Au Fond de Temple Saint – Pearl Fisher’s Duet. Two versions

Au fond du temple saint
from The Pearl Fishers (Les Pêcheurs de Perles)
Music by Georges Bizet.

Two versions here, first one with Rufus Wainwright and David Byrne (tip of the hat to Luce Holmes for spotting it), second (at bottom of page) with Jussi Björling & Robert Merrill – more famous but more traditional, doesn’t quite get the frailness of the first one. I guess which one you prefer depends on how you’re feeling about love.

Scene:  The coast of Ceylon.  Zurga, the newly elected leader of the little world of Cingalese fishermen, has scarcely been inaugurated when Nadir, a long-lost friend of his youth, appears.  After greeting one another with affection, they recall the time when they were foolish enough to quarrel over a beautiful priestess in the temple of Brahma, Leila.

In the duet, “Au fond du temple saint” the two men sing rapturously about falling in love at first sight with a beautiful woman as she was revealed to them for an instant in the dim, incense-clouded temple.   For each it was an almost mystical experience.  When they realize they were in love with the same woman, they are alarmed.  Believing themselves cured of the old infatuation,  they swear eternal friendship.

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!

NADIR
Au fond du temple saint
Paré de fleurs et d’or,
Une femme apparaît!
ZURGA
Une femme apparaît!
NADIR
Je crois la voir encore!
ZURGA
Je crois la voir encore!

NADIR
La foule prosternée
La regarde, etonnée,
Et murmure tous bas:
Voyez, c’est la déesse!
Qui dans l’ombre se dresse
Et vers nous tend les bras!

ZURGA
Son voile se soulève!
Ô vision! ô rêve!
La foule est à genoux!

ZURGA & NADIR
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!

NADIR
Mais à travers la foule
Elle s’ouvre un passage!

ZURGA
Son long voile déjà
Nous cache son visage!

NADIR
Mon regard, hélas!
La cherche en vain!

ZURGA
Elle fuit!

NADIR
Elle fuit!
Mais dans mon âme soudain
Quelle étrange ardeur s’allume!

ZURGA
Quel feu nouveau me consume!

NADIR
Ta main repousse ma main!

ZURGA
Ta main repousse ma main!

NADIR
De nos cœurs l’amour s’empare
Et nous change en ennemis!

ZURGA
Non, que rien ne nous sépare!

NADIR
Non, rien!

ZURGA
Que rien ne nous sépare!

NADIR
Non, rien!

ZURGA
Jurons de rester amis!
NADIR
Jurons de rester amis!
ZURGA
Jurons de rester amis!

ZURGA & NADIR
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!

BRYN
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!

ANDREA
At the back of the holy temple,
decorated with flowers and gold,
A woman appears!
BRYN
A woman appears!
ANDREA
I can still see her!
BRYN
I can still see her!

ANDREA
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.

BRYN
Her veil parts slightly.
What a vision! What a dream!
The crowd is kneeling.

BRYN & ANDREA
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.

ANDREA
But through the crowd
she makes her way.

BRYN
Already her long veil
hides her face from us.

ANDREA
My eyes, alas!
Seek her in vain!

BRYN
She flees!

ANDREA
She flees!
But what is this strange flame
which is suddenly kindled in my soul!

BRYN
What unknown fire is destroying me?

ANDREA
Your hand pushes mine away!

BRYN
Your hand pushes mine away!

ANDREA
Love takes our hearts by storm
and turns us into enemies!

BRYN
No, let nothing part us!

ANDREA
No, nothing!

BRYN
Let nothing part us!

ANDREA
No, nothing!

BRYN
Let us swear to remain friends!
ANDREA
Let us swear to remain friends!
BRYN
Let us swear to remain friends!

BRYN & ANDREA
Oh yes, let us swear to remain friends!
Yes, it is her, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day.
And, faithful to my promise,
I wish to cherish you like a brother!
It is her, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day!
Yes, let us share the same fate,
let us be united until death!

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