March 2, 2014

Post scriptum for "The first time ..." The missing translation

As all, who own Verena's book, know, there was one story in it not translated into English, written by Dominique in French.
Thankfully, Gil managed, to climb the Everest and translated it for us, so those of us, who are not fluent in French can share it.
Thank you very much, Dominique and Gil for this wonderful story and it's translation.

Here it is:

(excerpted from the book "My First Time")

Dominique GELAY - France

Translated by Gil

Here is my first time with Cecilia:

Television is showing crazy amounts of snow, freezing temperatures, chaos at airports, delay in railway stations and maybe even in Underground. Will Paris be inaccessible, impassable, frozen until spring? Hm! can't it be possible to free Paris from its ice-bank for 24 hours, one Cecilia and myself have to meet there for a concert, she traveling from Amsterdam and me from Lyon? As for my part, I arrive as planned from the Capital of the Gauls to the Capital of Ice on the evening of the 18 of December 2010. I implore all known mythologies so that no offence thwarts the Handelian flights of my favourite Roman. The next day, I face bravely the wind, rain and my sense of direction to reach the salle Pleyel where I breathe again on seeing the concert is not cancelled. As always, a few utopians are looking for tickets. The audience gathers and I search for the fair-haired Rafaella and the red-haired Alcina in the crowd, but nobody... I am told no signing session is planned after the concert. Well, I cross my twenty fingers (hands and feet) so that the Italian lady be not in a hurry to catch her train for Monaco where she is to sing on the 21st, and I will run to the artists' entrance. When the usherette shows me my seat by saying, "It's completely down below", though I know that, I must look overjoyed like the ecstatic of the crib.

I install myself, I watch the fauna around me, I hear someone uttering with a doctoral intonation, "... I can't imagine bel canto, blah blah blah". I focus my attention on the stage and I notice something strange: the Scintilla accompanying Cecilia this evening is supposed to consist of 24 musicians, but I see a few chairs only. Are they going to play standing up? There is some agitation back stage. Someone enters the stage with a mike. The moment is serious. Could the fair one have slipped on the side-walk on arriving. No, Zurich and Paris are in the same position, planes and trains are blocked. For the moment, only a few musicians have won the elements, and they will give a chamber version of our dear Saxon. The rest of the orchestra is expected after the interval... The brave musicians enter under applause. Their conductor Ada Pesch, as well as the harpsichordist Sergio Ciomei are here. Ah! what a relief!

Then my beloved mezzo enters and I am already levitating in seventh heaven. She is only a few metres away from me. I am going to be able to follow all her expressions, slightly in counter-plunge, without anybody in front of me directly. Suddenly, with "Furie terribili", thunder rumbles, lightning strikes, wind blows and in front of me a sorceress invokes the Furies. I feel I am taken to a mediaeval clearing where I attend the prologue to a pandemoniac rite. Were the orchestra complete, I would nearly be afraid! The applause takes me back to the 21st Century. I renounce taking pictures of Cecilia in order to applaud my full share.

The attractive warrior disdained her advances. In "Dunque i lacci... Ah, crudele", the poor sorceress grieves between rage and despair. And that's it! the warm and soft voice of the singer flood my eyes with tears. I wish they be honey to sweeten her suffering. The applause breaks out too early to my taste. Being ever completely sincere, Cecilia would deserve a few seconds of silence in order to empty her over-flow of emotion and come back among us...

The beauty proceeds with the joyous "Scherza in mar" in which her vocal works are as twisted as the way her heart expects to win. Cecilia beams with a contagious pleasure, almost like a child, and I forget everything: the audience, the weather, the current difficulties. I wish it to never end, and I know I was right to come in spite of everything and gather joy and energy so as to face the rest...

No need of airport and ship to take us at the foot of pyramids! "Che sento, o dio... Se pietà" takes us to a devastated Cleopatra, as she imagines already her Julius, torn to pieces, gone away to the Osiris Gardens. The imploration of the mezzo transcends the suffering of the Egyptian queen, and her martyrdom barely audible and in a single breath gives me physical pain. I am like a fountain. Nothing exists apart from the torture this chant expresses. At one and the same time, I want it to end and to never end. I think I exorcize much of my own worries during that air. The last notes vanish and Cecilia bows, on the verge of tears. I know she has to control her emotion so as to keep her breath and voice flowing, but how does she do it? I am seated just a few steps away and I see it's a miracle her distress doesn't roll down her cheeks.

