Au fond du temple saint

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"Au fond du temple saint" ("At the back of the holy temple") is a duet from Georges Bizet's 1863 opera Les pêcheurs de perles. The libretto was written by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. Generally known as "The Pearl Fishers' Duet", it is one of the best-known numbers in Western opera. It is sung by Nadir (tenor) and Zurga (baritone) in act 1.

Context[edit]

After a self-imposed absence, Nadir returns to the shores of Ceylon, where his friend Zurga has just been elected Fisher King by the local pearl fishermen. The two had once fallen in love with the same woman, but then vowed each other to renounce that love and remain true to each other. On meeting again, they sing this duet.

Later, the audience learns from a soliloquy by Nadir that he, despite his vows, had pursued the veiled woman and had returned only because of a rumour that she might be found there. By the end of act 1, Nadir and the woman, Leïla, have found each other and declared their passion. During act 2, their love is discovered by the fishermen who demand from Zurga that Nadir be executed. Only after Zurga recognises that the veiled woman is Leïla, he is overcome by jealousy and rage and orders both to be put to death. In act 3, Zurga realises that his love for Leïla is in vain and helps them flee from the funeral pyre by distracting the fishermen. After the loving couple have escaped, reprising the melody of this duet, the fishermen return and kill Zurga.

A key moment in the opera, this duet is the clearest depiction of the triangular relationships between the protagonists. The obvious situation at this point is that males will value their friendship higher than a heterosexual relationship.[1] Peter Weir uses this duet in his 1981 film Gallipoli without the heterosexual aspect, purely to express male mateship and loyalty between a pair of doomed soldiers.[2] A different view is possible by a reading of the duet as a "pair of parallel monologues",[3] emphasizing the rivalry and deceit between the men.

Music[edit]

NadirZurga
Music ClefG.svgMusic 2f1.svgMusic 2b2-.svgMusic Bar.svgMusic 2d1.svgMusic 2e2-.svg
transposed 1 octave up

The duet starts in the key of E-flat major and the time signature of common time (common time); after a general pause following the words "Elle fuit!", the score briefly omits all signature accidentals, and the time signature changes at "Non, que rien ne nous sépare" to 3
4
before returning to the starting configuration on "Oui, c'est elle" in the final duet. Nadir's part ranges from F3 to B4 with the tessitura between A3 and G4. Zurga's part ranges from D3 to E4. Depending on the version and on cuts to the recitatives within the aria, it takes between 4 1/2 to 6 minutes to perform.

Lyrics[edit]

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 tous 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!

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, Edward Joe (2003). Once There Were Two True Friends: Or, Idealized Male Friendship in French Narrative from the Middle Ages Through the Enlightenment. Summa Publications. pp. 247–248. ISBN 9781883479428. 
  2. ^ Leonard, Richard (2009). The Mystical Gaze of the Cinema. Melbourne University Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 9780522859942. 
  3. ^ Ashley, Tim (13 June 2002). "The Pearl Fishers". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]