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Gluck
Alceste
English
Title Page
Act 1
Act 2
Act 3
French
Synopsis
Italian
Synopsis
Title Page
Act 1
Act 2
Act 3

Act II

 
Scene 1
A dense, dark wood, sacred to the Gods of the Underworld. Night. Alcestis enters with Ismene.
 
Ismene
Stop. Why do you leave
your dying husband,
your children weeping, the realm in grief?
In these lonely retreats of greedy beasts,
how dare you set foot?
With what purpose?
Through what vain hope?
Do you so want to give way,
a prey to grief?
 
Alcestis
Be silent and go.
 
Ismene
But where will you go? Already silent night
spreads its shadows.
We do not know these woods:
an ancient cult makes them sacred,
everyone fears to enter.
Ah! What if, while you ill-advisedly
go wandering here, leaving your husband
death should take him
without you, without your help?
 
Alcestis
Do you not go?
 
Ismene
I shall obey.
 
Alcestis
Leave me alone.
 
Ismene
I go, but hear! hear, O God!
What ever will become of you!
Alcestis, ah, for pity,
speak, answer, speak!
My heart makes me tremble
at what you cannot hide,
but makes me tremble the more
at what you hide from me.
 
Alcestis
Do you not go?
 
Ismene
I go, O God!
My heart makes me tremble, etc.
(Leaves.)
 
 
Scene 2
 
Alcestis
She has gone, I am alone,
Tender feelings,
noble thoughts,
lo, you are free.
But where am I,
in what place am I wandering,
where rashly proceeding?
Ah, what fear these trees breathe!
In what deep dark night
I see myself immersed!
A still, deep silence envelops
the gloomy wood, where I hear
no wind whispering,
no shaken leaf tremble,
no echo cry.
Only these mute horrors
are interrupted at times by the mournful sound
of water that against the rocks
crashes and breaks,
or of the night bird with its hoarse cry.
And amid such terrors
I live, unhappy.
Ah, while there keeps me alive
the love that lives in me,
let the glorious trial come quickly.
Help me, O gods,
now is the moment.
You tyrant of the shades,
you lord of the abyss,
and you of Lethe and you of Phlegethon,
implacable gods that hold sway
in those sad cloisters unknown to the sun,
I call to you, I speak to you.
 
Gods of the Underworld
What do you ask, Alcestis?
 
Alcestis
Who speaks to me? What do I answer?
(There appear in the depth of thegrove several shining ghostly figures.)
Ah, what do I see? Ah, what terror!
Where can I fly, where hide,
I burn, I freeze, and I feel my heart
oppressed in my bosom, fainting,
beating slowly.
I have no voice, I have no tears,
I faint, I die, and in such pain
I  have barely enough strength
to grieve and tremble.
 
Gods of the Underworld
And will you die, O wretched woman,
when youth’s
flower adorns you?
And you allow yourself to be oppressed too much
in hard slavery through blind love.
 
 
 
 
 
Alcestis
Stars!…Who wakes me from that strong lethargy,
in which weakness and fear held me!…
How I find again my first desire!
How different am I from myself!…
O either death the nearer it draws
becomes less horrible;
or dismay in the cruel encounter is less
for one who chooses to lose life;
to my soul are not now so terrible
or so fearful those shades,
those ghosts and those voices.
 
Gods of the Underworld
You can take nothing more
from this courage of yours than empty honour.
Think, O incautious young woman,
he who dies,
never rises again.
 
Alcestis
I know, Gods, I know,
but perhaps my beloved breathes his last,
perhaps from his lips
with his last sighs
my name is heard.
Ah no, save him, let my beloved Admetus live,
and Alcestis carry out the decrees of heaven,
illustrious victim of love and fidelity.
Gods of Avernus, hear
my prayer, great and sacred.
To you, for my husband,
I consecrate myself.
 
Gods of the Underworld
Then come, death receives you,
and shows you the path of Lethe.
The ancient, ancient ferryman
already calls you, cries to you,
hurries you, hurries you,
from the bank.
Come, the ancient, ancient ferryman
cries to you, hurries you,
from the bank.
 