Scintilla plays Porpora as I return to Paris, the Pleyel Hall, my seat, the audience and the rest of the concert. The beauty comes back with "V'adoro pupille" where the cheeky Cleopatra implores her eye-balls (of a lovely brown that evening) to spare her heart (provided I understood everything correctly). Relaxed as I was, I gave myself up to the shades of that voice of brown and glistening colours like a baroque cello, and I shed tears of ecstasy and zero gravity...

After so many ups and downs, Caesar has the wisdom to be like the Golden Calf, still standing up! Cleo expresses her frenzy in "Da tempeste" and I enjoy the pleasure of seeing and listening a delighted Cecilia playful like a spring swallow with this Handel aria.

To have more fun in "M'adora l'idol mio" where a lady-love sings about her fidelity to Teseo, the singer undertakes a musical contest with an oboe player at her sides on stage. During that skirmish the voice and the instrument intertwine one another in a great "run-after-me-and-catch-me-if-you-can", as though to show to the narrow-minded and the kill-joy that one can also have fun on an opera stage! I rejoice!! At the end of that piece, the complete audience stands up for a triumph which Cecilia shares with her musicians as always.

I remain in my seat gently during the big agitation of the interval. People move a lot in front of me. To my displeasure, the thunder machines are taken away, but chairs are added and Ada Pesch checks their right place. The missing musicians have overcome the eternal snow! People come and go on stage. I like that simple atmosphere free from pretence. Then the audience sits again, the lights soften and, yes, all the Scintilla enters. They tune their instruments and there we go again!!!

Cecilia reappears, with the same black gown. Dash! where is the enticing strapless brassiere she wore in London and maybe in Brussels and Amsterdam? It might be due to the bad weather if we have a diva somewhat less sexy than the one the British had.

Bird songs pervade the Pleyel Hall. A most refined accompaniment weaves itself around the voice which sings quietly her love for freedom in "Felicissima quest'alma". A great feeling of safety pervades me. It's as though I was in a forest, at dusk in summer, when birds entrust the setting sun with secrets wherein to find strength to rise again in the morning. Cecilia gives us her sweetness, her tenderness in a communion from soul to soul...

Then the orchestra starts "Pugneran con noi le stelle" where a furious wife swears revenge. Well, I can tell you an Italian woman in wrath is something impressive. I made myself as inconspicuous as possible.

The Roman mezzo went on with "Ah mio cor" where Alcina wavers between despondency and courage, weariness and firmness, in a true synthesis of our earthly course constantly in suspense between these two. With my depression, I recognize myself completely in this aria, in that deep and staggering voice, conveying an endless despondency which is all-absorbing like a black hole... And suddenly, a wave of energy lifts us up: we would like to undertake everything, we think we have pierced our worst dragons at last, but alas, despair comes back to enclose us with its mist in the twirls of an endless sadness...

To allow Cecilia and us to land after such a Himalaya of emotions, the orchestra launches itself boldly in the march of Julius Caesar.

Ah! comforted, we see a trumpet-player and an oboe-player surrounding the diva for "Destero dall'empia Dite", again an aria speaking of Furies, fearful ghosts and other charming characters. The three accomplices have fun like mischievous sprites in pursuing one another with unrestrained arabesques, and Cecilia concludes with the beautiful gesture of a swordswoman, acting like piercing the trumpet-player! The hall is en fête. Like everybody, I want more of it, more, more!!!

The Beauty doesn't leave us so early. With the fresh and joyous "Bel piacer", the Roman lady heartens us to enjoy love. It's a moment of pure intimacy where Cecilia gives the impression of speaking to everyone like a friend.

She prolongs the concert with "Lascia la spina", "Leave the thorn, pluck the rose", a solemn aria for something quite hard to put into practice at times. Cecilia likes very much this song. I think she had already sung it as an encore at her "Sacrificium" recital in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

But she has to conclude ... and with all magnificence! She tackles the da capo of "Son qual Nave" with a note she intones facing the audience, she maintains by turning towards the back stage and she still extends by revolving again towards Ada Pesch while varying her voice colours, all this in one single breath! It harms my chest, it's as though as I couldn't breathe any more. I am hypnotized, intoxicated by a blending of fright and rapture... And it endures and endures... When at last she breathes, the entranced audience acclaims her, and she must quieten us in order to resume her singing which is like a mountain region with jumps and summits. "Triumph" is a weak word to qualify the applause which unchains then. It's an apotheosis, a grand finale. All the audience offers a standing ovation, acclaiming her. Cecilia bows down, she comes out, comes back, flowers are presented to her...

