Berlioz - La mort d'Ophélie - John Alldis Choir, Davis





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Uploaded on Sep 4, 2008

In memory of Sir Colin Davis: Rest in peace

Hector Berlioz (11 December 1803 - 8 March 1869)

La mort d'Ophélie, ballade, Op. 18 No. 2 [H. 92b]
Text: Ernest Legouvé (1807--1903)
Composition: May 1842 for the original version, arranged for female choir and orchestra in 1848

Document with full score, separate parts and vocal score:

I used the choir and piano version in the video simply because it was not practical to use the orchestrated one.

In this recording:

John Alldis Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
Colin Davis
Philips (1980)

La mort d'Ophélie (The death of Ophelia) is "a setting of a ballad by Ernest Legouvé, based on Gertrude's description of Ophelia's drowning in Act IV of Hamlet. It was originally composed for solo voice and piano in 1842, but in 1848 Berlioz revised it for female choir and orchestra. The verses of Ernest Legouvé were adapted from Gertrude's speech in Act 4, Scene 7 of Hamlet "There is a willow grows aslant a brook"."
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"... in 1842, Berlioz collaborated with Legouvé by setting to music the ballad La Mort d'Ophélie on a text by his friend after Shakespeare (Holoman no. 92). A letter of Berlioz refers to this: 'Let me know when you are coming to Paris. I want you to hear the piece I wrote last week on your delightful poem The Death of Ophelia [...] If you like it I will orchestrate the piano accompaniment for a nice little orchestra and I could include the whole piece in one of my concerts' (CG no. 769bis, 8 May 1842). The work was subsequently orchestrated by Berlioz (in July 1848), and eventually published as the second of the three pieces entitled Tristia in 1851 (Holoman no. 119B), though it was never performed in Berlioz's lifetime. Legouvé himself does not mention this collaboration in his Souvenirs."
- From the article "Ernest Legouvé and Berlioz":

"Tristia Op. 18 is a musical work consisting of three short pieces for orchestra and chorus by the French composer Hector Berlioz. Apart from its title, it has nothing to do with the collection of Latin poems by Ovid (the word tristia in Latin means 'sad things'). The individual works were composed at different times and published together in 1852. Berlioz associated them in his mind with Shakespeare's Hamlet, one of his favourite plays."
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

H92a: soprano or tenor and piano, 1842
H92a2: female choir (SA) and piano, 1848
H92b: female choir (SA) and orchestra 1848

La mort d'Ophélie

Auprès d'un torrent Ophélie
cueillait, tout en suivant le bord,
dans sa douce et tendre folie,
des pervenches, des boutons d'or,
des iris aux couleurs d'opale,
et de ces fleurs d'un rose pâle
qu'on appelle des doigts de mort.

Puis, élevant sur ses mains blanches
les riants trésors du matin,
elle les suspendait aux branches,
aux branches d'un saule voisin.
Mais trop faible le rameau plie,
se brise, et la pauvre Ophélie
tombe, sa guirlande à la main.

Quelques instants sa robe enflée
la tint encor sur le courant
et, comme une voile gonflée,
elle flottait toujours chantant,
chantant quelque vieille ballade,
chantant ainsi qu'une naïade
née au milieu de ce torrent.

Mais cette étrange mélodie
passa, rapide comme un son.
Par les flots la robe alourdie
bientôt dans l'abîme profond
entraîna la pauvre insensée,
laissant à peine commencée
sa mélodieuse chanson.

Translation (from "A French Song Companion" by Graham Johnson and Richard Stokes, slightly edited):

The death of Ophelia

Beside a brook, Ophelia
gathered along the water's bank,
in her sweet and gentle madness,
periwinkles, buttercups,
opal-tinted irises,
and those pale purples
called dead men's fingers.

Then, raising up in her white hands
the morning's laughing trophies,
she hung them on the branches,
the branches of a nearby willow.
But the bough, too fragile, bends,
breaks, and poor Ophelia
falls, the garland in her hand.

Her dress, spread wide,
bore her on the water awhile,
and like an outstretched sail
she floated, still singing,
singing some old ballad,
singing like a naiad
born amidst the stream.

But this strange melody died,
fleeting as a snatch of sound.
Her garment, heavy with water,
soon into the depths
dragged the poor distracted girl,
leaving her melodious song
hardly yet begun.

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