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Joseph Rogatchewsky, Russo/French lyric tenor

By December 17, 2020March 19th, 2023No Comments

Joseph Rogatchewsky (November 20, 1891 – March 31, 1985) was a French operatic tenor.

Born in Mirgorod (Ukraine), Rogatchewsky came to Paris shortly before the First World War and volunteered in the French army. He then entered the Conservatoire de Paris and obtained a first prize in singing and opera. The Opéra-Comique hired him in 1922 and two years later Maurice Corneil de Thoran invited him to Brussels, at La Monnaie to sing Werther, which made him famous. The major institutions invited him: the Wiener Staatsoper, the Opéra Garnier, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Deutsche Oper Berlin opened up to him, but he preferred to stay at the Théâtre de la Monnaie and settle permanently in Brussels.

I must apologize posting this aria yet again. I just love hearing it!

Puisqu’on ne peut flechir ces jalouses gardiennes,
Ah! laissez-moi conter mes peines
Et mon emoi!

Vainement, ma bien aimée,
On croit me désespérer :
Près de ta porte fermée.
Je veux encore demeurer !
Les soleils pourront s’éteindre,
Les nuits remplacer les jours,
Sans t’accuser et sans me plaindre,
Là je resterai toujours !
Je le sais, ton âme est douce,
Et l’heure bientôt viendra,
Où la main qui me repousse.
Vers la mienne se tendra!
Ne sois pas trop tardive
A te laisser attendrir !
Si Rozenn bientôt n’arrive,
Je vais, hélas mourir!

Since on cannot weaken
these jealous retainers,ah,
let me tell you of my suffering
and my emotion!

In vain, my beloved,
do they think they can put me off:
close by your shut door
I am determined to stay!
The stars may fade,
nights replace days,
without blaming you and without complaining
I shall stay here forever!
I know what a sweet soul you are,
and the hour will soon come
when the hand which now pushes me away
will reach out towards mine!
Do not take too long
to allow yourself to melt;
If Rozenn does not appear soon,
Alas, I shall die!

Victor Hugo/Charles Gounod

Quand tu chantes, bercée
Le soir entre mes bras,
Entends-tu ma pensée
Qui te répond tout bas?
Ton doux chant me rappelle
Les plus beaux de mes jours …
Ah! chantez, chantez, ma belle,
Chantez toujours!

Quand tu ris, sur ta bouche
L’amour s’épanouit,
Et soudain le farouche soupçon
Ah! le rire fidèle
Prouve un cœur sans détours …
Ah! riez, riez, ma belle,
Riez toujours!

Quand tu dors, calme et pure,
Dans l’ombre, sous mes yeux,
Ton haleine murmure
Des mots harmonieux.
Ton beau corps se revèle
Sans voile et sans atours …
Ah! dormez, dormez, ma belle,
Dormez toujours!


When you sing, cradled
In my arms at evening,
Do you hear my thoughts
Softly answering you?
Your sweet song recalls
The loveliest days of my life …
Ah! sing, my fair one,
Sing evermore!

When you laugh, your lips
Blossom with love,
And instantly, wild
Suspicion vanishes.
Ah! that faithful laughter
Shows a sincere heart …
Ah! laugh, my fair one,
Laugh evermore!

When you sleep, calm and pure,
In the shade beneath my gaze,
Your breath murmurs
Melodious words.
Your body is revealed in its beauty
Without veil or finery …
Ah! sleep, my fair one,
Sleep evermore!

This text is a bit complicated. It comes from the Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. However, it used to be done very often in French. The French called the work either “Dame de Pique” or “Pique Dame”. There have been several translations from Russian to French, and also several from French to English, and, to make it more confusing, from Russian to English. So, what we have here is one of the French translations, and a Russian to English translation. The French and the English will not match 100%, and, as I drove myself crazy trying to find the exact translation that was used in French, I realized that the deviations between translations didn’t really matter. So, here is a French translation. It is not exactly what Rogatchewsky sings, and here is an English translation. This is the best that I can do. I hope that you enjoy the singing.

The story is based on a text by Pushkin. Here is a brief summary of the opera:

A Russian officer of German ancestry named Hermann learns that a fellow officer’s grandmother, an old countess, possesses the secret of winning at faro, a high-stakes card game. Hermann begins a liaison with Lisa, the countess’s impoverished young ward, to gain access to the old woman, but when the countess refuses to reveal the secret, he threatens her with a pistol and she dies of fright. The night of her funeral, he dreams that the countess has told him the winning cards—three, seven, and ace. Hermann then places bets on the three and seven and wins. After betting everything on the ace, which wins, Hermann is horror-stricken to see that he is holding not the ace but the queen of spades, who seems to smile up at him as did the countess from her casket.

The aria begins at 2:58

Vivre, aimer? Un jeu!
Le bien, le mal, des rêves d’enfant!
Honneur, travail,
qui s’en soucie?
Sait-on, amis, qui réussit?
Ce soir, c’est moi, demain, c’est toi!
Jouons, vivons sans foi,
et bénissons la chance!
Tant pis pour ceux qui tombent,
ils sécheront leurs larmes au
fond de la noire tombe!
Qui frappe? La mort certaine,
toujours vaillante à son
poste! A quoi bon penser à la
veine, sait on jamais
qui elle accoste? Ce soir,
c’est moi, demain, c’est toi.
Jouons encore.

