-Debussy)||1:50|
|publ. 1936 (YL92) 32045|
|19.||LE MYSTÈRE DES SAINTS INNOCENTS: Rien n'est beau comme un enfant (Péguy)||4:07|
|publ. 1933 (YC9) 35005|
|20.||LE PORCHE DU MYSTÈRE DE LA DEUXIÈME VERTU: O nuit, ô ma fille la nuit (Péguy)||4:20|
|publ. 1933 (YC10) 35005|
|21.||ESTHER, Act I/iv: O mon souverain roi [Prière] (Racine)||4:02|
|publ. 1936 (YC22) 35010|
|22.||ATHALIE, Act II/v: Un songe me devrais-je inquiéter d'un songe? [Un songe] (Racine)||4:22|
|publ. 1936 (YC23) 35010|
Tracks 1-22 recorded by Columbia: 1-20 in Paris; 21-22 in Brussels. All are first takes unless otherwise noted.
Track 1 with orchestra conducted by Georges Truc; 2-7 with piano: “Mr. Wagner;” 8-20 with piano as noted; 21-22 with The Antwerp Chorale Coecilia and the Orchestra of the Nouveaux Concerts, conducted by Louis de Vocht.
Languages: All recordings sung in French.
CD2: Tracks 1-13 recorded by Columbia: 1 in Paris; 2-3 in Brussels; and 4-13 in London. All are first takes unless otherwise noted.
Tracks 14-22 recorded by Lumen in Paris
Track 1-3 with The Antwerp Chorale Coecilia and the Orchestra of the Nouveaux Concerts, conducted by Louis de Vocht; 4-13 with piano: George Reeves; 14-15 with Pascal String Quartet and Micheline Kahn, harp; and 16-18 with piano: Ivana Meedintiano
Languages: All recordings sung or spoken (19-22) in French
Producers: Victor Girard and Ward Marston
Audio Conservation: Ward Marston
Photographs: Richard Bebb, Roger Gross Ltd., Charles Mintzer and the Stuart-Liff Collection
Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi
Marston would like to thank Daniel Barolsky, Richard Bebb, Stan Farwig, Denys Harry, Lawrence F. Holdridge, and William Shaman
It may come as a surprise to some (it did to me) that Claire Croiza, universally acknowledged as one of the high priestesses of French art song, dedicated the first half of her career to opera. It is difficult to imagine what this suave, perfectly modulated and intimate voice might have sounded like as La Cieca in Ponchiellis La Gioconda, or especially as Clytemnestra in Strausss Elektra. During this period, the range and diversity of her repertory were almost breath-takingfrom the standard mezzo roles to a dozen theatrical and world premieres, from Monteverdi to Wagner. It was not until after World War I that Croiza essentially forsook the opera house and, becoming a champion of modern French music, dedicated herself almost exclusively to the recital hall.
Claire Croiza was born Claire OConnolly in Paris on 14 September 1882, the youngest of three children of Colonel John Townsend OConnolly, an expatriate American, and his Italian wife. References cite various versions of Croizas family name: Connolly, Conolly, and OConnolly, the last given by Betty Bannerman (British Institute of Recorded Sound Bulletin, no. 1, Summer 1956). Bannerman was a student and intimate friend of Croiza during the last 20 years of the singers life and, for that reason alone, I have accepted her version.
Croiza took private singing lessons in Paris with the Mlles. Revello and Mathon who, when they felt Croiza was ready, sent her to Jean de Reszke. After a short period of study, he arranged an audition for her with the opera at Nancy. She was immediately engaged and made her debut in de Laras Messaline in 1905. Her success at Nancy led to her engagement by Camille Chevillard for the Paris creation of the Angel in Elgars Dream of Gerontius in a special performance of the Concerts Lamoureux at the Trocadéro in 1906.
Immediately following her successes in France, she was engaged by the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels, making her debut there on 11 September 1906 as Delilah in Samson et Dalila with Laurent Swolfs and Jules Layolle.
