MÉRIMÉE MESCOLANZA OSTINATA. Impressions of Asya Lazar ARDOVA to the 210th birthday of Prosper Mérimée
Mérimée Mescolanza Ostinata
Impressions of Asya Lazar Ardova
to the 210th birthday of Prosper Mérimée
Listen to the soundtrack " Mérimée Mescolanza Ostinata” performed by Asya Lazar Ardova (piano) on the page ardSOUND of ardisonata.net.
The historical novel “Chronicle of Charles IX Reign” inspired the French composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (libretto by Eugene Scribe) to create the really grand opera “Les Huguenots”. The state of agitated mind, alarmed by the political controversy and mingled passions is depicted with pulsing rhythm and unpredicted thematic turns from despair to gentle lyricism. As the “Chronicle of Charles IX Reign” reminds some gallant scenes I’ve chosen the pictures of the later period: “Trifling in the Park” by Antoine Watteau (referring to the beginning of the 18th century) and Portrait of Dupont by Thomas Gainsborough (referring to the end of the 18th century). No doubt, these masterpieces were known to Merimee.
“Bernard de Mergy was running his fingers over guitar strings, trying to guess who could be the author of the letter. Finally curiosity invaded him and he accepted the invitation, brought by the old duenna to him..
Entering the door he found himself in a pleasant drawing-room. Mergy flung himself into the arm-chair. His heart was throbbing and pounding like a few days ago before the duel in the Pre aux Clairs street, when his enemy was somewhere near.
The house inside was wrapped in silence, while Bernard’s mind was getting more tense giving way to miraculous illusions. It seemed unbearable, although continued only a quarter of an hour.
His imagination produced now Venus descending from out the wall tapestry and falling into his hands, now countess de Turgis in amazon dress, now princess of the crown, now the gang of robbers. And finally the most horrible vision was that old harridan in love.
Everything was still. No one was expected to come, but quite of a sudden the key was abruptly turned in the keyhole — the door opened then closed, and in a moment the masked woman stood before Bernard.”
The novella “Carmen” (1845) is depicted by Georges Bizet’s music from the opera of the same name (referring to 1875, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy). It appeared after Merimee’s life, and it became the apotheosis of the female freedom, but let’s peep into the eyes of Don Jose, let’s remember his Basque songs, described by the great philologist Prosper Merimee and Georges Bizet’s music will sound the other way for us, revealing most heart-rendering strings of the suffering man with a broken fate —broken by a mere damned bitch… What is it for? Pulsing non-stopped rhythm will answer this question again and again. I resorted to the portrait of a young tailor with expressive bottomless eyes fulfilled by the Italian painter Giovanni Battista Moroni in the 1560ies, but looking extremely modern.
“The time of supper passed, and quite of a sudden I noticed the mandolin hanging on the wall. As mandolins were not popular in Spain, I asked the country-girl, if she could play this instrument.
- No, — she replied. – But Don Jose does it excellently.
- It would be great, if you sing something from your national folklore, – I addressed to him.
- I can’t refuse to a kind man, who entertains such excellent cigars to me, – exclaimed Don Jose vigorously.
Then he started… His passionate singing was accompanied with mandolin’s strains. His voice sounded steadily and rigid, while the melody was dolorous and queer. As for the verses, I couldn’t understand them.
- If I’m not mistaken, supposedly the song resembles the Spanish sorcico, while the verses are Basque.
Don Jose nodded sulkily. He laid the mandolin on the ground and gazed at the extinguishing flame. So sad was his noble severe face, like of Milton’s Satan, who was also pondering of the far land he had to leave once…”
The novella “Lokis” (1969) also belongs to philological adventures and investigations. Merimee tries to explain some psychological states through linguistic conceptions peculiar to this or that languages, even geographic place. He tries to be scrupulous as usually. I translated the previous fragments, but here in the “Lokis” I use the method of Charles Lamb (1775-1784), who retold Shakespeare’s plays long ago. As for the music, there is no music known to me, better depicting this Polish and Lithuanian flavour, than Frederic Chopin’s one with sudden pulsing rhythm and troubled harmony — once and forever troubled. Thus it’s suitable to remember Chopin’s portrait by Eugène Delacroix referring to 1838. Merimee, Chopin and Delacroix were close friends of M-mme George Sand; they spent lot of time in her estate discussing the ways of art and expression. Let me suppose, that the “Lokis” written long time after Chopin’s and Delacroix’ life was Merimee’s recollections about his friends.
“I had a letter with recommendation to Count Mikhail Szemiot. The kind invitation I got from him inspired me to start for his castle Medintiltas near Kovno, for to spend there as much time as I would prefer.
The night was warm. I left the window to the park open. The work with verbs in Lithuanian and Sanscrit carried me away, when my attention was drawn to somebody climbing up the tree. Quite unexpectedly I saw the face of a man, enlightened by my lamp. Our eyes met, and his glance burnt me at once…
In the morning Count Szemiot himself came to me and apologized for the insomnia and curiosity made him climb up to my window, but decency and shame made him escape.
He was a handsome young man, although there was something wild and timid in his eyes. My interest to the local superstitions’ and other folklore legends evoked only his jolly laughter and humorous attitude, but his knowledge of the sacred forest places and far corners with old legends was really awesome…
– Professor, I shall be most delighted to make my library comfortable and useful for your investigations of our ballads and legends, — he said kindly.