In one act by GEORGES BIZET.


German Translation by LUDWIG HARTMANN.

Djamileh was composed before Carmen, and was given in Paris in 1872.

But after the years of war and bloodshed, its sweetness was out of

place, and so it was forgotten, until it was revived again in Germany.

Though the text is meagre, the opera had great success on the stages

Berlin, Leipsic, Vienna and Dresden, and so its Publisher, Paul

Choudens in Paris was right, when he remarked years ago to a German

critic: "l'Allemagne un jour comprendra les beautes de Djamileh."

There is no more exquisite music, than the romance of the boatsmen on

the Nile, sung with closed lips at the opening of the first scene, and

the ravishing dance of the Almee, an invention of Arabic origine is so

original, so wild and melancholy and yet so sweet, that it enchants

every musical ear. The plot is very simple and meagre.

Harun, a rich young Turk has enjoyed life to its very dregs. He gives

dinners, plays at dice, he keeps women, but his heart remains cold and

empty, he disbelieves in love, and only cares for absolute freedom in

all his actions, but withal his life seems shallow and devoid of

interest. Every month he engages a new female slave, with whom he

idles away his days, but at the end of this time she is discarded. His

antipathy for love partly arises from the knowledge of his father's

unhappy married life.

At the opening of the scene Harun lies on a couch smoking, too lazy to

move a finger and lulled into dreams by the boatsmen's songs. At last

he rouses himself from his lethargy, and tells his secretary and former

tutor Splendiano of his visions. The latter is looking over his

master's accounts, and now tells him dryly, that, if he continues his

style of living, he will be ruined before the end of the year. This

scarcely moves the young man, to whom a year seems a long way off; he

also takes it cooly, when Splendiano remarks, that the latest

favorite's month is up, and that Djamileh is to leave towards evening,

to make room to another beauty. Harun carelessly charges his servant

to look out for another slave. When Splendiano sees, that Djamileh's

unusual beauty has failed to impress his master, he owns to a tender

feeling for her himself, and asks for permission to win the girl.

Harun readily grants this request; but when he sees Djamileh enter with

sad and dejected looks, he tenderly inquires, what ails her. She

sings him a strange and melancholy "Ghasel" about a girl's love for a

hero, and he easily guesses her secret. In order to console her, he

presents her with a beautiful necklace, and grants her her freedom, at

which she brightens visibly, but refuses it. Harun however has no idea

of losing either heart or liberty, and when some friends visit him, he

turns from her, to join them in a game, leaving her unveiled, and

exposed to their insolent stares and admiration. Djamileh, covered

with confusion, begins to weep, at which Splendiano interposes, trying

to console her by the offer of his hand. Scornfully repulsed by her,

he reveals to her the cruel play of his master, and her approaching

dismissal, and drives her almost to despair. But she resolves to show

her love to her master before she leaves him, and for this purpose

entreats Splendiano to let her disguise herself and personate the new

slave; promising to be his, if her plans should fail, but vowing to

herself, to choose death rather than leave her beloved master. The

evening approaches, and with it the slave-dealer with a whole bevey of

beautiful young girls. Harun turns from them indifferently, ordering

Splendiano to choose for him, but the slave-dealer insists upon showing

up the pearl of his flock, a young Almee, who dances the most weird and

passionate figures until she sinks back exhausted. She is selected,

but Splendiano gives 200 zechines to the dealer, who consents to let

her change clothes with Djamileh. When the latter reenters

Harun's room veiled, he is astonished to find her so shy and sad. In

vain he tries to caress her, she escapes him, but suddenly unveiling

herself, he recognizes her. With wild and passionate entreaty she begs

him to let her be a slave again, as she prefers his presence to freedom

and fortune. At first he hesitates, but true love conquers, and he

takes her in his arms. He has found his heart at last, and owns that

love is stronger and better than any other charm.