New Opera

Name a company championing, or even just presenting an opera from our time?

"The artist needs an ivory tower, not as an escape from the world, but as a place where he can view the world and be himself. This tower is for the artist like a lighthouse shining out across the world."

Charles Koechlin 

Demeter And Persephone

Faint as a climate-changing bird that flies
All night across the darkness, and at dawn
Falls on the threshold of her native land,
And can no more, thou camest, O my child,
Led upward by the God of ghosts and dreams,
Who laid thee at Eleusis, dazed and dumb,
With passing thro' at once from state to state,
Until I brought thee hither, that the day,
When here thy hands let fall the gather'd flower,
Might break thro' clouded memories once again
On thy lost self. A sudden nightingale
Saw thee, and flash'd into a frolic of song
And welcome; and a gleam as of the moon,
When first she peers along the tremulous deep,
Fled wavering o'er thy face, and chased away
That shadow of a likeness to the king
Of shadows, thy dark mate. Persephone!
Queen of the dead no more -- my child! Thine eyes
Again were human-godlike, and the Sun
Burst from a swimming fleece of winter gray,
And robed thee in his day from head to feet --
"Mother!" and I was folded in thine arms.

Child, those imperial, disimpassion'd eyes
Awed even me at first, thy mother -- eyes
That oft had seen the serpent-wanded power
Draw downward into Hades with his drift
Of fickering spectres, lighted from below
By the red race of fiery Phlegethon;
But when before have Gods or men beheld
The Life that had descended re-arise,
And lighted from above him by the Sun?
So mighty was the mother's childless cry,
A cry that ran thro' Hades, Earth, and Heaven!

So in this pleasant vale we stand again,
The field of Enna, now once more ablaze
With flowers that brighten as thy footstep falls,
All flowers -- but for one black blur of earth
Left by that closing chasm, thro' which the car
Of dark Aidoneus rising rapt thee hence.
And here, my child, tho' folded in thine arms,
I feel the deathless heart of motherhood
Within me shudder, lest the naked glebe
Should yawn once more into the gulf, and thence
The shrilly whinnyings of the team of Hell,
Ascending, pierce the glad and songful air,
And all at once their arch'd necks, midnight-maned,
Jet upward thro' the mid-day blossom. No!
For, see, thy foot has touch'd it; all the space
Of blank earth-baldness clothes itself afresh,
And breaks into the crocus-purple hour
That saw thee vanish.

Child, when thou wert gone,
I envied human wives, and nested birds,
Yea, the cubb'd lioness; went in search of thee
Thro' many a palace, many a cot, and gave
Thy breast to ailing infants in the night,
And set the mother waking in amaze
To find her sick one whole; and forth again
Among the wail of midnight winds, and cried,
"Where is my loved one? Wherefore do ye wail?"
And out from all the night an answer shrill'd,
"We know not, and we know not why we wail."
I climb'd on all the cliffs of all the seas,
And ask'd the waves that moan about the world
"Where? do ye make your moaning for my child?"
And round from all the world the voices came
"We know not, and we know not why we moan."
"Where?" and I stared from every eagle-peak,
I thridded the black heart of all the woods,
I peer'd thro' tomb and cave, and in the storms
Of Autumn swept across the city, and heard
The murmur of their temples chanting me,
Me, me, the desolate Mother! "Where"? -- and turn'd,
And fled by many a waste, forlorn of man,
And grieved for man thro' all my grief for thee, --
The jungle rooted in his shatter'd hearth,
The serpent coil'd about his broken shaft,
The scorpion crawling over naked skulls; --
I saw the tiger in the ruin'd fane
Spring from his fallen God, but trace of thee
I saw not; and far on, and, following out
A league of labyrinthine darkness, came
On three gray heads beneath a gleaming rift.
"Where"? and I heard one voice from all the three
"We know not, for we spin the lives of men,
And not of Gods, and know not why we spin!
There is a Fate beyond us." Nothing knew.

Last as the likeness of a dying man,
Without his knowledge, from him flits to warn
A far-off friendship that he comes no more,
So he, the God of dreams, who heard my cry,
Drew from thyself the likeness of thyself
Without thy knowledge, and thy shadow past
Before me, crying "The Bright one in the highest
Is brother of the Dark one in the lowest,
And Bright and Dark have sworn that I, the child
Of thee, the great Earth-Mother, thee, the Power
That lifts her buried life from loom to bloom,
Should be for ever and for evermore
The Bride of Darkness."

