Pearl Fishers Duet – Bizet: Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill

This duet has been sung by many different people. I have selected this recording because I have never heard it sung better. Usually, the tenor and the baritone sound as if they are fighting with one another . This time, I can show the translated lyrics below.

https://youtu.be/5PYt2HlBuyI

Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) is an opera in three acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. It was premiered on September 30, 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris and was given 18 performances in its initial run. Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the opera tells the story of how two men’s vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess. The friendship duet “Au fond du temple saint”, generally known as “The Pearl Fishers Duet”, is one of the best-known in Western opera.
At the time of the premiere, Bizet (born on October 25, 1838) was not yet 25 years old: he had yet to establish himself in the Parisian musical world. Modern critical opinion has been kinder than that of Bizet’s day. Commentators describe the quality of the music as uneven and at times unoriginal but acknowledge the opera as a work of promise in which Bizet’s gifts for melody and evocative instrumentation are clearly evident. They have identified clear foreshadowings of the composer’s genius which would culminate, 10 years later, in Carmen. Since 1950 the work has been recorded on numerous occasions, in both the revised and original versions.

Jussi Björling was a Swedish lyric tenor who achieved much success in Europe and in the US. He had an amazing breathing technique that allowed him to be heard in all areas of the house, and he was a wonderful artist. Singing this duet with him is Robert Merrill. Robert Merrill was an American operatic baritone, who also took part in American musical theater. He was born Moishe Miller, and he worked his way up from the Borscht Belt to the Met (I’m shortening the path somewhat). He was an outstanding singer, and he died in 2004 after having received many accolades.

Zurga
C’était le soir !
Dans l’air par la brise attiédi,
Les brahmines au front inondé de lumière,
Appelaient lentement la foule à la prière !
It was in the evening!
In the air cooled by a breeze,
The brahmanes with faces flooded with light,
Slowly called the crowd to prayer!
Nadir
Au fond du temple saint
paré de fleurs et d’or,
Une femme apparaît !
At the back of the holy temple,
decorated with flowers and gold,
A woman appears!
Zurga
Une femme apparaît !
A woman appears!
Nadir
Je crois la voir encore !
I can still see her!
Zurga
Je crois la voir encore !
I can still see her!
Nadir
La foule prosternée
La regarde, étonnée,
Et murmure tout bas :
Voyez, c’est la déesse
Qui dans l’ombre se dresse,
Et vers nous tend les bras !
The prostrate crowd
looks at her amazed
and murmurs under its breath:
look, this is the goddess
looming up in the shadow
and holding out her arms to us.
Zurga
Son voile se soulève !
Ô vision ! ô rêve !
La foule est à genoux !
Her veil parts slightly.
What a vision! What a dream!
The crowd is kneeling.
Both
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Plus charmante et plus belle !
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Qui descend parmi nous !
Son voile se soulève
Et la foule est à genoux !
Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess,
more charming and more beautiful.
Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess
who has come down among us.
Her veil has parted
and the crowd is kneeling.
Nadir
Mais à travers la foule
Elle s’ouvre un passage !
But through the crowd
she makes her way.
Zurga
Son long voile déjà
Nous cache son visage !
Already her long veil
hides her face from us.
Nadir
Mon regard, hélas !
La cherche en vain !
My eyes, alas!
Seek her in vain!
Zurga
Elle fuit !
She flees!
Nadir
Elle fuit !
Mais dans mon âme soudain
Quelle étrange ardeur s’allume !
She flees!
But what is this strange flame
which is suddenly kindled in my soul!
Zurga
Quel feu nouveau me consume !
What unknown fire is destroying me?
Nadir
Ta main repousse ma main !
Your hand pushes mine away!
Zurga
Ta main repousse ma main !
Your hand pushes mine away!
Nadir
De nos cœurs l’amour s’empare,
Et nous change en ennemis !
Love takes our hearts by storm
and turns us into enemies!
Zurga
Non, que rien ne nous sépare !
No, let nothing part us!
Nadir
Non, rien !
No, nothing!
Zurga
Que rien ne nous sépare.
Let nothing part us!
Nadir
Non, rien !
No, nothing!
Zurga
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Nadir
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Zurga
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Both
Oh oui, jurons de rester amis !
Oui, c’est elle ! C’est la déesse !
En ce jour qui vient nous unir,
Et fidèle à ma promesse,
Comme un frère je veux te chérir !
C’est elle, c’est la déesse
Qui vient en ce jour nous unir !
Oui, partageons le même sort,
Soyons unis jusqu’à la mort !
Oh yes, let us swear to remain friends!
Yes, it is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day.
And, faithful to my promise,
I wish to cherish you like a brother!
It is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day!
Yes, let us share the same fate,
let us be united until death!