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Je voudrais bien savoir

Opera details:

Opera title:

Faust

Composer:

Charles Gounod

Language:

French

Synopsis:

Faust Synopsis

Libretto:

Faust Libretto

Translation(s):

English Deutsch

Aria details:

Type:

aria

Role(s):

Marguerite

Voice(s):

Soprano

Act:

3.05b

Previous scene: Il était un Roi de Thulé
Next scene: O Dieu que de bijoux

Charles Gounod – FAUST: Air des Bijoux (Jewel Song) – Victoria de Los Ángeles

Singer: Victoria de los Ángeles

FAUST
Opéra en 5 actes
Composer: Charles Gounod (1818–1893)
Libretto : Jules Barbier & Michael Carré, after Goethe’s Faust, part 1 (1808)
First performed : Théâtre Lyrique (boulevard du Temple), Paris, 19 March 1859

SETTING: Germany, 16th century

PLOT: The philosopher Faust sells his soul to Méphistophèles in exchange for youth. Faust seduces and then abandons Marguerite, who gives birth to an illegitimate child. He then murders her brother, the soldier Valentin, who curses Marguerite with his dying breath. Marguerite goes mad and kills her child; Faust and Méphistophèles go to the prison to rescue her, but she rejects them. She dies and her soul rises up to heaven.

‘Faust’ was one of the most successful operas of the nineteenth century. Like Berlioz ('La damnation de Faust', 1846: youtube.com/watch?v=0-x-9WzLS7Q&list=PLoB7Fd8EvhHagG5GFHsyUz60HRHvdsPla) before him, Gounod read Faust as a young man, as a 20-year-old Prix de Rome student, and dreamt of composing music for it. (Goethe himself had wanted Mozart or Meyerbeer to set it to music.)

It was surprisingly unsuccessful when it was first performed; it was found too learned and not tuneful enough. The problem was that Gounod’s music was in a different style from French grand opéra to which audiences were used; it was an early opéra lyrique. Berlioz, however, admired the work, going so far as to use the word ‘masterpiece’. Reyer considered it ‘among the most beautiful works of the time; a work in which inspiration and beauties of the first order erase very light imperfections’.

The audience did not embrace ‘Faust’ until the revised version of 1862. From that time, Gounod was seen as France’s leading opera composer. Its 500th Parisian performance took place in 1887, its 1,500th in 1912 and its 2,000th in 1934.

Scène & Air des Bijoux:
‘Je voudrais bien savoir…’
Chanson du Roi de Thule: ‘Il était un Roi de Thulé…’
Air des Bijoux: ‘Un bouquet! …O Dieu! Que de bijoux!’

Marguerite sings a song about the King of Thule, but breaks off to think about the unknown young man who spoke to her at the Kermesse (Faust). She notices Siebel’s bouquet of flowers and – with incredulous surprise – the casket of jewels that Méphistophèles has left. She decks herself in the jewels, and admires herself in a mirror.

Marguerite (soprano): Victoria de Los Angeles

Conductor : André Cluytens
Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra
Paris, 1958

(Pictures by Hergé.)

Watch videos with other singers performing Je voudrais bien savoir:

Libretto/Lyrics/Text/Testo:

MARGUERITE
entre par la porte du fond et descend en silence j'usque sur le devant de la scène
Je voudrais bien savoir quel était ce jeune homme,
Si c'est un grand seigneur, et comment il se nomme?

Elle s'assied dans le bosquet, devant son rouet et chante

N° 14 - Chanson du Roi de Thule

I.
Il était un roi de Thulé
Qui, jusqu'à la tombe fidèle,
Eut, en souvenir de sa belle,
Une coupe en or ciselé! ...
S'interrompant
Il avait-bonne grâce, à ce qu'il m'a semblé.
Reprenant sa chanson
Nul trésor n'avait tant de charmes!
Dans les grands jours il s'en servait,
Et chaque fois qu'il y buvait,
Ses yeux se remplissaient de larmes! ...

II.
Quand il sentit venir la mort,
Etendu sur sa froide couche,
Pour la porter jusqu'à sa bouche
Sa main fit un suprème effort! ...
S'interrompant
Je ne savais que dire, et j'ai rougi d'abord.
Reprenant sa chanson
Et puis, en l'honneur de sa dame,
Il but une dernière fois;
La coupe trembla dans ses doigts,
Et doucement il rendit l'âme!
Elle se lève
Les grands seigneurs ont seuls des airs si résolus,
Avec cette douceur!
Allons! n'y pensons plus!
Cher Valentin, si Dieu m'écoute,
Je te reverrai! me voilà
Toute seule!

Elle se dirige vers le pavillon et aperçoit le bouquet suspendu à la porte
Un bouquet! ...
Elle prend le bouquet.
C'est de Siebel, sans doute!
Pauvre garçon!
Apercevant la cassette.
Que vois-je là? ...
D'où ce riche coffret peut-il venir? ... Je n'ose
Y toucher, et pourtant ... - Voici la clef, je crois! ...
Si je l'ouvrais! ... ma main tremble! ... Pourquoi?
Je ne fais, en l'ouvrant, rien de mal, je suppose! ...
Elle ouvre la cassette et laisse tomber le bouquet.
O Dieu! que de bijoux! ... est-ce un rève charmant
Qui m'éblouit, ou si je veille? ...
Mes yeux n'ont jamais vu de richesse pareille! ...

Elle place la cassette sur une chaise et s'agenouille pour se parer.

Si j'osais seulement
Me parer un moment
De ces pendants d'oreille! ...
Elle tire des boucles d'oreille de la cassette
Ah! voici justement,
Au fond de la cassette,
Un miroir! ... comment
N'être pas coquette?

English Libretto or Translation:

MARGUERITE
I should dearly like to know who this young man was
Whether he is a noble lord and what his name is.

“There once was a king of Thule
Who, faithful unto the grave,
Kept in memory of his lady?love
A vessel of chiselled gold…“

She interrupts her song
It seemed to me that he was most handsome.
She resumes her song

“There was not a lovelier treasure!
He used it on great occasions
And every time he drank from it
His eyes would fill with tears!

When he felt Death approaching,
Lying on his cold bed,
In order to raise it to his lips
His hand made a supreme effort!”

Again she interrupts her song
I hardly knew what to say
And at first I blushed bright red.
She resumes her song

“And then, in his lady's honour,
He drank for the last time;
The vessel shook in his grasp
And gently he gave up the ghost!"

None but great lords possess such a resolute mien
Together with such gentleness!
Come now! Think of it no more!
Dear Valentin, if God heeds me,
I shall see you again!
Here I am quite alone!
She suddenly sees the posy
A posy?
From Siebel, no doubt.
Poor lad!
Her eyes fall on the casket
What is this I see?
Whence could this rich casket have come?
I dare not touch it and yet …
Here is the key, I think.
What if I opened it? My hand shakes. Why?
It is not wrong to open it, I imagine.
She opens the casket.
O goodness! What a lot of jewels!
Is this some bewitching dream
Which dazzles me,
Or am I really awake?
She places the open casket on a chair and kneels in front of it.
If only I dared
Adorn myself, for a moment,
With these car?rings!
Ah! there is a mirror
At the bottom of the casket!
How could one help admiring oneself?

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