The Portrait of Massenet’s Aria EN FERMANT LES YEUX
Read Interesting facts and hear great YouTube Videos about the famous Aria “EN FERMANT LES YEUX”.
The Aria – Synopsis & Background
Synopsis: The visitor leave the apartment and Des Grieux dreams of a life for two. He dreams of a place where he and Manon can be happy.
The dream aria is one of the most famous arias of the standard tenor repertoire. It requires an incredible finesse and precision, not only in pitch, but also in resonance and breath. Massenet has ennobled this delicate piano aria with an enchanting orchestral accompaniment. It requires the ability to sing a great sustained piano line. “The orchestral accompaniment captivates with its high iridescent muted violins, to which Massenet adds even more brightness with flute and oboe. It is composed without basses and the tenor melody is also reserved, giving the impression that the aria can take off at any moment.” (Abbate).
The Aria – the text of En fermant les yeux
En fermant les yeux, je vois là-bas une humble retraite,
une maisonnette toute blanche au fond des bois!
Sous ses tranquilles ombrages,
les clairs et joyeux ruisseaux,
où se mirent les feuillages,
chantent avec les oiseaux!
C’est le Paradis!
Oh! non! Tout est là triste et morose,
car il y manque une chose:
il y faut encor Manon!
C’est un rêve, une folie!
Non! là sera notre vie,
si tu le veux, ô Manon!
Vocal fach “lyric tenor”
The role of Des Grieux is written for a lyric tenor. The lyric tenor has a soft, melting voice. The voice must be rich and agile in melodic creation. He can reach the high notes with ease and create a beautiful sound. The lyrical tenor must be able to sing both intimate pieces and more exciting pieces convincingly.
Famous interpretations of En fermant mes yeux
Listen to this aria in a simply great interpretation by Jussi Björling. Note the wonderful and expressive ritardando at about 2:00 or the breathtaking diminuendo at the end.
En fermant les yeux (1) – Björling
Björling is considered by many to be the best Verdi tenor of the 20th century. Unfortunately, he never sang Manon on stage.
Next you’ll hear a recording with a tenor from our day. Jonas Kaufmann, a great Werther, has also sung Manon with great success. He gives the aria a melancholic character with his dark baritonal tenor voice.
En fermant les yeux (2) – Kaufmann
and a last version by Nicolai Gedda.
En fermant les yeux (3) – Gedda
Two outstanding recordings from the good old days
If you still haven’t had enough of this piece, you can listen to the dream aria in two more versions. They are great vocal testimonies of two tenors of the golden era.
Let’s start with the legendary 1902 recording of Enrico Caruso. Caruso recorded his very first eight pieces for the record in Milan. It meant the start of a great record career. This aria belongs to this first series. He recorded the piece under the Italian title “chiudi gli occhi” with piano accompaniment. A special treat: he ennobled the piece with one of his famous Caruso sobs.
En fermant les yeux (4) – Caruso
If you want to hear more about the legendary Caruso recordings then I recommend a podcast with a Caruso anecdote. (https://soundcloud.com/user-259769732/anecdote-011-how-enrico-caruso-made-the-most-expensive-record-in-history-from-a-failed-marriage; or select the Itunes Podcast “Anecdotes of the Opera World” episode 11)
Finally, I recommend that you listen to this piece in Julius Patzak’s interpretation. Somewhat slower in tempo and with great vocal intensity; goose skin guaranteed. Kesting describes Patzak’s voice as follows: “He possessed a small, slightly nasally tinted voice of a totally unmistakable timbre – not beautiful, but expressive, sensual and painfully beautiful. She is a voice that penetrates into the depths of the heart.”
En fermant yes yeux (5) – Patzak
Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide to En fermant yes yeux from the opera Manon