The marriage of figaro


Ladislav, an available tenor, has his own story to tell of love that remains elusive

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Ladislav, an available tenor, has his own story to tell of love that remains elusive:

Drawn by a hidden power I must obey,

I cannot choose but hunt the gentle doe,

And in pursuit find all my joy and woe.


Alone through tangled wood

The worn hunter, sore of foot,

Quickens his pace as in anguish he chases

The nymph of his heart’s delight.

Marvel to see!

No longer nymph but timid doe,

Transformed, she’s off in flight.
As friend, not foe, he hunts the doe,

Goes searching the forest for the lovely fawn.

All in vain is his cry

For the doe is swift and shy,

So he stumbles on.

But unavailing is the plea

Lost in the night.
He plods through wind and rain,

Through harsh, barren terrain.

In sunless forest he smothers his sorrow

When suddenly in burst of light,

What does he spy?

The gentle doe glides fleetly by.

God bless that wondrous sight!
“Stay, gentle doe so long I’ve sought,

Long hoping, hunting for you only.

Oh leave me not to waste and rot

Lost in the forest, dark and lonely.”

But all in vain, all in vain!

And unavailing is his plea unto the night.




Though coming from different directions, all reach the same conclusion:

All of us victim, peasant or poet,

Who would refuse it? Who would forgo it?
BIZET
CARMEN
Carmen pays tribute to the waywardness of love:

Call it back, and it’s off in flight;

You point, it flies the other way.

Flatter, threaten, or beat your breast,

No tears will make that bird obey.

When it’s ready to leave the nest,

Nor you nor I can make it stay.


That’s love! A wayward child, a gypsy too,

You men will meddle only if you dare.

Be cold to me, I burn for you,

But when I smolder, O you men, beware!


Taken prisoner by surprise,

The startled bird will spread its wings;

Try to hold it and off it flies,

But when you want it least, it clings.


See it circle and circle round,

So often sought but seldom found.

Hold it fast and it flies away;

When wanted least, it’s there to stay.


That’s love! A wayward child, a gypsy too,

You men will meddle only if you dare.

Be cold to me, I burn for you,

But when I smolder, oh you men, beware!



The smugglers find a point of agreement::

Whether to cheat, deceive or rob,

Women you want doing the job.

Sly, discreet and talented all

They’ve got the goods to make a haul.
Don Jose’s all-compelling. all-consuming passion for Carmen has already jeopardized his career and sent him to prison. As we know, far worse is yet to

come. Tossed from her hand, he caught a flower that has changed his life forever.

Tossed from your hand I caught a flower

That I have kept through lonely hours.

The color fades, the bloom is gone,

And yet the fragrance lingers on.

In the drab confinement of a prison

I would gaze, and tears would glisten;

As I inhaled, I only knew

That in the dark I breathed of you.


At times I cursed, at times I hated,

Now lost in despair, now elated.

I then would ask what god of wrath

Had chosen you to cross my path.


Ah, but what a fraud! What a liar!

All along I burned with desire,

With only pain to feed upon,

A single wish, one hope alone:

Carmen I’ll see again, be with again!
Ah, from the moment you reentered,

One tiny gesture, and as before,

Wholly, completely I surrendered.

My love, be mine as I am yours, forevermore!

Carmen, my love, my all!


Escamillo, the superb toreador, makes a spectacular entrance. Carmen, beware!

To war and sport, come lift a glass of wine.

One like the other, by blood related,

On the field or in the ring,

It’s life on the line.
Holiday! Inside the great arena

The places fill, crowds pouring in ---

Roughshod and rowdy, eager and ready

For the gaudy spectacle of glory

Waiting to start.
People stamping, and others storming

As if to tear the place apart.

All gathered for the game of courage

And display of my noble art.

Go on! Be ready! Give all you’ve got!
Toreador, take over!

Somewhere among the sea of sparkling eyes

One dark pair shining bright

Foretells a sweeter prize.

Yes, later on, love will be yours tonight.

Then a gasp of awe and wonder!

A sudden silence, and tremors fill the air.

What all have waited for!

What all anticipate!

See the bull come lunging from the gate

Into the glare,

Breathing fire and thunder,

Harassed and taunted,

Bringing down the picador,

One horse goes under.

Tension increases.

Leaping, lurching back and forth,

The bull lunges again.
In blinding rage but still undaunted,

It lashes out though stain

Of blood is on the sand.

Cowards run from the heat of crisis;

I advance with sword in hand.

Go on! Be ready! Give all you’ve got!

Toreador, take over!

Somewhere among the sea of sparkling eyes

One dark pair shining bright

Foretells a sweeter prize.

