Sunday, 10 September 2017

QUOTE OF THE DAY - SUNDAY, SEPT 10, 2017: GEORGES BIZET ON IMITATION, COUNTDOWN TO INFAMY

French composer Georges Bizet
Before I begin with today’s Quote of the Day, I must thank the reader for the many emails received upon my person inquiring as to my whereabouts: “Where are you…when will you be posting again?...” and the like.

I assure you, dear reader, I will return – I am currently engaged in quite a bit of multi-tasking, which has resulted in sparse time spent in the isolation required for dedicating my full attention toward presenting an article of quality.

Fret not, such articles have been and are currently being worked on non obstante during the interim period between my last full-length post and my upcoming articles/regular features.

In the meantime, I leave the visitor to my blog with a rather apt quote by the French Romantic composer, Georges Bizet on the tribulations one is wont to encounter in the vain quest to both reach and exceed in quality an art form already established as unsurpassable:

"...the more beautiful the model, the more ridiculous the imitation."


I relate the quote posted above, authored by the Parisian composer in May 1871 in a private written exchange with mother-in law Léonie Rodrigues-Henriques (Madame Halévy) with the often imitated, yet never duplicated recording of “Au Fond Du Temple Saint” (In the Depth of the Sacred Temple) - that most famous of operatic duets from Bizet’s often underrated early opera “Les pêcheurs de perles” (The Pearl Fishers) - as performed by American baritone Robert Merrill and the irreplaceable Swedish heldentenor Jussi Björling in an exclusive in-studio performance recorded by record label RCA-Victor in 1950. The recording of the now famous aria has since been placed with relative regularity on many mainstream “greatest recordings of all time” lists.

It’s easy to see why – to my taste, there has never been a duo that, to date, has ever surpassed this sublime rendition.

Enjoy below, truly one of the "greatest recordings of all time” Au fond du temple Saint by maestros Robert Merrill and Jussi Björling. Les pêcheurs de perles will celebrate its 154th anniversary at the close of the month – marking its 19th century première at Paris on September 30, 1863:



Did You Know?

It wouldn’t be until some two decades following he premiere of Les pêcheurs that Georges Bizet would finally achieve the international notoriety and acclaim so craved upon by composers of unrecognized merit. Unfortunately for Bizet, the massive adulation lauded upon the musician would greet him in absentia – quite – post mortem, in fact – and the recognition placed on Georges would not be for Les pêcheurs de perles (or even for the sublime duet, for that matter, which had received a rather stale and indifferent critical response following it’s premiere in 1863), but rather, for the composer’s final opera, Carmen, which itself earned acclaim only some ten years after it’s scandalous premiere at Paris’ Opéra-Comique in 1875. The seductive “immorality” of the opera’s famous titular Gypsy, Carmen, along with the on-stage death of the work’s main character, has, in posterity, been credited with revolutionizing French opera. It’s catchy first and second act arias "Habanera" and the "Toreador Song" have since infiltrated even the captious barriers of mainstream pop culture, much like (although with arguably more success) Les pêcheurs de perles’ Au fond du temple Saint (known colloquially as the Pearl Fishers duet), which also received lukewarm-to-hostile reviews immediately following it’s premiere at Paris’ Théâtre Lyrique in September of 1863.


(German Born) French composer
Jacques Offenbach
Modern critics have been gentler in their praise in regard to Bizet’s early opera - commissioned when the composer was but just 24 years old, and a past recipient of the prestigious Prix de Rome, a highly coveted award earned by Georges in 1857 following his participation in a composition competition held at the highly regarded the Conservatoire de Paris by the noted French composer Jacques Offenbach.

Bizet was awarded the Prix de Rome – a scholarship/ bursary programme for students of the arts to pursue international study in Rome at the expense of the state (established in 1663 under the reign of Louis XIV of France) – for his winning entry, his first one-act opera, Le docteur Miracle.

Had it not been for the Offenbach and the Conservatoire, the then-unknown 18 year old budding composer Georges Bizet – nor the succès de scandale  known as “Carmen” that had infamously rocked Paris in 1875 - and certainly nor the exquisite first act duet from Les pêcheurs, this diamond of a recording would never have existed nor so spectacularly injected itself within the pages of musical infamy. 
-Rose.