Opera Daily 🎶 — “Je crois entendre encore” from Georges Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles

Today we’re listening to…

American tenor Lawrence Brownlee singing “Je crois entendre encore” (“I still believe I hear”), Nadir’s aria from Georges Bizet's French opera Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers). If you watched the film The Father with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman you would have heard this piece sung by French tenor Cyrille Dubois.

I had a different selection scheduled to share with you today that I had been chipping away at all week, but I made a last minute change. I am finding that’s more of the norm these days rather than the exception. Sometimes a piece hits me, and I must share. This performance of Larry Brownlee singing “Je crois entendre encore” is one of those performances. Larry’s singing here sneaks into your soul—you will feel like you are floating.

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The Pearl Fishers tells the story of a love triangle between Zurga, the leader of a fishing village (on the coast of Sri Lanka), his old friend Nadir, and the priestess Leïla. In the famous friendship duet from the opera, “Au fond du temple saint”  (which we covered last July) Zurga and Nadir recounts how their relationship had been strained in the past because they both were in love with the same woman (Leïla) but how they pledged to eternally remain friends. Fast forward, Leïla arrives as an anonymous priestess, whose face no one can see, who comes every year to provide spiritual protection for the tribe. Leïla recognizes Nadir and is shaken up by his presence.

After everyone leaves, Nadir is alone and reflects on the fact that he recognized Leïla’s voice. He feels as if he should have told Zurga who she was, but he is so happy to see her again despite his earlier vow. As he sings, you can hear the sadness in his heart. The aria has a haunting quality, and the text speaks of an almost unbearable feeling of nostalgia.

I still believe I hear
hidden beneath the palm trees
her voice, tender and deep
like the song of a dove
oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
In the clear starlight
I still believe I see her
half drawing her long veil
to the warm night breeze.
Oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
Charming memory.

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Here are some other interpretations of the piece:

Alfredo Kraus

Alain Vanzo
Jussi Björling
Javier Camarena
Jerry Hadley
Matthew Polenzani

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Thank you for reading (and listening),

Michele

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If you missed any of the previous pieces from the past month, catch up here:

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