 
Alcestis
Hear me, stop! Ah, too quickly,
Gods, you answer my prayers!
My fate is worthy of pity.
Suffer at least that a wife
and mother receive embrace,
take her last leave
from her husband and her children.
 
Gods of the Underworld
Let it be granted you.
 
Alcestis
Do not be perturbed, no,
merciful gods,
if I leave you
for some moments.
Even without the strength
of my vows,
I shall die of love
and of happiness.
 
(Mime of the Gods of the Underworld)
 
 
Scene 3
(A room in the palace. Courtiers celebrate the unexpected recovery of Admetus.)
 
Courtiers
From the happy place, sad thoughts,
away, fly, fly, away.
May smiling pleasures
return and surround the throne.
 
(Ballet)
 
Evander
Now that death his fury
has taken elsewhere and mourning and weeping,
and the stars are fairer
and for us more happily revolve:
you that have love as a friend,
loving brides, ardent lovers,
garland yourselves
with scented fresh roses and rejoice.
(Ballet)
 
Courtiers
From the happy place, sad thoughts, etc.
 
 
Scene 4
 
Evander
Lord, never more sincere was
the loyal People’s rejoicing.
How the fear of losing you afflicted them!
They love you as father, respect you as ruler:
in you rests their happiness.
No, the People’s delight is not too great,
when from such sad bouts of weeping
and of grief,
pitying our prayers,
heaven restores you.
 
Admetus
From what lethargy, Evander,
I now awake;
and what portent steals me from the tomb!
Still encumbered by images of death
my mind wanders; to other things
my astonished thoughts dare not turn;
suspended still in awful doubt,
I know not if I dream or if I wake.
 
Evander
Ah, live, my king. Happy days
fate promises you.
Entertain more cheerful ideas in your soul;
think of rejoicing. From our love
is granted the life that returns to you;
our weeping has won it from heaven;
one of your dear ones has fulfilled the oracle.
 
Admetus
How! What do I hear?
What did the God say?
 
Evander
The king will die unless another
dies for him.
 
Admetus
Barbarous decree! And you believe…
 
Evander
Yes! You are revived and in a moment.
This is not by chance,
nor by human help;
it is the work of heaven.
There was one, lord,
who offered to die for you;
it is vain to doubt it.
 
Admetus
O too unjust, O strange
wish of the gods!
O famous sacrifice
of a faithful friend!
Evander, he who thus
makes a gift of life,
deserves it more than any other.
And to whom do I owe so much?
 
Evander
It is not clear.
 
Admetus
And Alcestis? And my wife?
Where is she? What is she doing?
Why does she not come to rejoice with me
at this unexpected happiness.
 
Evander
Here is Alcestis.
 
 
Scene 5
(Alcestis, Ismene, and the attendants of Alcestis join them.)
 
Admetus
Adored wife, and yet again
I see you, I am with you, am yours,
I clasp you to my bosom.
Death was painful to me for the love of you;
my beloved Alcestis
I love life so much.
Our dear children may heaven keep,
I only desire
in our sweet bonds
to pass my days, and then
to die in your arms.
 
Alcestis
(Wretched that I am! What shall I say?)
 
Admetus
You do not answer me!
So sadly you greet me!
Every fear for me has gone,
calm your brow, it is time to rejoice.
New portents your presence
brings me. The light of your
loving eyes wakes in my bosom
a sweet ardour that brings me new life.
It is a gift of the gods on high, if this
fragile mortal body still remains for me,
but pleasure in life
is the gift of Alcestis.
 
Alcestis
(O what a moment! O sorrow!)
 
Admetus
Wife! My beloved!
But why do you not embrace me?
But why do you not speak to me?
Ah, what secret sorrow do you hide from me!
How cruel for me is that silence!…
And your frequent turning pale,
your sighing, your looks fixed on heaven,
and then turning to me,
as if you would speak!
What tears run down your face,
that your weary eyes
cannot hold back,
is it love, or is it fear?
 
Ah, why with those tears
do you poison my happiness?
Why? Why?
So I enjoy only a moment
and then always must suffer.
My idol!
 
Alcestis
I feel faint.
 
Admetus
You do not answer.
 
Alcestis
Ah, what torment!
 
Admetus
One look…
 
Alcestis
And without weeping!
 