On 27 December she sang Dido in Berliozs Les Troyens à Carthage with Léon Laffitte, Ramon Blanchart, Hippolyte Belhomme and Armand Crabbé (fourteen performances). For the next eight years, she was one of La Monnaies leading mezzos, appearing as Dalila, Orphée, Charlotte (Werther), Carmen, Erda (Siegfried) and Leonor (La Favorite). But even more remarkable was the number of premieres in which she participated: on 23 November 1907 she sang Persephone in the La Monnaie premiere of Massenets Ariane (twenty-three performances); on 14 February 1908 Toinette in the house premiere of Lerouxs Le Chemineau (seventeen performances); on 27 February 1909 the title role in the world premiere of Edgard Tinels Katharina (seventeen performances); on 7 March 1910 Lisbeth in the world premiere of Pierre de Brévilles Eros Vainqueur (eight performances); on 10 April 1910 Alays in the world premiere of Cesare Galeottis La Dorise (three performances); on 26 April 1910 Clytemnestra in a major revival of Glucks Iphigénie en Aulis (five performances); on 26 May 1910 Clytemnestra in the La Monnaie premiere of Strausss Elektra (four performances); and on 1 December 1913 the title role in the first La Monnaie production of Faurés Pénélope (ten performances).
It was not until 1908 that she made her debut at the Paris Opéra in a limited engagement beginning 26 August, as Delilah in Samson et Dalila. On 21 February 1909 at the Concerts Lamoureux, she appeared in a concert performance of Das Rheingold (LOr du Rhin) as one of the Rhine maidens with Ernest Van Dyck as Loge, Juste Nivette as Wotan and Charlotte Lormont as Woglinde, under the direction of Camille Chevillard. On 21 November 1910, she appeared again at the Concerts Lamoureux, creating for Paris de Brévilles Eros Vainqueur and also performing the death of Dido from Berliozs Les Troyens.
Croiza made her debut at Monte Carlo on 28 March 1911 in two performances as La Cieca in Ponchiellis La Gioconda, with Félia Litvinne as Gioconda, Mally Borga as Laura, Fernando Carpi as Enzo, Titta Ruffo as Barnaba, and Robert Marvini as Alvise, Pomé conducting.
In early 1912, she participated in a gala concert as a farewell to the Comédie Française of the unfortunate but well-loved actor Charles Le Bargy, with Sarah Bernhardt, Maria Kousnezoff, Georgette Leblanc, Léon David, Georges Enesco, Yvette Guilbert, Max Dearly, Sacha Guitry and, from the House of Molière itself, Julia Bartet, Cécile Sorel, Berthe Fayolle, Jean Mounet-Sully, Georges Berr, and many others.
On Good Friday 1912 at the Concerts Lamoureux, she gave the French premiere of Lorenzo Perosis Transitus animae, an oratorio for female solo and chorus, under the composers direction. At the Théâtre des Arts in Paris on 5 February 1913 she sang in a concert performance of Monteverdis LIncoronazione de Poppea, arranged and conducted by Vincent dIndy, and on 1 May the first act of Glucks Orphée with Lucy Vauthrin as Amour, conducted by Jacques Rouché.
At the Paris Conservatory in Novem ber 1913 she sang the premiere of Lili Boulangers Prix de Rome cantata Faust et Hélène with Henri Albers as Méphistophèlés and David Devriès as Faust, and six days later repeated the work at the Concerts Colonne with Alexis Ghasne as Méphistophèlés and Devriès under Gabriel Pierné. At this same performance she also created Cor au crépuscule and Promenade from Alfred Bruneaus orchestral song set Chants de la vie.
Her debut at the Opéra-Comique took place in 1914 as Charlotte in Werther and, later, the title role in Orphée. She remained there through 1915. On 6 January 1916 she again appeared at the Paris Opéra in the creation of Les Virtuosi de Mazarin, composer unknown.
On 12 March 1916 she returned to Monte Carlo and sang Massenets Thérèse with Charles Fontaine and Alfred Maguenat and, in her final appearance there on 6 April 1918, Lullys Armide with Gauley Texier, Léon Campagnola and Robert Couzinou, both productions under Léon Jehins direction.
During World War I she gave herself unstintingly to the war effort, appearing in concerts throughout Belgium, France, Switzerland and in Genoa, Italy for the Red Cross, sharing a number of these with Eugène Ysaye. For her war work she received from King Albert of Belgium the Order of Leopold and was the first woman so decorated. After the war she performed the first staged performance in Paris of Debussys La demoiselle élue and many other works of Debussy, including Le martyr de St.-Sébastien. In 1923 she created Caplets Le miroir de Jésus for string quintet, harp and 3 female voices, again under the composers direction.