What is our life? A game!
Good and evil – no more than dreams!
Work and honor – old wives’ tales!
Which of you here, my friends, is right or happy?
Today it’s you, tomorrow I!
So leave your struggles, and seize upon
The moment of success!
Let the loser weep, cursing his fate!
What is true? Death alone,
The shore of life’s vain sea,
Has one single refuge for us all.
Which of us is love’s favored one, my friends?
Today it’s you, tomorrow I!
So leave your struggles, and seize upon
The moment of success!
Let the loser weep, cursing his fate!
No more play?

Gluck, from Armide. “Plus j’observe ces lieux”

Plus j’observe ces lieux, et plus je les admire!
Ce fleuve coule lentement,
Et s’éloigne à regret d’un séjour si charmant!
Les plus aimables fleurs
Et le plus doux Zéphire parfument l’air,
Qu’on y respire, qu’on y respire.

Non, je ne puis quitter de rivages si beaux;
Un son harmonieux se mêle au bruit des eaux.
Les oiseaux enchantés se taisent pour l’entendre.
Des charmes du sommeil
J’ai peine à me défendre.
Ce gazon, cet ombrage frais,
Tout m’invite au repos,
Sous ce feuillage épais.
Ce gazon, cet ombrage,
Tout m’invite au repos.

Gluck, from Armide, “The more that I watch these places”

The more that I watch these places, the more that I admire them!
This river runs slowly,
And retreats with regret from such a lovely day!
The most gracious flowers
And the softest Zephire winds scent the air,
That one breathes, that one breathes.

No, I cannot leave such beautiful shores;
An harmonious sound mingles with the sound of the waters.
The enraptured birds are still so as to hear it.
The spells of sleep,
I hardly can protect myself.
This lawn, this fresh shadow,
Everything invites me to rest,
Under this thick canopy.
This lawn, this fresh shadow,
Everything invites me to rest.

Gluck, Orphée et Eurydice, “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice”

Malheureux, qu’ai-je fait?
Et dans quel précipice
M’a plongé mon funeste amour?

Chère épouse!… Eurydice!
Eurydice!… Chère épouse!

Elle ne m’entend plus, je la perds à jamais!
C’est moi qui lui ravis le jour!
Loi fatale!
Cruel remords!
Ma peine est sans égale.
Dans ce moment funeste
Le désespoir, la mort
Est tout ce qui me reste.

J’ai perdu mon Eurydice,
Rien n’égale mon malheur;
Sort cruel! quelle rigueur!
Rien n’égale mon malheur!
Je succombe à ma douleur!

Eurydice…, Eurydice…,
Mortel silence! Vaine espérance!
Quelle souffrance!
Quel tourment déchire mon coeur!

J’ai perdu mon Eurydice,
Rien n’égale mon malheur;
Sort cruel! quelle rigueur!
Rien n’égale mon malheur!
Je succombe à ma douleur!

Gluck, Orpheus and Eurydice, “I have lost my Eurydice”

Wretch, what have I done?
And in which chasm
Has my fatal love sunk me?

Dear wife!…Eurydice!
Eurydice! Dear wife!

She does not hear me any longer, I lose her forever!
It is I who took the day away from her!
Lethal rule!
Cruel remorse!
My pain is without equal.
In this disastrous moment
Hopelessness, death
Are all that are left to me.

I have lost my Eurydice
Nothing can match my misfortune;
Cruel fate! what harshness!
Nothing can match my woe!
I yield to my suffering!

Eurydice! Eurydice!
Deadly silence! Vain hope!
What misery!
What anguish tears up my heart!

I have lost my Eurydice,
Nothing can match my misfortune;
Cruel fate! what harshness!
Nothing can match my woe!
I yield to my suffering!

Joseph Rogatchewsky

Rogachewsky played many roles, the most important of which were in Tannhäuser, Parsifal and Lohengrin. However, it is mainly in French opera that he had his greatest successes.

Upon the death of Maurice Corneil de Thoran in January 1953, he was called upon to direct the Théâtre of La Monnaie, a position he held until 1959, giving way to Maurice Huisman. He will then give opera lessons at the Conservatoire royal de Mons .

Rogatchewsky was born in Mirgorod/Ukraine in November 1891. His musical talent showed quite early and at the age of 18 he received a scholarship for professional training in Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire with Rettich and Isnardon. During World War I he volunteered for the French Army and was wounded several times. Instead of returning to Russia when War was over, he started his career in France and Belgium. Rogatchewsky’s operatic debut took place in Toulouse in 1922, in the same year he made his first appearance at the Opera Comique in Paris as Cavaradossi in “Tosca”. From 1924 on he was under contract with the Theätre La Monnaie in Brussels; where he introduced himself as Werther and soon established himself as the leading tenor in the lyric repertory. At the Opera Comique he continued to appear regularly and also joined the ensemble for several tours: Especially for his interpretations of operas by Massenet he was much admired. Although Rogatchewsky’s career was mainly centered in French speaking countries he made guest appearances in Athens, Bucarest and many other European cities. His performances at the State Opera of Vienna in 1929 and 1930 were great successes. Together with Germaine Feraldy and Louis Guenot he made the first complete recording of Massenet’s “Manon” in 1929, which was produced by Columbia. At the Grand Opera in Paris he enjoyed great success as Lohengrin and Faust in 1931. Together with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Pierre Monteux he gave a series of concerts in the Netherlands in 1934. After his farewell from the stage Rogatchewsky settled in Brussels, where he taught singing and was director of the Opera House in the years from 1953 to 1959. Joseph Rogatchewsky died in Ixelles/Belgium in May 1985.