Admetus
An embrace…
 
Alcestis
O God, the last!
 
Admetus
Ah, listen to me…
 
Alcestis
I freeze, I tremble.
 
Admetus
Only speak…
 
Alcestis
What can I say!
 
Admetus
Your torment is my pain,
you are my hope and my treasure.
 
Alcestis
(A thousand times I seem to die,
before I come to die.)
 
Admetus
Wife! Alcestis! And why is not
your whole heart open to me?
Why am I not now a part
of your happiness, of your sufferings?
 
Alcestis
Ah, do not so afflict your faithful wife!
You live! And in the world there is none
that rejoices more,
and has a better lot than mine.
 
Admetus
But why then are you so troubled?
 
Alcestis
O God! Do not seek to know.
 
Admetus
Does heaven threaten other dangers?
Ah, save Alcestis for me and then let all
its anger be vented on me!
Do you love me?
 
Alcestis
Do I love you?
The gods know it, my heart knows it.
I adore you, I shall adore you.
The tomb will not be able to quench
my unassuming love. My soul
will bear this tender love
to fortunate Elysium.
For your life I would give a thousand lives.
 
Admetus
And our dear children?
 
Alcestis
Do not worry, the children are safe.
 
Admetus
Then how can you fear that fate
which smiles happily on us may change?
I live: you are mine: the children are safe,
and you weep.
 
Alcestis
But you do not know?
But is it unknown to you
what Apollo said?
 
Admetus
I know; I understand you;
there is one who dies for me.
Hear, I understand
the generous vow’s
sublime courage.
Your husband
has learned the price of life;
so great a gift surpasses every thanks!
But if this hero is known to you,
this friend,
this benefactor, reveal it to me:
I swear that for ever on these shores
his name shall live; that to his wife,
to his parents, his children,
I shall always be father, son and husband;
that after you, my life, they will have
the best thoughts of my heart. Speak.
 
Alcestis
O gods!
 
Admetus
You weep?
 
Alcestis
Ah husband!
 
Admetus
Well?
 
Alcestis
It is I.
 
Ismene, Evander
Sacred gods of heaven!
 
Admetus
You, how! Alcestis! You yourself!
O dreadful blow! O black day!
Oh! wretched mistake of an unseeing mind!
You love me and love not yourself,
and purpose to die, to leave me,
to deprive me of yourself.
What have you done?
When ever did I ask you
 
for this proof of love!
When? Answer, speak,
rend my heart!
But where, O God, beyond my sorrow
do my desperate thoughts lead me?
No, human madness cannot so
serve Heaven.
You are mine;
you cannot dispose of yourself,
if I will not agree; your first sacred duty
as wife, as mother, binds you to me;
but when to that cruel vow
the tyranny of frantic love
has driven you,
I shall not live; vain is the gift;
I do not accept it.
 
Alcestis
Husband, there is no more time.
My vows are written in heaven.
Your present state makes it clear,
and never more clearly spoke the god.
 
Admetus

No; always obscurely and always
mysteriously he answers,
I will go up the temple to question again
the deceiving oracle.
The earth shall know my refusal.
I will that it may know, understand
that the gods have no care for innocence
and virtue; that they jest
with unhappy mortals.
In this state I have no more regard
for reason. I lose my fear.
By such dreadful blows
and in so short a time overwhelmed
I hate heaven, I hate the world,
I hate myself.
 
No, cruel one, I  cannot live,
you know it, without you.
You do not save me, but kill me
if so you take from me
the most living, most tender
dear part of my heart.
 
 
 
 
 
And so barbarous a desertion
and the horror of such a farewell
you believe is virtue and call it love!
In my great affliction
every death, O gods, is a gift;
than so wretched a life
there is no worse fate, O God!
No, cruel one, etc.
(He goes out, with Evander.)
 
 
Scene 6
 
Alcestis
O tenderness! O love!
Worthy of a better fate
and too quickly gone!
Ah, the fatal moment already draws near!
Now, now, I feel myself grow faint,
I feel myself grow weak.
The day dazzles me, my breathing grows heavy,
a fire within consumes me.
Beloved Ismene, loving companions,
in my last moments
help me still.
Take from me this wretched finery:
bring me garlands, perfumes,
let the gods have my final offerings.
 
