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Sara la baigneuse op. 11 (Hugo / Berlioz)




Sara la baigneuse, like several of Berlioz’s vocal pieces, such as La captive, Zaïde or Le jeune pâtre breton, passed through several different versions and formats. But the first version, composed in 1834 for four male voices and orchestra, disappeared after Narcisse Girard conducted the première in November of that year, as did the second one, for four solo voices, choir and orchestra, premièred in 1840 with Berlioz conducting. So the earliest score that has come down to us is the one of 1849, which was premièred by Berlioz at the Salle Sainte-Cécile on 22 October 1850. It requires unusual forces: three choruses and orchestra. Berlioz clearly intended to take the mélodie genre out of the drawing room setting and into the concert hall, but he also produced a more modest version of the song for two voices (tenor and baritone, or soprano and alto) with piano accompaniment, which was published in 1850. The poem, which, like La captive, is drawn from Hugo’s Les Orientales, focuses on the conventional figure of a beautiful, exotic, sensuous young woman. The music, however, turns out to be much more sophisticated than that of the “romance” of 1832, since it departs from the pre-established formal structures. Highly developed, it follows the narrative, whence the subtitle “ballade” (ballad). It transposes the images contained in the text (the swinging of the hammock, the flow of the water, the woman’s foot gently tapping the water’s surface) and conveys the voluptuous visions of the young bather, whose song takes wing on vocalisations after her dream of being “capitane ou sultane”.

    Image - 1
  • Sara la baigneuse de Berlioz (Fantin-Latour)
  • Persons - 2
  • BERLIOZ, Hector (1803-1869)
  • HUGO, Victor (1802-1885)
  • Theme - 1
  • Victor Hugo et les musiciens romantiques