5. "The Pearl Fishers Duet"
Au fond du temple saint . . . In the depths of the holy temple
Rodolfo sings the role of Nadir, with Escamillo taking the part of his friend Zurga, the Fisher King
At the depths of the holy temple,
decorated with flowers and gold,
a woman appears . . . I can still see her.
A woman appears . . . I can still see her.
The prostrate crowd looks at her amazed
and murmurs under its breath:
Look, this is the goddess
looming up out of the shadow and holding out her arms to us.
Her veil parts slightly; what a vision, what a dream!
The crowd is kneeling.
Yes, it is she, it is the goddess,
more charming and more beautiful;
yes, it is she, it is the goddess,
who has come down among us.
Her veil has parted,
and the crowd is kneeling.
But through the crowd she makes her way
Already, her long veil hides her face from us.
My eyes, alas, seek her in vain.
She flees! But what is this strange flame
which is suddenly kindled within my soul!
What unknown fire is destroying me!
Your hand pushes mine away.
Love takes our hearts by storm
and turns us into enemies.
No, let nothing part us!
Let us swear to remain friends!
Let us swear
Oh yes! Let us swear to remain friends!
We have seen her, she is the goddess
who today led you to me,
and from now I'll keep you my promise,
close as brothers we shall be!
Great goddess, Heaven descended,
she today has led you to me!
Now we shall tread one single path,
never again to part till death!!
French composer Georges Bizet, most famous now for Carmen, wrote The Pearl Fishers when he was just 24 – his first major dramatic work. Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the opera tells the story of how two men's vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess. This friendship duet "Au fond du temple saint", generally known as "The Pearl Fishers Duet", is one of the best-known in Western opera.
After a self-imposed absence, Nadir returns to the shores of Ceylon, where his friend Zurga has just been elected Fisher King by the local pearl fishermen. The two had once fallen in love with the same woman, but then vowed to renounce that love and remain true to each other. On meeting again, they sing this duet, remembering how they first were entranced by a veiled priestess of Brahma whom they saw passing through the adoring crowd.