Ah! lève-toi, soleil!Fait pâlir les étoilesQui, dans l'azur sans voiles,Brillent au firmament.Just 4 lines of Romeo's famous aria, L'amour, l'amour!...Ah! lève-toi, soleil!
I've been a fan of Gounod's opera interpretation of Shakespeare's tragic lovers RnJ, but yesterday something brought it to my attention, again. Somebody (on a TV program) describes the aria as "Romeo waiting for the sun to rise so he can see his beloved again."
How huge the difference is between what Shakespeare expressed in his play and this tenor understands through the libretto I rushed to the Aria Database website and checked the lyric of the aria again. Today, I'd like to discuss it with you guys here.
The scene opens with Romeo, under Juliet's balcony, trying to express his feelings, the love that he experiences after much heart break in his previous unrequited love story, while hiding himself in the dark, avoiding any contact with both his friends and the Capulets. Mercutio and his other friends, try to look for with without success, mock him for his love to Rosalind. They finally say, "Let love guide his steps."
The aria starts right after that. Romeo expresses how his heart is troubled by his new-found love. But something distracts him.
Mais quelle soudaine clarté (But, what sudden light)
Resplendit à cette fenêtre? (Dazzles at that window?)
C'est là que dans la nuit (It is there that in the night)
Rayonne sa beauté! (Radiates her beauty!)
Above is the libretto and its translation. The famous Shakespearean soliloquy only consists of two lines.
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
"Ah!" I thought. "That's the problem." The French libretto implies that Romeo refers to Juliet as the sun, although Shakespeare more clearly expresses it in his play.
The aria continues with the lines at the beginning of this post. "Arise, sun, make pale the stars, etc."
I love this aria, forever. But what happens above shows the importance of going back to Shakespeare again no matter what interpretation of it you are doing. For me, Romeo and Juliet's ballet and opera enrich the emotion that Shakespeare tried to bind into his characters, and therefore consulting Shakespeare in this regard will complete the understanding of the artist in portraying the character itself.