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Pleurez mes yeux

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Opera title:

Le Cid


Jules Massenet




Le Cid Synopsis


Le Cid Libretto


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Next scene: De cet affreux combat

Maria Jeritza; "Pleurez, mes yeux"; LE CID; Jules Massenet

Singer(s): Kirsten Flagstad Maria Jeritza Claudia Muzio Rosa Ponselle Rosa Raisa Elisabeth Rethberg Kiri Te Kanawa Geraldine Farrar Mary Garden Lina Cavalieri

Maria Jeritza--soprano

She was born Marie Jedlizová in 1887 in Brno in what is today the Czech Republic, but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is virtually impossible to separate fact from fiction when it comes to her early life, though it was said her father was a concierge. At any rate, her background was modest and she made her operatic debut as Elsa in Lohengrin in 1910 at the Municipal Opera of Olomouc. Within a year she had moved on to the Vienna Volksoper. During the summer of 1912 she sang Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus at the spa resort of Bad Ischl, where Franz Josef, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, happened to be in the audience. “Why is this ravishing creature with the heavenly voice not singing in my opera house?” he demanded. A few months later she was.

Jeritza was considered a beautiful woman, but hers was not the great classic beauty of sopranos like Geraldine Farrar or Lina Cavalieri. Nor was Jeritza’s voice the perfect instrument of a Rosa Ponselle, Elisabeth Rethberg, or Kirsten Flagstad. Her acting, which seemed so utterly spontaneous onstage that audiences frequently gasped at her actions, had often been calculated to the exact note.Jeritza’s genius was in her ability to combine her looks, voice, and theatrical skills with that indefinable charisma that separates the very greatest stars from the merely superb.
When Richard Strauss saw her and chose her to create the title role of his new opera, Ariadne auf Naxos—only two years into her career! It was the beginning of a relationship that extended to the very end of Strauss’s life. He dedicated “September,” one of his miraculous Four Last Songs to “Mr. and Mrs. Seery” (Jeritza and her third husband, Irving Seery). “September” was composed on September 20th, 1948, the last of the Four Last Songs to be written. Two months later, November 23rd, Strauss wrote “Malven” (Mallows), a wistful, charming song for soprano and piano. It was his final completed work and he sent it to Jeritza with the dedication, “To my beloved Maria, this last rose.” The song was only discovered after her death and received its long-delayed world premiere when Kiri Te Kanawa sang it in New York in January 1985. (The performance was broadcast and is available on YouTube.)

In addition to the role of Ariadne in both versions of Ariadne auf Naxos, she also created the role of the Empress in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten. Remembering her as Helen of Troy in Offenbach’s operetta, Strauss crafted his own version of Helen for her in Die Ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen), though her exorbitant financial demands meant that Elisabeth Rethberg sang the actual world premiere in Dresden, with Jeritza singing the first performances in Vienna and New York shortly thereafter.

Strauss was not the only composer who adored her. Erich Korngold wrote Die Tote Stadt for her (it served as her Metropolitan Opera debut in November 1921) and Puccini wrote to the Met’s general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza, saying he was writing an opera called Turandot, which would have good roles in it for Jeritza and tenor Beniamino Gigli. (As it turned out Jeritza was the first to sing Turandot at the Met, but Rosa Raisa sang the world premiere at La Scala.) She was a memorable Minnie in La Fanciulla del West but without a doubt her most famous Puccini role was Tosca.

Tosca was the second opera she sang at the Met, just a couple weeks after her debut, and that performance on December 1, 1921 has become legendary. In the late Robert Tuggle’s endlessly fascinating book, The Golden Age of Opera, the Met’s archivist noted that Gatti-Casazza (who had managed Milan’s La Scala for ten years before coming to the Met) wrote in his autobiography “the ovation by a cheering, screaming audience after ‘Vissi d’arte’ was the longest one he’d witnessed in his professional career.” Tuggle then adds, “Not only did Jeritza become the box office successor to Caruso in the 1920s, but her triumphs with public and press were so great that both Geraldine Farrar and Claudia Muzio left the company rather than compete.”

As for Jeritza, Mason couldn’t deny her effectiveness, but he was almost grudging in his praise. “Her first appearance was rather a shock. Instead of being a lithe and orchidaceous oriental she was a buxom Viennese, about as remote from what one imagines the daughter of a Judean king to have been as it is possible to picture.” When it came to the scene between Salome and Jochanaan he preferred “the subtle witchery and weaving of moonlit spells to which we have grown accustomed through the art of Mary Garden” who performed the opera in New York with Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera and also with the Chicago Opera and toured it with both companies. "; (edited)

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1 - Isabella Moore
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De cet affreux combat je sors l'âme brisée!
Mais enfin je suis libre et je pourrai du moins
Soupirer sans contrainte et souffrir sans témoins.

Pleurez! pleurez mes yeux! tombez triste rosée
Qu'un rayon de soleil ne doit jamais tarir!
S'il me reste un espoir, c'est de bientôt mourir!
Pleurez mes yeux, pleurez toutes vox larmes! pleurez mes yeux!

Mais qui donc a voulu l'éternité des pleurs?
O chers ensevelis, trouvez-vous tant de charmes à  léguer aux vivants d'implacables douleurs?
Hélas! je me souviens, il me disait:
Avec ton doux sourire...
Tu ne saurais jamais conduire
Qu'aux chemins glorieux ou qu'aux sentiers bénis!

Ah! mon père! Hélas!
Pleurez! pleurez mes yeux!
Tombez triste rosée
Qu'un rayon de soleil ne doit jamais tarir!
Pleurez mes yeux!
Ah! pleurez toutes vos larmes! pleurez mes yeux!
Ah! pleurez!

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Operatic Anthology: Soprano

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