In the early 1920s Jacques Copeau, director of the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, asked Croiza to give a series of recitals of poetry and music written to the verse of Paul Verlaine. She also began her first public classes at the Ecole Normale de la Musique in the Boulevard Malesherbes and in the same period, gave numerous recitals at the Salle Erard under the title Une Anthologie de la musique française. It was in one of these recitals on 28 February 1924 that she created Roussels 2 poèmes de Ronsard. On the death of Gabriel Fauré in 1924, the Opéra-Comique mounted his opera Pénélope, which Croiza sang under the direction of Désiré Inghelbrecht. Later, at a venue called La Petite Scène, she performed Monteverdis Il Ritorno dUlisse. That year she also made her first of three appearances on the British concert platform.
There are numerous erroneous references stating that Croiza created Arthur Honeggers Judith at Monte Carlo in 1926. On 13 June 1925 at the Théâtre au Jorat at Mézières, Switzerland, Croiza had created Honeggers incidental music to René Moraxs play (numbered H.57A in Harry Heilbreichs LOeuvre dArthur Honegger and subtitled Drame biblique). After the success of the play, Honegger decided to expand his incidental music into a full opera. The opera (H.57B subtitled Opéra sérieux) was accepted by Raoul Gunsbourg, director of the Monte Carlo Opera. Croiza was engaged to perform the new work but, when Gunsbourg saw her, he decided she was too old for the role and demanded Morax find a younger singer. Two months before the premiere Croiza learned that she was about to be replaced and, ignorant of Gunsbourgs decision, took out her wrath on the unfortunate Morax. On 21 December 1925, she wrote Morax:
My poor René. I think that what you have done in bringing a singer for Arthur to hear in connection with Judith and without letting me know is unspeakable. I will meet you today at his house at five oclock. You will have to reach a decision about me. You have offended me deeply and I certainly will not forget it.
The work premiered on 13 February 1926 with Jeanne Bonavia, a young soprano who came and went without notice, Tilkin Servais and Julian Lafont. Honegger then wrote a third version of Judith (H.57C subtitled Action musicale), which premiered in Rotterdam on 16 June 1927. This version returned in format to the original Drame biblique, utilizing both spoken dialogue and singing. Croiza sang the French premiere of this version at Toulouse on 20 January 1928, Honegger conducting. It is this version of Judith that Croiza recorded with the Antwerp forces, performing both the singing role of Judith and the spoken role of Le récitant and not, as so many reference works state, the Opéra sérieux.
In January 1928 she returned to London for two recitals and during the ensuing years returned to England four or five times a year, appearing in recitals and on the radio. At the Salle Gaveau on 18 April 1929, she created Roussels Jazz dans la nuit. She had also sung the premiere of Roussels Deux mélodies, Op. 20 in Paris on 9 December, 1928. In 1934 she became a professor at the Paris Conservatory and at about the same time, at the Geneva Conservatory. In Paris she taught Janine Micheau, Suzanne Juyol, Camille Mauranne, Gérard Sousay, Jacques Jansen and many others.
Betty Bannerman, who had first met Croiza in 1928 and had become a student and later a close friend, wrote that in 1939, because of the start of WWII, We begged her to remain with us, but she felt she must return to her own home and to her class at the Conservatoire. The privations of warshe lost over four stone in weightand the mental anguish she suffered undoubtedly caused the fatal illness that overtook her ten years ago. Claire Croiza died in Paris on 15 May 1948.
Croiza made her first recordings in 1927 after she had been singing twenty-two years. The voice in 1927 was in fine condition and there was very little change in it by 1936 when she made her last recordings. Not only do Croizas recordings provide some very beautiful singing and exquisite artistry, they are virtually all documents of historical stature.
Croizas records, by the nature of the music she recorded, are all scarce. Three of them (Columbia D13032, D13033 and D13034) are probably among the most elusive recordings in the world, vying with many of the fabled acoustical rarities made twenty-five years earlier. D13032 and D13034 appear to exist in single copies now in private collections, while two copies of D13033 are known to survive, one in a private collection, the other in an institutional archive. There are three known unpublished sides, copies of which have never surfaced: A un jeune gentilhomme (Roussel), Le jardin mouillé (Roussel), and Ballet (Poulenc).