Yes, later on, love will be yours tonight.

The cards convey a somber message:

However hard to take, however dark or strange,

The cards do not deceive.
If fate intends for you a pleasant road ahead,

With skies serene and clear,

Lay out the friendly cards without dismay or dread;

Your joy will reappear.


But if the book says otherwise, your fate is sealed.

Ask not the reason why.

Reshuffled twenty times, the cards will never yield,

Again they say, “You die!”

Again! Again! Death, only death.
Desperate to rescue Don Jose from a fatal course that will inevitably lead to ruin, Micaela ventures alone to the smugglers’ isolated mountain hideout:

I tell myself there is no danger near.

Oh, what to do but pretend to be braver?

For deep inside, I am shaking with fear.

Far from my home, unaided,

On a path unexplored.

With faith I persevere.

You will provide the courage needed,

And lead me by the hand, O Lord.

Face to face, I’ll meet the deceiver

Who’s caught him in her fatal snare.

From her shameful arms I’ll deliver

My only love, my one despair.
A wild animal, mesmerizing …

Ah! Let me not be shy or weak!

No, no! Freely, firmly, I must speak,

No mincing and no compromising.

O Lord, I pray, watch over me.

TSCHAIKOWSKY
EUGENE ONEGIN
Late at night, lonely Tatiana bares her soul in a desperate, impulsive,

heart-wrenching but risky letter to Eugene Onegin:

Oh, let me hope, however blindly!

Oh, let me taste the wine of rapture!
I down the fatal draft, sweet potion

That wakens longing and desire.

His face, his form I cannot flee;

Onward my tempter beckons me.

I follow where my tempter beckons me …
To you I write .... and why say more?

Does not the fact speak plain enough?

My heart I place within your power

To crush to bits with a rebuff.

Yet if you feel, however slight,

A drop of pity for my plight,

You’ll not disdain this darkest hour.
In vain I’ve struggled at concealing,

Vowed never to confide

The pain past hope of healing,

Bitter shame, loss of pride.

Within my heart until it turned to dust

My secret I would hide, forever buried.

But ah! The tempest tears apart my very soul;

This raging fire has spread beyond control.

For good or ill, I must! I must express my feeling.

Our distant door why did you choose to cross?

At peace, in quiet isolation,

I never would have felt the loss,

Nor shed a tear of thwarted passion.

Once past the years of green emotion,

I would be satisfied --- who knows? ---

In course of time to wed another,

To live content as wife and mother,

As tranquil as the river flows.
Absurd! No, none could have nor even claim

What I cannot call my own.

Decreed by fate, the will of heaven,

My heart and soul are yours alone.


No, all my life for you I’ve waited;

Since time first began have I been yours.

By God on high was I created

To love you as long as life endures …


Are you my hope and preservation,

Or evil serpent of temptation?

Resolve my doubt, oh love, reply!

Oh, tell me if I go misguided,

My dream a fair but phantom lie,

If we must tread on paths divided.


Be as it may, my hopes and fears,

My life entire I’ve here imparted.

Do not betray these burning tears.

On you I now rely

To keep my secret guarded …
A word from you decides my fate;

That single word I now await,

The hope that heals my heart,

Or ends my dream in desolation.

I close, but dare not even read.

Oh, be not angry or disgusted!

In fear, and yet in faith, I plead:

Receive the heart I’ve here entrusted.


Onegin’s response is polite, not unkind, but cold. To Tatiana, devastating.

You wrote to me .... wherefore deny it?

A sincere, naive and innocent confession

Of idealistic youthful passion.

Your letter gratefully I read,

In fact with feelings long thought dead,

Emotions that were merely sleeping.

But pretty praise is not my aim;

As you were frank, I’ll be the same,

With perfect candor quite in keeping.

Without reserve I’ll speak my mind;

You then may judge, if so inclined …

My will to increase the population,

I would not hesitate a jot.

Then I should be well satisfied

To seek no further for a bride.
But such delight I leave untasted,

That joy so foreign to my soul.

On me is your perfection wasted;

I play a less deserving role.


For us, the path would lead to sorrow

I neither choose to beg nor borrow.

Though love’s a blessing, so we’re told,

Through custom does the heart grow cold.


No, not a pathway strewn with roses,

For once the ecstasies are past,

The dull remains alone will last.

The dreams of love, like any other,

No earthly power can restore.

Love I can offer as a brother,

A wiser brother,

And yet who knows? Perhaps still more.


Accept advice meant not unkindly;

In future, learn to love less blindly.

Be careful! Be cautious!