So the Shadow wail'd.
Then I, Earth-Goddess, cursed the Gods of Heaven.
I would not mingle with their feasts; to me
Their nectar smack'd of hemlock on the lips,
Their rich ambrosia tasted aconite.
The man, that only lives and loves an hour,
Seem'd nobler than their hard Eternities.
My quick tears kill'd the flower, my ravings hush'd
The bird, and lost in utter grief I fail'd
To send my life thro' olive-yard and vine
And golden grain, my gift to helpless man.
Rain-rotten died the wheat, the barley-spears
Vere hollow-husk'd, the leaf fell, and the sun,
Pale at my grief, drew down before his time
Sickening, and tna kept her winter snow.
Then He, the brother of this Darkness, He
Who still is highest, glancing from his height
On earth a fruitless fallow, when he miss'd
The wonted steam of sacrifice, the praise
And prayer of men, decreed that thou should'st dwell
For nine white moons of each whole year with me,
Three dark ones in the shadow with thy King.

Once more the reaper in the gleam of dawn
Will see me by the landmark far away,
Blessing his field, or seated in the dusk
Of even, by the lonely threshing-floor,
Rejoicing in the harvest and the grange.
Yet I, Earth-Goddess, am but ill-content
With them, who still are highest. Those gray heads,
What meant they by their "Fate beyond the Fates"
But younger kindlier Gods to bear us down,
As we bore down the Gods before us? Gods,
To quench, not hurl the thunderbolt, to stay,
Not spread the plague, the famine; Gods indeed,
To send the noon into the night and break
The sunless halls of Hades into Heaven?
Till thy dark lord accept and love the Sun,
And all the Shadow die into the Light,
When thou shalt dwell the whole bright year with me,
And souls of men, who grew beyond their race,
And made themselves as Gods against the fear
Of Death and Hell; and thou that hast from men,
As Queen of Death, that worship which is Fear,
Henceforth, as having risen from out the dead,
Shalt ever send thy life along with mine
From buried grain thro' springing blade, and bless
Their garner'd Autumn also, reap with me,
Earth-mother, in the harvest hymns of Earth
The worship which is Love, and see no more
The Stone, the Wheel, the dimly-glimmering lawns
Of that Elysium, all the hateful fires
Of torment, and the shadowy warrior glide
Along the silent field of Asphodel. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Antinous

"The way that Hadrian took the boy on his travels, kept close to him at moments of spiritual, moral or physical exaltation, and, after his death, surrounded himself with his images, shows an obsessive craving for his presence, a mystical-religious need for his companionship."

Lambert, Royston (1984). Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. George Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

 

Rimbaud

As I floated down impassive Rivers,

I felt myself no longer pulled by ropes:

The Redskins took my hauliers for targets,

And nailed them naked to their painted posts.

 

Carrying Flemish wheat or English cotton,

I was indifferent to all my crews.

The Rivers let me float down as I wished,

When the victims and the sounds were through.

 

Into the furious breakers of the sea,

Deafer than the ears of a child, last winter,

I ran! And the Peninsulas sliding by me

Never heard a more triumphant clamour.

 

The tempest blessed my sea-borne arousals.

Lighter than a cork I danced those waves

They call the eternal churners of victims,

Ten nights, without regret for the lighted bays!

 

Sweeter than sour apples to the children

The green ooze spurting through my hull’s pine,

Washed me of vomit and the blue of wine,

Carried away my rudder and my anchor.

 

Then I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,

Infused with stars, the milk-white spume blends,

Grazing green azures: where ravished, bleached

Flotsam, a drowned man in dream descends.

 

Where, staining the blue, sudden deliriums

And slow tremors under the gleams of fire,

Stronger than alcohol, vaster than our rhythms,

Ferment the bitter reds of our desire!

 

I knew the skies split apart by lightning,

Waterspouts, breakers, tides: I knew the night,

The Dawn exalted like a crowd of doves,

I saw what men think they’ve seen in the light!

 

I saw the low sun, stained with mystic terrors,

Illuminate long violet coagulations,

Like actors in a play, a play that’s ancient,

Waves rolling back their trembling of shutters!

 

I dreamt the green night of blinded snows,

A kiss lifted slow to the eyes of seas,

The circulation of unheard-of flows,

Sung phosphorus’s blue-yellow awakenings!

