It’s getting to a point where I have to develop a system to remember whom I have posted. As I was almost done with this post about Miguel VillaBella, I realized that I had already done a posting about him in February 2020. Rather than throw this posting away, I will re-present him as his voice is so wonderful and his artistry so superb. If you interested in the earlier posting, search for his name in the list of posts.

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.

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!

Faust, Act III

Faust, transformed into a young man by Méphistophélès sends, sends Méphistophélès in search of a gift for Marguerite and sings a cavatina (Salut, demeure chaste et pure) idealizing Marguerite as a pure child of nature.

Salut! demeure chaste et pure,

Quel trouble inconnu me pénètre?
Je sens l’amour s’emparer de mon être
Ô Marguerite, à tes pieds me voici!

Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocent et divine!
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté
En ce réduit, que de félicité!
Que de richesse,
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté!
Ô nature, C’est là
que tu la fis si belle!
C’est là que cet enfant
A dormi sous ton aile,
A grandi sous tes yeux.
Là que de ton haleine
Enveloppant son âme
Tu fis avec l’amour épanouir la femme
En cet ange des cieux!
C’est là! Oui, c’est là!
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocente et divine!
Salut, salut, demeure chaste et pure, etc

Greetings, chaste and pure dwelling

What unknown trouble penetrates me?
I sense love taking hold of my being!
O Marguerite, at your feet, here I am!

I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
How much richness in this poverty!
In this retreat, how much happiness!
How much richness
What richness in this poverty!
O nature, it is here
That you have made her so beautiful!
It is here that this child
Slept under your wing,
Grew up under your eyes.
Here that your breath
Enveloping her soul,
You made, with love, the woman blossom
Into this angel from heaven!
It’s here! Yes, it is here!
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
I greet you, home chaste and pure, etc.

Jean-Baptiste Lully, Italian Giovanni Battista Lulli, (born Nov. 29, 1632, Florence [Italy]—died March 22, 1687, Paris, France), Italian-born French court and operatic composer who from 1662 completely controlled French court music and whose style of composition was imitated throughout Europe.

Lully was a man of insatiable ambition whose rise from violinist in Louis XIV’s court band was meteoric and was accomplished by brazen and merciless intrigue. He held royal appointments as musical composer to the king (from 1661) and as music master to the royal family (from 1662). He then acquired from Pierre Perrin and Robert Cambert their patents of operatic production, and by 1674 no opera could be performed anywhere in France without Lully’s permission. In 1681 he received his lettres de nationalisation and his lettres de noblesse. He also became one of the secrétaires du roi, a privilege usually held only by the French aristocracy.

At the outset Lully’s operatic style was thought similar to that of the Italian masters Francesco Cavalli and Luigi Rossi. He quickly assimilated the contemporary French idiom, however, and is credited with creating a new and original style. In his ballets he introduced new dances, such as the minuet, and used a higher proportion of quicker ones, such as the bourrée, gavotte, and gigue; he also introduced women dancers to the stage. The texts in most of his ballets and all his operas were French. His operas were described as “tragedies set to music,” owing to their highly developed dramatic and theatrical aspects.

Bois épais, redouble ton ombre;
Tu ne saurais être assez sombre,
Tu ne peux pas trop cacher
Mon malheureux amour.

Je sens un désespoir
Dont l’horreur est extrême,
Je ne dois pas plus voir ce que j’aime,
Je ne veux plus souffrir le jour.

Somber woods, increase your shade;
You could not be dark enough,
You could not conceal too well
My unhappy love.

I feel a despair
Whose horror is extreme,
I am to see no longer what I love,
I want no longer to bear the light of day.

Miguel de Villabella

Miguel Villabella was born in Bilbao on the December 20, 1892. He spent his entire youth listening to his father, a baritone who was famous in Spain in the Zarzuela theaters. In 1916, he met the French baritone Lucien Fugère who invited him to Paris and generously offered him lessons. At the end of the war, he completed his studies with Jacques Isnardon and worked intensively on his stage skills, refining his natural dramatic talent. He made his debut at Poitiers in 1918 in “Tosca” (Cavaradossi), then at the Opéra-Comique on the August 1, 1920, again in “Tosca”, but this time in the small role of Spoletta. He had to compete with the resident tenors; Fernand Francell, Louis Cazette, Emile de Creus,etc. He soon triumphed in all the roles in his repertoire; Gérald de Lakmé, Le Postillon de Longjumeau, Almaviva, Daniel in the Chalet, and above all in Georges Brown in “La Dame Blanche”, in which he took part in the centenary Gala in 1926, with Germaine Feraldy. His success, the ease of his high notes and also of his sensational soft tones brought him to the Opéra. There he sang Faust Roméo, Rigoletto, Traviata, Le Barbier de Séville, and in May 1933 he participated in a revival of Don Juan(Ottavio), under the baton of Bruno Walter with Pernet, Cabanel, Germaine Lubin, Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi et Solange Delmas. In 1935 he sang in a revival of Castor et Pollux (Castor), and recorded arias by Lully and Gluck. He sang in several performances of Manon at Brussels in 1933. He appeared at Monte-Carlo from 1930. Une nuit à Venise (J. Strauss), Le Domino Noir d’Auber (Horace), La Fille de Madame Angot de Lecoq (Ange Pitou).. He was billed in 1935 at the Florence May Festival in Castor et Pollux.

After the war, Villabella devoted himself largely to teaching. He died in Paris on June 28, 1954, after a minor operation.

The name of this Spaniard, who happily left numerous recordings, remains indelibly inscribed in the anthology of fine French singing.