Looking at my list of opera premieres–yes, I keep a list of opera premieres–I see that Edouard Lalo’s Le roi d’Ys received its first performance at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, 121 years ago today. Lalo (1823-1892) is known primarily for his orchestral and chamber output, but he always believed he was meant to write for the stage. After his first opera, Fiesque, failed to win a competition sponsored by the Theatre-Lyrique in 1866, he paid to have the vocal score published and then recycled portions of the music in subsequent compositions. He began Le roi d’Ys in 1875, but because none of the theaters in Paris were interested in it, the composer had to wait until 1888 to see the work produced. Lalo”s third and final opera, La Jacquerie, was left incomplete at his death.
The most frequently recorded selection from the opera is the tenor aria, “Vainement, ma bien-aimee,” in which Mylio, a young warrior, tries to convince Rozenn, his bride-to-be, to leave the protection of her handmaidens (who, in accordance with local custom, refuse to allow him entrance to her living quarters) and join him in the wedding procession. (Of course, there’s a bit more to the story than that, but it’s probably best if I don’t get too bogged down in all of the convoluted details.)
Here are seven recordings of “Vainement,” spanning a period of just over 80 years. (Seven might seem like a lot to get through, but the aria only lasts about 3 1/2 minutes.) I’ll share some of my own listening notes this weekend; in the meantime, register your preference(s) by taking the short poll at the end of this post. Feel free to comment on the recordings too.
RECITATIVE: Puisqu’on ne peut flechir ces jalouses gardiennes,
Ah! laissez-moi conter mes peines
Et mon emoi !
ARIA: Vainement, ma bien-aimee,
On croit me desesperer :
Pres de ta porte fermee.
Je veux encor demeurer !
Les soleils pourront s’eteindre,
Les nuits remplacer les jours,
Sans t’accuser at sans me plaindre,
La je resterai toujours !
Je le sais, ton ame est douce,
Et l’heure bientot viendra,
Ou la main qui me repousse.
Vers la mienne se tendra!
Ne sois pas trop tardive
A te laisser attendrir !
Si Rozenn bientot n’arrive,
Je vais, helas ! mourir !
RECITATIVE: Since these jealous guardians will not be
moved to mercy, ah, let me tell you of my anguish
and my torment!
ARIA: In vain, my beloved,
do I seem to despair:
next to your closed door
I am determined to stay!
Suns may be extinguished,
nights replace days,
but without blaming you and without
I shall stay here for ever!
I know that you have a kind heart,
and the hour will soon come
when the hand which now pushes me away
will reach out towards mine!
Do not delay too long
in allowing yourself to be won over by your tender feelings;
If Rozenn does not appear soon soon,
I, alas, shall die!
Beniamino Gigli (rec. 1922)
David Devries (rec. 1927-31)
Joseph Rogatchewsky (rec. 1927)
Andre d”Arkor (rec.1932)
Tino Rossi (rec. 1939)
Alfredo Kraus (rec. 1975)
Roberto Alagna (rec. 2001)