You may come to harm.


Olga, her placid sister, is subject to no such torments:

Nor gazing from a darkened window

To sigh at cruel destiny.
What time for sorrow

When each tomorrow

A radiant dawn relights the sky?

Of even temper,

May or December,

A fortune favored child am I.

My life is sweet, the days serene and fair.

To take in all, too short the hours.

For every seed of hope that flowers

My heart provides sunlight and air.

On a cold winter morning, soon to face Onegin to a senseless duel, the poet Lenski foresees his own death:

In vain I seek the mystery.

No matter! What’s to be will be.
Should death enfold me in his keeping,

Or should the bullet pass me by,

God wills it --- thus to live or die,

A time for waking and for sleeping.

He sends the dawning ray of light;

He sends the shrouded dark of night.


The morning star in sparkling splendor

Again will crown the plains beneath;

Perhaps by nightfall I shall enter

The cold and solemn halls of death

Wherein the youthful poet’s lyric

Outlives him but a meager hour,

So soon the world forgets.

But you, you, Olga? . . .


If to my grave you come to lay a flower.

To shed a tear or pay a duty,

Remember: one who loved here lies,

Whose song forever glorifies

The wonder of your mortal beauty.
Remember then the love I bear,

My hope, my blessing and reward!

Oh, crystal light! Oh, breath of air!

Exalted, cherished and adored!


Oh, come to me, and here abide

Forevermore!

I call to you, my darling and my bride!

Oh, come! Oh, come!

Turn not away but here my call:

My sacred bride, my life, my all!


Oh, hope! Oh, youth!

Oh, where have you departed?

Oh, warmth of spring,

Forever and forever gone!


Having killed his friend, guilt-stricken Onegin returns from travel abroad still vainly seeking distraction:

Eternal boredom! Social glitter, bustle and excitement

Only enflame still further the past I can’t forget.



At twenty six, I still pursue

A shallow life that’s all too leisured.
Uprooted, minus wife and home,

Abroad in foreign towns I roam,

Aimless, but pausing not to ponder,

My stabs at work a total loss.

Possessed by a constant urge to wander,

I bear a strange and lonely cross.


It drove me on. My native land and

My own estate I soon abandoned.

From each familiar hedge and tree

A bleeding corpse stared back at me.


In travel, searching and exploring

In vain for solace and relief,

I soon discovered to my grief

That novelty itself is boring.


Homeward returning, here I skip

To a ballroom, barely off the ship.



p

A devoted husband pays tribute to Tatiana:

It takes the young in summer’s rage

And taps alike on ripened age.
Those who know not its full extent

Are robbed of life’s most fragrant scent.

The range and depth of my devotion

Are wider, deeper than the ocean.


Ill-starred, my ship had run aground.

My dearest Tanya then I found.

The sun emerged, the clouds retreated;

In her, my purpose and my goal I saw completed.


Mid worldly cunning, affectation,

Mid smiles intended to deceive,

The promises of short duration,

The hearts worn lightly on the sleeve;


Mid hypocrites that pass for pious,

Mid solemn bores that petrify us,

Mid flirts that vie for the response

Of rich and elderly gallants;

Mid verdicts callous, cold and cruel,

Of ugly vanity and spleen.

Mid rancors hid behind a screen

Of shallow talk and verbal duel,

Tatiana’s virtues shine the more,

A star refulgent, ever glowing,

A star I worship and adore.

Toward her and paradise

I bear a cup that’s overflowing.

THE QUEEN OF SPADES
The coveted secret of the three winning cards has a sinister history:

But soon at the table her losses were such

One had to conclude she was losing her touch.

Germain heard a cry of dismay:

“God help me! I’m ruined!

My gold I’d regain, winding up in the black,

If only I had crucial knowledge I lack.

A sequence of three cards could save me!”


Observing her beauty, the Count, deeply stirred,

Was quick to respond to the cry overheard.

A master of magic and skilled in black art,

His tone was celestial as strains of Mozart.

“My dear, I can teach you to play.

O Countess! Dear Countess!

The cards you require I shall whisper to you

For merely the price of a brief rendezvous.

The sequence of cards that can save you . . .”
She shuddered, protested, “How dare you suggest? . . .”

But on second thought . . . you’ve by now surely guessed . . .

On leaving his chamber next day, as implied,

The coveted knowledge she’s stored up inside.

“You gamblers, get out of my way!”

She promptly recovered the loot she had lost,

Now Queen of the table – we won’t mention the cost.

For three cards, the three cards, three only!

The sequence in time to her husband was told,

And then to a lover enamored of gold.