In order to avoid confusion, it must be noted that two of Croizas recordings were issued in different couplings: D13082 was originally published in 1929, coupling Honeggers Automne with his Sirène songs; the same numbered recording was republished in about 1933, the Sirène songs coupled with Roussels Les amoureux séparés. Similarly, D15241, containing selections from Honeggers Judith, was issued in two different couplings, the first bearing matrices [W]52017, Cantique de victoire, and WLBX59, Interlude et cantique des vierges, the second, matrices [W]52017 and [W]LX717, Retour de Judith et Cantique de la bataille. The U.S. Columbia issue used the first coupling only: [W]LX717 was never published in America.
Croizas recordings from Honeggers Judith and Milhauds LOrestie are also problematical. Some were made in Paris (1928), others in Brussels in at least two different recording sessions (1929 and 1930), despite the fact that all were labeled as accompanied by the Antwerp Coecilia Chorus and Nouveaux Concerts Orchestra under Louis de Vocht. Because of this disparity, the recordings from Judith have been transferred here in score order.
Columbias L (ten-inch) and LX (twelve-inch) matrix series were first used in London in 1924 for French-language recordings, then exclusively in France and Belgium from 1924 to 1933. The W prefix was used as a licensing mark to indicate an electrical recording made by the Western Electric process, but was frequently omitted from pressings and labels, as the Croiza recordings attest. A bracketed W designates this omission in the listings.
Lumen, either officially or unofficially connected with the French Catholic Church, began recording operations in 1932 and issued a vast amount of religious, quasi-religious, and liturgical music, as well as hundreds of recordings of folk and childrens music, all of an uplifting nature, related to les Scouts and other Catholic childrens organizations.
©Victor Girard, 1998
Croizas recordings of Le mystère des Saints Innocents and Le porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu, by the Catholic mystic poet Charles Péguy (1873-1914 ), consist of excerpts from these lengthy, free-verse poems. The events in Racines play Esther are to be found in The Book of Esther, Ch. 2. Esther learns from her relative, Mordecai, that a plot is afoot to assassinate her husband, King Ahasuerus. Mordecai demands that Esther inform the king of the plot, but she is terrified because, in doing so, she will have to reveal that she is a Jewess. Her prayer to God, not mentioned in the Bible, was the invention of Racine. The events in Racines Athalie are to be found in 2 Kings, Ch. 10-11. The child is most assuredly Athaliahs grandson, Joash, whom she had ordered to be murdered along with all her other grandchildren. But, unknown to Athaliah, Jehosheba spirits the child away to safety until he can be king. The priest surely is Jehoiada, who orders the captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host to murder Athaliah once she has stepped foot outside the temple.
THE MYSTERY OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS
Nothing is so beautiful as a child who falls asleep saying his prayers, God said. / I tell you, nothing is so beautiful in the world. / I have never seen anything so beautiful in the world. / And yet I have seen beauties in the world. / And I know that. My creation overflows with beauties. / There are so many that one does not know where to put them. / I have seen millions upon millions of stars roll beneath my feet like the sands of the sea. / I have seen days hot as flames. / The summer days in June, in July and in August. / I have seen winter evenings laid down like a mantle. / I have seen summer evenings still and sweet as if fallen from heaven / All studded with stars. / I have seen the slopes of the Meuse and those churches which are my own homes. / And Paris and Rheims and Rouen and cathedrals which are my own palaces and my own castles. / So beautiful that I shall keep them in heaven. / I have seen the capital of the kingdom and Rome capital of Christianity. / I have heard the singing of mass and triumphant vespers. / And I have seen these plains and these valleys of France. / Which are more beautiful than all. / I have seen the depth of the sea, and the deep forest, and the deep heart of man. / I have seen hearts devoured by love / For entire lifetimes / Lost in charity. / Burning like flames. / I have seen martyrs so inspired by faith / Hold like a rock on the torture rack / Under teeth of iron. / (Like a solider who held truthful all alone for a lifetime / By faith /While his general was (apparently) absent.) / I have seen martyrs flame like torches / Preparing themselves thus like evergreen palms. / And I have seen beaded beneath claws of iron / Drops of blood which glittered like diamonds. / I have seen beaded tears of love / Which will last longer than the stars in the sky. / And I have seen the faces of prayer, the faces of tenderness, / Lost in charity / Which will shine eternally night after night. / And I have seen whole lives from birth to death, / From baptism to the last rites, / Unfold like a beautiful skein of wool. / Now I say, said God, I know nothing more beautiful in all the world / Than a small child who falls asleep saying his prayers / Under the wing of his guardian angel / And who laughs at angels when beginning to sleep. / And who then mixes it all up and who understands nothing / And who stuffs the words of Our Father this way and that way pell-mell into the words of the Hail Mary / While a veil descends upon his eyelids / The veil of night upon his face and upon his voice. / I have seen the greatest saints, said God. Well I tell you this. / I have never seen anything so odd and consequently I know nothing so beautiful in the world / Than this child who falls asleep while saying his prayers / (Than this little being who falls asleep trusting) / And who mixes up his Our Father with his Hail Mary. / Nothing is as beautiful and it is my opinion / Upon which the Holy Virgin agrees. / She does. / And I can even say that it is the only point on which we are agreed. For generally we are in disagreement. / Because she is for mercy. / And I must be for justice.
