I think that the wind, sweeping its way amongst the singers, makes for an uncanny presence – infiltrating the performance like a supernatural being who demands to be acknowledged, insistent on being included. It seems to want to touch the singers, and brush itself up boldly against them, to enter the moment and add to the gestalt its own breath and voice.
It seems as if the Mistral wished to re-enact its own drama as it was wont to do when in the past it moved through sacred groves of ancient trees.
It is beautiful to watch Caballé’s expression of serene dignity at the end – as she stands, so still and majestic, choosing to not sever her spiritual link with Norma, remaining calmly in her priestly persona, retaining her magic for some moments more.
Then her eyes glint gently – she has been singing against the cold northern wind – and sustained an interminable note which seems to have emerged from deep within her soul – and she seems to be awakening from a trance, having been caught up in another place and another time, until the cheers of the audience compel her unwillingly back into the present.
What a presence – what a voice! Heavenly – chillingly pure – yet warm and embracing. Brava – bravissima – Caballé!
This was a comment left on Youtube by Willym.
“I was there that evening and even 37 years later it stays in my mind as one of the greatest evenings I’ve ever spent at the Opera. The performance was delayed in the hopes that the Mistral would abate – when it was obvious it wouldn’t the orchestra clothes pegged their score to their stands and battling the non-ending wind Caballe, Vickers and Veasey gave what was to be in many ways the performance of a lifetime. I knew it had been filmed that night – thank god!”
Casta diva, che inargenti
queste sacre antiche piante
Al noi volgi in bel sembiante
senza nube e senza vel!
Tempra o diva
Tempra tu de’cori argenti
tempra ancora zelo audace,
spargi in terra quella pace
che regnar tu fai in ciel.
These sacred ancient trees,
Turn your lovely countenance
Unclouded and unveiled…
Temper O Goddess
The ardent hearts
The audacious zeal
Disperse on the earth the peace
That you make reign in heaven.
This is the rest of the aria – not sung here.
Sia disgombor dai profani.
Quando il Nume irato e fosco,
Chiegga il sangue dei Romani
Dal Druidico delubro
La mia voce tuonerà.
Cadrà; punirlo, il cor non sa.
(Ma puirlo, il cor no sa do so
Del fido amor primiero;
E contro il mondo intiero….
Difesa a te sarò.
Ah! bello a me ritorna
Del raggio tuo sereno;
E vita nel tuo seno,
E patria e cielo avrò.
Ah, riedi ancora qual eri allora,
Ah riedi a me.)
And in the sacred grove
Remover of obstructions of the profane
When the angry and menacing god
Demands the blood of the Romans
From the Druid temple
My voice will thunder
He will fall, I will punish him, I can do it.
(But punish him my heart can not
Ah return to me beautiful one
In faith of your first love
I will be your defender.
Ah, beautiful one, return to me
In your serene ray
And with life within your breast
And I will have both homeland and heaven.
Ah return as you were then
When I then gave you my heart
Ah, return to me.)
Translation Dia Tsung.
To a Lady as She Was Singing
The uncanny voice and clearest of accents
from that sweet throat issuing forth, dispatched
with its lovliest influence on the hearing
what could well suspend whatsoever torment.
Furthermore, again in its accident I feel
another mystery I don’t well understand –
when as the greatest glory is sensed and felt
a feeling comes which gives a cause for pain.
These contrary effects, by the same song engendered
leaves one in the suspension of that alienation
where madness is sane, and reason is made crazy.
And again by a miracle. O renewed enchantment,
when the voice reaches its very height of sweetness
the soul once more is touched in echoing grief.
Juan de Tasis, Conde de Villamediana.
Translation Dia Tsung.
A Una Señora que Cantaba.
La peregrina voz y el claro acento
por la dulce garganta despedido,
con el suave efecto del oído
bien pueden suspender cualquier tormento.
Mas el nuevo accidente que yo siento
otro misterio tiene no entendido
pues es en la mayor gloria del sentido,
halla causa de pena el sentimiento.
Efectos varios, porque el mismo canto
deja en la suspensión con que enajena
cuerdo el enloquecer, la razón loca.
Y por nuevo milagro o nuevo encanto,
cuando la voz más dulcemente suena,
con ecos de dolor el alma toca.
Juan de Tasis, Conde de Villamediana
(Winter of 1582 – August 21 1622)