Ismene
O, how quickly in its fair flowering
your pleasant life has fled from you!
 
Courtiers
O, how quickly
your pleasant life has fled from you!
 
Ismene
Like a tender rose that at dawn
is dried up by the cold north wind.
 
Courtiers
O, how quickly, etc.
 
 
 
 
Ismene
And still my heart does not break!
And our suffering, your mercy,
your virtue do not lessen
the injustice of heaven.
 
Alcestis
Be silent; you are wrong to accuse the gods;
you offend Alcestis. I myself
offered myself up voluntarily, and my death
is through devotion, not through force.
My beloved children, let them come to me.
In such pains let a dying mother
have some happiness
in clasping them to her bosom.
And meanwhile you and I offer the gods
vows, and prayers, and do not weep.
 
Ismene
So fair!
 
Courtiers
So young! So chaste! So dear!
Cruel prey to greedy death,
just gods, why should she be?
 
Ismene
That fair face and that fair smile…
 
Courtiers
The splendour of those fair eyes…
Ah why, ah why, merciful gods,
will she be hidden from us for ever?
 
Alcestis (approaching the altar and burning incense)
Vesta, you that were and are
my first guardian spirit,
for your children receive, alas,
my children on this day.
And in you may they find,
when I am a cold, wandering shade,
a mother as loving
as she who died.
 
of such troubles, fearful, dismayed,
it is as if my soul flies from life.
 
All
O, how quickly, etc
 
Alcestis
O chaste, O dear nuptial couch,
my sweet care, my sole love,
while merciful heaven
was willing to defend me
from these dreadful stars,
if you receive another, new wife,
she may be dearer, nay be fairer
than your wretched, dead Alcestis;
but not more tender, nor more faithful.
 
Ismene
So fair, so young,
So yield to the arms of death.
 
Alcestis, Ismene
Amid the laments, amid the tears,
of children and of a husband...
 
All
There is no fate, O God, more barbarous
no suffering more cruel.
 
Ismene
My Queen, here are your children.
(taking the children and bringing them to Alcestis)
 
Alcestis
Beloved pledges of my unassuming love,
tender children, embrace your mother!
Ah, perhaps these are our
last kisses!
In vain I fancied I would be happy
one day in seeing you happy!
I shall not see the marriage torches burn,
nor your happy weddings;
I shall not hear Greece boast
of your glories and your courage.
How cruel a fate for a mother!
My bosom is overwhelmed with weeping,
the surge of sighs
prevents my speech,
and at the thought of so proud a fate,
of such troubles, fearful, dismayed,
it is as if my soul flies from life.
 
Eumelus
Ah, my beloved mother!
O God, you kiss me and you weep!
And would leave me
and speak of dying.
 
Aspasia
Ah, mother beloved!
O God! You embrace me,
my mother, and sigh!
And you would leave me.
 
Eumelus, Aspasia
Wretched that we are!
 
Alcestis
Children, beloved children! O God!
Sadly I must die.
In vain you press against my bosom
and clasp me with your loving arms.
O how quickly
these gentle bonds will be broken!
That mercy, that weeping
can delight me no more…
Come, let us go to your father:
your dying mother entrusts and
commends you to him…
But…what new terrible
thought assails me
that I feel a mortal shiver
in every vein!
Weep, ah yes,
weep, innocent children!
I leave you with uncertain hopes
to a love that could be extinguished
with the passing of years…
There you are, slaves to a mother –
ah, what mother! – mother only in name.
There you are exposed to envy, to suspicion,
to hatred, to so many hidden counsels
of the realm, and jealousy.
You no longer have a mother,
beloved children!
Ah for this now weary heart of mine,
O dear, loving children,
your weary looks that you tenderly turn to me
are so many darts of love!
Already I feel you troubling my rest
when afflicted, bewildered, grieving
you will say: ‘Ah where is our mother,
ah, our mother, ah, our mother is dead.’
The fiercest of all torments is
to be separated from one’s dear children
and leave them amid such dangers,
and leave them weeping so.
 
All
O, how quickly, in its fair flowering
your pleasant life has fled from you!, etc.
 
 
 

 


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11:13:26 PM, 24 April 2014
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