THE PORCH OF THE MYSTERY OF THE SECOND VIRTUE
O night, o my daughter Night, you who know how to be still, o my daughter of the beautiful mantle. / You who pour out rest and forgetfulness. You who pour out balm, and silence, and shadow / O my starry Night I created you the first. / You who bring sleep, you who already enshroud in an eternal Shade / All my most restless creatures / The impetuous horse, the laboring ant, / And man this monster of restlessness. / Night you succeed in putting man to sleep / This well of restlessness. / Himself more restless than all creation together. / Man, this well of restlessness. / As you bring sleep to the waters of the well. / O my night of the great robe / Who take children and young Hope / Into the fold of your robe. / But man will not let it happen. / O my beautiful night I created you the first. / And almost before the first / Silent one with long veils / You by whom a foretaste descends on earth / You who spread from your hands, you who pour over earth / A first peace / Forerunner of eternal peace / A first rest / Forerunner of eternal rest. / A first balm, so fresh, a first beatitude / Forerunner of eternal beatitude. / You who soothe, you who perfume, you who console. / You who bind up the wounds and the bruised limbs. / You who bring sleep to hearts , you who bring sleep to bodies / Aching hearts, aching flesh, / Worn out, / Limbs broken, back shattered / By mortal / Fatigue, worry, restlessness, / Cares, / You who pour out balm on breasts rent with bitterness / So fresh / O my great-hearted daughter I created you the first / Almost before the first, my daughter with immense breast / And I knew well what I was doing. / I knew perhaps what I was doing. / You who couch the child in the arm of its mother / The child enlightened by a shadow of sleep / All laughing inwardly, laughing secretly because of the trust in its mother / And in me, / All laughing secretly with a twist of its serious lips / You who couch the child fully brimming with innocence / And of trust / In the arms of its mother. / You who couch the infant Jesus every evening / In the arms of the Most Holy and of the Immaculate One. / You who are the attendant sister of hope. / O my daughter of all things first. You who succeed all the same, / You who succeed sometimes / You who couch man in the arms of my Maternal Providence / O my daughter sparkling and dark I greet you / You who restore, you who nourish, you who bring rest / O silence of the dark / Such a silence reigned before the creation of restlessness. / Before the beginning of the reign of restlessness. / Such a silence will reign, but a silence of light / When all this restlessness will be consumed, / When all this restlessness will be exhausted. / When they will have drawn all the water from the well. / After the consummation, after the exhaustion of all this restlessness / Of man. / Thus my daughter you are ancient and you are late / For in the reign of restlessness you remember, you commemorate, you nearly reestablish, / You almost make the former Quietude begin again / When my spirit hovered over the waters. / But also my starry daughter, my daughter with dark mantle, you are very in advance, you are very early. / For you announce, for you represent, for you almost make begin every evening early / My great Quietude of / Eternal Light. / Night you are holy, Night you are great, Night you are beautiful. / Night of the great mantle. / Night I love you and I hail you and I glorify you and you are my great daughter and my creature. / O beautiful night, night of the great mantle, my daughter with starry mantle.
