Saturday, April 30, 2011

TODAY ON BASS SATURDAY- "Monstre affreux" from Rameau's Dardanus.

It is fun to imagine the awful monster in Rameau's opera to be a cross between the Kraken and the Cloverfield monster.

Aria d'Anténor
Jean-Phillipe Rameau, Dardanus.

Voici les tristes lieux que le monstre ravage.
Hélas ! Si pour moi seul je craignais sa fureur
Je l'attendrais sur ce rivage
Pour être sa victime, et non pas son vainqueur.

Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable
Ah ! Que le sort me serait favorable,
S'il ne m'exposait qu'à vos coups,
Monstre affreux monstre redoutable.
Ah, l'Amour est encore plus terrible que vous. 

Contre votre fureur, il est du moins des armes,
Mais contre ses alarmes
Vainement on cherche un appui,
Il renaît des efforts qu'on fait pour le détruire,
Et le cœur même qu'il déchire 
Est d'intelligence avec lui. 

Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable 
Ah ! Que le sort me serait favorable, 
S'il ne m'exposait qu'à vos coups, 
Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable.
Ah, l'Amour est encore plus terrible que vous.

English Translation

Here are the sad lands ravaged by the monster
Alas! If it were only for myself who feared his fury
I would await on this shore to be his victim
And not his vanquisher.

Dread monster, fearsome monster
Ah! How kind fate would be to me
If he exposed me only to no blows but yours!
Dread monster, fearsome monster
Ah! Love is much more terrible than you

At least against your fury there are weapons
But against his attacks
One looks in vain for support;
All efforts to destroy him only gives him new life
And the very heart that tears him apart
Is in league with him.

What a noise! What a horrible storm!
The waves rise up to the heavens;
I hear the terrible voice of vengeful thunder; 
Night wraps this place in a thick veil!
Come forth from your deep caverns,
Cruel monster, come forth. Let your hideous face
Add to the horror that reign over these waves.
Nothing can daunt an unhappy lover.
I see this fearsome monster. Come on!

The orchestra does not do justice here to the Bulgarian basso profundo Boris Christoff. He is Bulgarian, by the way, and not Russian! My apologies for the mistake in my last blog. Boris Christoff is very famous for singing Russian songs, like Kalinka or the Volga Boatmen. Easy to believe he's Russian. His performance of Monstre affreux in Dardanus is superb! What is missing is a strong orchestra, which in my opinion, should be inseparable from the singer, Thus, I believe that a much better version can be enjoyed by listening to a video featuring Laurent Naouri with Les Musiciens du Grenoble under the baton of Mark Minkowski.  Even though Laurent Naouri is not a bass singer, his baritone voice delivers an impeccable performance. The orchestra really highlights the throbbing heartbeat of Rameau's harrowing aria.

Though I was not able to post this gem on my blog, I suppose, for copyright reasons, I can gratefully redirect you to this impeccable performance: just click on this word: monster. But wait! Here it is with the same Laurent Naori, but in a video with ducks swimming in a pond, hardly the fearful monster depicted in the aria. Well, I suppose that a bug would look at a duck the way we look at the Kraken!

Here is an interpretation by French baritone Gérard Souzay:

To place the monster scene in context, here are scenes from a London Royal College of Music production of Rameau's opera Dardanus
This concludes Bass Saturday.

P.S. For a bit of fun, I've added a video of Boris Christoff singing Kalinka!



  1. My Friend,

    The basso profundo Boris Christoff was a Bulgarian, not a Russian. BTW, the name "Boris" was borrowed by the Russians from the Bulgarians in the 9th century, together with the Bulgarian corruption of (Julis) Caesar = Tsar = King.

    Your blog is impressive!

    Best wishes!

  2. Il renatt --> "Il renaît" ; encore plus tenrible --> "encore plus terrible" (sorry for being petty, you can destroy that comment afterwards!)

    Fantastic blog, thank you so much for those lyrics !
    If I may, Stephane Degout's recent version is fabulous.