 

For months on end, I’ve followed the swell

That batters at the reefs like terrified cattle,

Not dreaming the Three Marys’ shining feet

Could muzzle with their force the Ocean’s hell!

 

I’ve struck Floridas, you know, beyond belief,

Where eyes of panthers in human skins,

Merge with the flowers! Rainbow bridles, beneath

the seas’ horizon, stretched out to shadowy fins!

 

I’ve seen the great swamps boil, and the hiss

Where a whole whale rots among the reeds!

Downfalls of water among tranquilities,

Distances showering into the abyss.

 

Nacrous waves, silver suns, glaciers, ember skies!

Gaunt wrecks deep in the brown vacuities

Where the giant eels riddled with parasites

Fall, with dark perfumes, from the twisted trees!

 

I would have liked to show children dolphins

Of the blue wave, the golden singing fish.

– Flowering foams rocked me in my drift,

At times unutterable winds gave me wings.

 

Sometimes, a martyr tired of poles and zones,

The sea whose sobs made my roilings sweet

Showed me its shadow flowers with yellow mouths

And I rested like a woman on her knees...

 

Almost an isle, blowing across my sands, quarrels

And droppings of pale-eyed clamorous gulls,

And I scudded on while, over my frayed lines,

Drowned men sank back in sleep beneath my hull!...

 

Now I, a boat lost in the hair of bays,

Hurled by the hurricane through bird-less ether,

I, whose carcass, sodden with salt-sea water,

No Monitor or Hanseatic vessel could recover:

 

Freed, in smoke, risen from the violet fog,

I, who pierced the red skies like a wall,

Bearing the sweets that delight true poets,

Lichens of sunlight, gobbets of azure:

 

Who ran, stained with electric moonlets,

A crazed plank, companied by black sea-horses,

When Julys were crushing with cudgel blows

Skies of ultramarine in burning funnels:

 

I, who trembled to hear those agonies

Of rutting Behemoths and dark Maelstroms,

Eternal spinner of blue immobilities,

I regret the ancient parapets of Europe!

 

I’ve seen archipelagos of stars! And isles

Whose maddened skies open for the sailor:

– Is it in depths of night you sleep, exiled,

Million birds of gold, O future Vigour? –

 

But, truly, I’ve wept too much! The Dawns

Are heartbreaking, each moon hell, each sun bitter:

Fierce love has swallowed me in drunken torpors.

O let my keel break! Tides draw me down!

 

If I want one pool in Europe, it’s the cold

Black pond where into the scented night

A child squatting filled with sadness launches

A boat as frail as a May butterfly.

 

Bathed in your languor, waves, I can no longer

Cut across the wakes of cotton ships,

Or sail against the pride of flags, ensigns,

Or swim the dreadful gaze of prison ships.

 

Vowels

(Voyelles)

 

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels

Someday I’ll talk about your secret birth-cries,

A, black velvet jacket of brilliant flies

That buzz around the stenches of the cruel,

 

Gulfs of shadow: E, candour of mists, of tents,

Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of parsley:

I, purples, bloody salivas, smiles of the lonely

With lips of anger or drunk with penitence:

 

U, waves, divine shudders of viridian seas,

Peace of pastures, cattle-filled, peace of furrows

Formed on broad studious brows by alchemy:

 

O, supreme Clarion, full of strange stridencies,

Silences crossed by worlds and by Angels:

O, the Omega, violet ray of her Eyes!

 

The Rooks

(Les Corbeaux)

 

Lord, when the fields are cold,

When, in the abject hamlets,

The long angelus is silent...

On nature, deflowered, old,

Falling from the open sky

Let the lovely rooks sweep by.

 

Strange army with your stern calls,

Cold winds attack your nests!

You, along the yellowed river-edge,

Over the roads’ with old crosses, fall,

Over the wayside ditches, and the alleys,

Disperse yourselves, then rally!

 

In thousands, over the fields of France,

Where sleep the dead of yesteryear,

Wheel, then, in the wintry air,

So each traveller, at a glance

Remembers! Be the call to duty,

O our black funereal beauty!

 

But, saints of heaven, at the oak’s top,

Mast lost in the charm of fading day,

Leave the little warblers of May

For those imprisoned in the copse,

In depths from which one cannot flee,

Who defeat, without a future, see.

 

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/French/Rimbaud1.htm#anchor_Toc196916310