ESTHER (Act I, Scene 4)
O my almighty Lord / I am here trembling and alone before you! / My father told me a thousand times in my childhood / That you had sworn a holy alliance with us, / When, to make a people agreeable to your eyes, / It pleased your love to choose our ancestors: / You even promised them from your sacred mouth / A posterity of eternal length. / Alas! These ingrate people have despised your law; / The favorite nation has raped its faith; / It has repudiated its husband and its father, / To render an adulterous honor to other gods / Now it serves under a foreign master. / But as if being a slave were not enough, they now want to slaughter us: / Our superb victors, insulting to our tears, / Impute to their gods the fortune of their arms, / And today wish that one mortal blow / Will abolish your name, your people and your altar. / Thus a traitor, after so many miracles, / Would then annihilate the faith of your oracles, / Would steal from mortals the dearest of your gifts, / The saint whom you promise and whom we await? / No, no, do not suffer because these wild people, / Drunk with our blood, shut close the only mouths / Which in all the universe would celebrate your kind acts; / And confound all these gods which never were. / For me whom you retain among these infidels, / You know how I hate their criminal feasts, / And how I place in the realm of profanation / Their tables, their feasts, and their libations; / That even this pomp to which I am condemned, /This blindfold in which I must appear dressed / In these solemn days dedicated to pride, / Alone and in secret, I trample it under my feet; / That I prefer ashes to these vain ornaments, / And have taste but for the tears you see me shed. / I awaited the moment marked in your judgment / To dare your people to embrace goodness. / This moment has come! My prompt obedience / Will affront the presence of a formidable king. / It is for you that I go; accompany my steps / Before this proud lion who does not know you; / Command in seeing me that this punishment cease, / And lend to my discourse a charm which pleases him. / The storms, the winds, the heavens submit to you: / Will finally turn its furor against our enemies.
ATHALIE (Act II, Scene 5)
A dream (should I trouble myself with a dream?) / Nurtures a corrosive sorrow in my heart; / I shun it everywhere, but everywhere it pursues me. / It was during the horror of one dark night; / My mother Jezabel appeared before me, / As laid out in pomp on the day of her death; / Her sorrows had not slaughtered her pride; / She still had that borrowed splendor / Of which she took care to paint and adorn her face, / To repair the years of irreparable damage: / Tremble, she said to me, daughter worthy of me; / The cruel God of the Jews will be on your head too. / I pity your falling into his dreadful hands, / My daughter! Finishing these frightful words, / Her shadow seemed to hover close to my bed; / And I outstretched my hands to embrace her; / But I found no more than a horrible mix / Of bones and rotten flesh, and, dragged through the dirt, / Rags covered with blood, and frightful limbs / That ravenous dogs fought over. / [ABNER My God!] / In the disorder before my eyes, a young child / Appeared covered with a brilliant robe, / Such as one sees the Hebrew priests dressed. / This vision revived my crushed spirits; / But when, returning from my baleful trouble, / I admired his sweetness, his air, noble and modest, / I suddenly felt a deadly steel / Which the traitor had plunged to the hilt into my breast. / This strange collection of so many diverse things / Perhaps by chance appears to you an artists work; / Even I at times, shamed by my fear, / Even I have taken it as the effect of some dark cloud. / But of this remembrance, my possessed soul / Twice in sleep dreamed the same dream; / Twice my sad eyes have retraced / This same child still ready to stab me. / Weary at last of the horrors that have pursued me, / I went to pray before Baal to guard my life, / And to seek solace at the foot of his altar: / Attend the fright over the spirit of these mortals! / In the temple of the Jews an instinct compelled me, / And I conceived of an idea to appease their God; / I believed that gifts would calm his punishment, / That this God, whoever he is, would become more gentle. / Pontiff of Baal, forgive my weakness. / I enter; people flee, the sacrifice ends; / The high priest approaches me with furor; / While speaking to me, o surprise! o terror! / I saw the same child who had threatened me, / As if that terrifying dream had been printed in my brain. / I saw him: his same air, his same clothing of linen, / His walk, his eyes, and all his features; / It was he. I walked beside the high priest; / But soon he was made to disappear before my eyes. / Such is the trouble that bids me stop here, / And on which I wish to consult you two.
©Victor Girard, 1998