That flower bunch reminds me the envelope I have brought for her and which contains the poem she has inspired me with, and some other poems. I rush at the stage before she comes out once for all. Yes, the foolish woman who jostled all people acclaiming Cecilia, was myself. The crazy one who gave her a red envelope just before she left the stage, was myself. That being done, in full regression and like a teenager in front of Lady Gaga, I rush to the exit, I run to the artists' entrance where a few persons are already waiting (how did they reach here, I overtook everybody???). The charming official woman in charge of screening the incoming informs us that there is no other exit (for the sake of safety, I hope it's a lie), that Cecilia Bartoli is bound to pass here, that we are going to see her for sure, though it may take some time as she is receiving some persons in her dressing-room, and that nobody knows whether they have planned something or not. O Lord in whom I don't believe, may You be praised during the few millenniums to come, I missed her three times, but this time will be the good time. I am thrilled with relief and also fright. I only hope emotion won't paralyse me too much...

In order to check whether my ball-pen works, I write the time on an underground ticket, 07:50 pm. I pull out "Sacrificium" from my bag and I entreat all the gods ever imagined that she didn't lose my envelope somewhere in the wings. Time advances, other fans arrive, the dismantled harpsichord is taken away, a few people enter, others come out, the pretty Cerberus lady jokes with the firemen on guard. Then a few musicians come with their instruments in hand or on their back: "Bravo! Bravo!", shout the small crowd in gratitude. The harpsichord player Sergio Ciomei passes with a few others, followed by the conductor Ada Pesch much applauded and a few others. The hands of clock go forward and my heart attempts to reproduce the baroque ornamentations with a pretty arrhythmia. People come in and out, the watchwoman is being called on phone, I get upset! At last the door opens on a smiling Cecilia holding a flower pot in her arms. She deposits it on the reception counter close to me. Someone gives her early pictures to sign. Then it's the turn of a man and a few others... Being shy somehow, I wait for the most eager ones to be served, I smile to Cecilia's mother Silvana and I dare finally to give Cecilia my CD, uttering "For Dominique". She signs it with her rounded writing. A lady gives her a magazine, someone else the concert programme. I venture to ask her having a picture with me. She turns towards me and click! I will be able to say for posterity, I was there!

The diva signs, she answers questions, and I launch myself: "May I kiss you?" She turns towards me and we kiss each other. I am longing but for one thing: to hug her, but I don't dare... What makes me shy most is not Cecilia, but the feelings of all the other fans who are waiting for her. The greatest singer of the time is near me, so I owe respect, regard and discretion! Ah! I would like to have her just for me, I would dare telling her so many things: that "Sacrificium" should be burnt on DVD, as the one already released doesn't show the extraordinary exchange happening on stage with the audience, that I hope "Le Comte d'Ory" will be filmed in Zurich on January, etc., but other people are waiting for their autograph, their little words, their photograph, their kisses, and I keep standing there, which is going to be annoying. As a matter of fact, someone, maybe from Decca, asks me, "Do you have anything else to be signed?" So I move back waiting for the ball-pen I lended. Will somebody tell me why I didn't move to take pictures of Cecilia with her fans? Finally my property is returned to me and I go my way while the Fair one exclaims "Emozione!"


  1. Thank you so much Gil for your time and energy to translate this great Story! Always a pleasure to read how fans feel beside her and time flies by..... Koile

    1. Yes Koile, Dominique's story was not so easy to translate, but I have tried my best, in spite of difficulties. Comparatively to that story, yours is quite short, but so moving. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Gil, so nice of you to make this effort, thank you! :)

    1. You are welcome Charlotte. Let me thank Verena who reviewed the first half of my translation so kindly in spite of her being busy. I didn’t translate Dominique’s poem however, as it’s nearly impossible. Your “Thunderstruck!” is not very long, but so nicely written, expressed and felt. Thank you.

  3. Thanks, it's wonderful and beautiful to read this ;)

  4. A présent que j'ai retrouvé une connexion Internet je peux enfin vous remercier pour cette traduction, Gill... Je n'en comprends pas un mot mais l'essentiel est de partager cette expérience avec le plus grand nombre. Peut-être nous croiserons-nous le 17 Avril pour Otello où je retrouverai G-F ?

    1. Etant sans nouvelles de vous Dominique, je me doutais un peu que vous aviez un problème de ce genre. Oui tout le monde a l’air content de pouvoir enfin lire votre récit. D’après Klaus, il m’a fallu escalader l’Everest pour traduire votre Himalaya d’émotions ! Je ne pourrai malheureusement pas assister à Otello en avril, alors je vous souhaite une très belle soirée au TCE. Par contre, je vais voir Artaserse à Versailles le 21 mars.


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