On April 19, 1911, Monte Carlo's audience witnessed a story about a debutante who falls asleep after her first ball, dreaming of dancing with the rose that she had been holding in her hand. Her dream ends when the rose escapes through the window. The dancers at this memorable performance were Vaslav Nijinsky as the Rose and Tamara Karsavina as the Girl. This beautiful ballet,"Le spectre de la Rose", was to be one of the trademarks of the Diaguilev company's repertoire, eventually getting a permanent place in all major companies. As we all know, choreographic genius Mikhail Fokine was inspired by Théophile Gautier's poem of the same title, setting it to Carl Maria von Weber's 1819 piano piece "Invitation to the Dance", in a 1841 orchestration by Hector Berlioz.
I have transcribed the poem first in French and in its English translation.
"Le spectre de la rose"
Soulève ta paupière close
Qu’effleure un songe virginal ;
Je suis le spectre d’une rose
Que tu portais hier au bal.
Tu me pris encore emperlée
Des pleurs d’argent de l’arrosoir,
Et parmi la fête étoilée
Tu me promenas tout le soir.
Ô toi qui de ma mort fus cause,
Sans que tu puisses le chasser
Toute la nuit mon spectre rose
A ton chevet viendra danser.
Mais ne crains rien, je ne réclame
Ni messe, ni De Profundis ;
Ce léger parfum est mon âme
Et j’arrive du paradis.
Mon destin fut digne d’envie :
Pour avoir un trépas si beau,
Plus d’un aurait donné sa vie,
Car j’ai ta gorge pour tombeau,
Et sur l’albâtre où je repose
Un poète avec un baiser
Ecrivit : Ci-gît une rose
Que tous les rois vont jalouser
"Le Spectre de la rose"
Open your closed eyelid
Which is gently brushed by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of the rose
That you wore last night at the ball.
You took me when I was still sprinkled with pearls
Of silvery tears from the watering-can,
And, among the sparkling festivities,
You carried me the entire night.
O you, who caused my death:
Without the power to chase it away,
You will be visited every night by my ghost,
Which will dance at your bedside.
But fear nothing; I demand
Neither Mass nor De Profundis;
This mild perfume is my soul,
And I've come from Paradise.
My destiny is worthy of envy;
And to have a fate so fine,
More than one would give his life
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster where I rest,
A poet with a kiss
Wrote: "Here lies a rose,
Of which all kings may be jealous."
Ballet and Poetry. "Le spectre de la rose"......and Théophile Gautier.
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