But soon came a warning as if from the dead,

A stern apparition that solemnly said,

“O Countess, take warning, beware!

You will die when a passionate stranger appears,

Demanding, beseeching in tears of despair,

You will die holding on to your secret:

Three cards!


Spellbound by the hypnotic eyes that have bored into her soul, Lisa is won over by the sheer intensity of the mysterious stranger’s passion. Surely this is the grand romance that she has always dreamed of, something far greater than anything heretofore offered by the secure but stifling little world that has held her confined and captive. Fearful yet willing to risk everything, she waits for him at midnight by the river bank:

Far from the shelter of hearth and home.

What lies ahead for a soul in flight?

Either rebirth or eternal night.


On flows the river, so cold and black,

Swirling below, bound for the sea,

Blindly impelled to its destiny.

Onward and onward! There’s no turning back.


Wild is the sky, not a star in sight.

Searching, I find no guiding light.

Ah! Fiercer by far than the wind and rain,

How can I run from the storm within?


Confident that he holds the winning cards, Ghermann recklessly plows ahead:

Where right and wrong are youthful dreams,

Where trust and candor are for sale

And daily toil a fairy tale.


Today the luck is mine;

Your turn may come tomorrow;

Till then, go beg or borrow.

So lift a glass and pour the wine!


What lies ahead? You die!

No need to whine or shed a tear;

For one and all the goal is clear:

The wise, the gifted and the brave

Return to dust inside the grave.


MASSENET
MANON

Manon Lescaut, still in her teens, hungry for life, has her first brief taste of freedom. Released from the iron grip of her stern family, she is bound much against her will for what she envisions as a juvenile prison, guarded by ferocious watch dogs in human shape, with massive walls, locked doors and barred windows, otherwise known as a convent


Although pleasing, how it dazzles me.

Free as a bird, though not for long –

Pleasure and panic seem to collide.

With mixed feelings, I am overcome --

Excitement, fluster and confusion.

Till now I’ve never been away from home.
The whistle blew, the carriage rattled,

Eyes open wide, I soon would see

Tiny towns, giant trees, vast meadows!

A merry crowd packed inside –

Ah, cousin! I was overcome –

My first full day away from home.


Villages I saw whizzing past me …

The countryside that I adore.

So happy, I nearly forgot

The convent I was headed for,

The place of dread that lay ahead.
The amazing new world full of wonder!

Now do not laugh, but swept away

I even thought that like a swallow,

I, too, could fly to paradise.

Absurd, but true! Then, a moment later.

I broke down in tears, sobbing in despair.

All of a sudden,

I was laughing, laughing hard! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Elated, yet who could tell me why?
I beg you try to understand;

Forgive a girl still green.

My first fleeting taste of liberty!

With strange feelings, I’m overcome.

A mix of rapture and confusion …

Till now I’ve never been away from home.


The sight of three gorgeously attired young ladies plays into Manon’s fatal weakness:

What gorgeous gowns those three are wearing!

And the jewels so dazzling, the style so refined!

See! Even the youngest attired

In the latest from Milan or Paris –

Frills that I have so long been denied.

For shame, Manon! Beware the devil!

Idle dreams you must learn to ignore.

Leave behind your taste for trifles

When you pass through the convent door.

For shame, Manon! Say no, Manon!

Down with desire, down with the devil!

Yet … am I to blame?

My very soul now set on fire,

I must, I’m bound to feed the flame.

Ah, to live for pleasure and delight,

Allowed to love and dream at leisure!
Ah, too late, Manon! No more to revel,

Left alone but nowhere to hide.

For shame, Manon! Say no, Manon!

Down with desire, down with the devil!


Haunted by the spectre of poverty, Manon receives an offer she can’t resist, even though it means goodby to love:
I can’t! But I must! Now or never!

To betray my only love!

I know that he will suffer,

So I brood and go back and forth …

No, no! Shallow and unworthy of love,

The voice of temptation is luring me on.


As I try to resist, it cries,

“Manon, you will have jewels!

Diamonds fit for a queen!”
Me, a toy made of tinsel,

Flimsy and fragile at best,

Yet … even I shed tears now already flowing,

Mourning lost dreams of yesterday.

Will new pleasures bring consolation

For the love I cast away?



Goodby, our pretty little table.

At times our entire universe.

To most, some junk to be discarded;

To crazy lovers, a hallowed shrine.
Goodby, our pretty little table.

Here late at night, with candle glowing,

A single glass our lips would share,

Lips searching and reaching for kisses.

Poor wounded friend who loved me so!

Goodby, our pretty little table. Goodby …




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