The Pearl Fishers
Famous opera duets
The operatic duet, particularly in Italian repertoire of thenineteenth century, assumed great importance, often in an established, formalpattern. Here great emotions of love or anger, friendship or rivalry, could begiven full expression.  The Pearl Fishers' Duet, from which the presentcollection takes its title, is from the 1863 opera Les p?¬cheurs de perles (ThePearl Fishers) by the French composer Georges Bizet. Set in Ceylon, the plotdeals with the love of Zurga, leader of the fishermen, and of his friend Nadir,baritone and tenor respectively, for the beautiful Le?»la, a priestess ofBrahma. In the first act duet Au fond du temple saint (In the depths of theholy temple) the two men recall the beauty of the girl they had once seen andwhose pursuit they had both sworn to abandon, to preserve their own friendship.Nadir and Le?»la are reunited, but their love, forbidden by Le?»la's vocation, isdiscovered and both are to be put to death, until Zurga decrees mercy. When theHigh Priest reveals Le?»la's identity, Zurga is furious, but later engineers thelovers' escape.
Three duets are drawn from Giacomo Puccini's well knownopera La Boh?¿me (Bohemian Life), first staged in Turin in 1896. A group ofimpoverished young artists share a garret in the Latin Quarter of Paris. There,when the others have left to celebrate money one of them has earned, the poetRodolfo meets the little seamstress Mim?¼, who comes to ask for a light for hercandle.  The couple fall in love, expressed at its optimistic height in theduet O soave fanciulla (O sweet girl). Later the lovers part, theirrelationship contrasted with the stormy affair between the painter Marcello andhis coquettish Musetta.  In their garret once more Rodolfo tells Marcellothat he has seen Musetta riding in a carriage, In un coupe, and finely dressed,caring more for what money can buy her than for love. Marcello counters bytelling Rodolfo that he has seen Mim?¼, riding in a carriage, dressed up like aqueen. Both men are secretly still in love and treasure keepsakes from theirmistresses. This, the fourth act, ends with the return of Mim?¼, now dying ofconsumption, and her death in Rodolfo's arms. The third act had suggested thepossible outcome. Outside a tavern by a toll-gate entrance to Paris, Mim?¼ hascome to look for Rodolfo.  She greets Marcello, Speravo di trovarti qui (Ihoped to find you here). He tells her how he earns money by painting, whileMusetta teaches customers in the tavern to sing. He advises her not to think ofRodolfo, who has left her out of jealousy. In the following passage Rodolfojoins Marcello, while Mim?¼ remains hidden, and explains that he had parted fromher because of her increasing illness and his inability to provide for her.
For reasons quite unoperatic the Flower Duet from the operaLakme, by Leo Delibes, has won wide popularity. The opera, first staged inParis in 1883, is exotic in its Indian setting. Lakme, daughter of the Brahminpriest Nilakantha, falls in love with the English officer Gerald. Wounded,through the machinations of Nilakantha, Gerald is carried into the forest, tobe tended by Lakme. When she realises that he is torn by loyalty to hisregiment, she poisons herself.
 In the first act duet D??me epais, le jasmin (Thickcanopy of jasmine) Lakme and her slave Mallika sing as they prepare to bathe inthe idyllic temple garden.
Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata, first mounted in Venice in1853, centres on the love of Alfredo for the fashionable courtesan Violetta.The intervention of Alfredo's father persuades her to give her lover up,although she unselfishly refuses to reveal her reasons for this. The couple areonly re-united when, misunderstandings over, Violetta is dying of consumption. The duet Un d?¼ felice (One happy day), in the first act, allows Alfredo toexpress his love, while Violetta urges him not to think of her, as she has onlylight-hearted friendship to offer him.
Puccini's opera of 1904, Madama Butterfly, contrasts theyoung girl of the title, in an exotic Japanese setting, with the unscrupulousAmerican whom she marries, she in all seriousness, he without intending apermanent relationship.  The wedding has been disrupted by the anger of heruncle at the match with a foreigner, but when they are left alone at their newhouse above the port of Nagasaki it seems a time for love. In Viene la sera(The evening draws on) Butterfly and Pinkerton sing of their apparenthappiness.
Gaetano Donizetti's opera L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir ofLove) was first staged in Milan in 1832. The plot deals with the love of thena?»ve young peasant Nemorino for the farm-owner Adina, her flirtation with therecruiting sergeant Belcore, and the activities of the quack doctor Dulcamara,whose supposed elixir, aided by a legacy from the boy's uncle, makes Nemorinoan attractive proposition.  Anxious to have a second dose of the elixir tosecure the affections of Adina, Nemorino raises money by enlisting, for Ventiscudi (Twenty scudi) in Belcore's regiment, assured by Belcore that this stepwill bring him honour, glory, and love. Adina eventually relents and acceptsNemorino, buying him out of the army.
Tosca, an opera of political duplicity and murder, completedby Puccini in 1900, implicates the famous singer of the title in her lover, thepainter Cavaradossi's involvement with revolutionaries. The lascivious Chief ofPolice, Baron Scarpia, promises to release his prisoner Cavaradossi in returnfor Tosca's compliance with his wishes. She pretends to agree, secures alaissez-passer and murders Scarpia, only to find, in the end, that Scarpia hasdeceived her: the mock execution of her lover is carried out in earnest, andshe leaps to her death from the battlements of the prison.  In the first actof the opera Tosca calls out to her lover, entering the church where he ispainting, forcing the fugitive revolutionary Angelotti to hide. She issuspicious, having heard voices, but agrees that they should meet that eveningat Cavaradossi's villa.
The elaborate plot of Verdi's 1862 opera La forza deldestino (The Power of Fate) pits Don Alvaro against Don Carlo, the brother ofhis beloved Leonora, whose father he has killed. The two meet again, whenAlvaro, unaware of Carlo's identity, saves his life, but their final fatalmeeting takes place a few years later. Alvaro, now Father Raffaele in a remotemonastery, is induced to fight a duel with Carlo, whom he kills, but not beforeDon Carlo has been able to kill his sister Leonora, who has been living as ahermit nearby.  In the duet Solenne in quest'ora (In this solemn hour), Alvaro,having saved Carlo's life, is wounded in battle and begs his new friend, whoseidentity he does not suspect, to burn documents he has, without reading them,in the event of his death.
Puccini's Manon Lescaut, first staged in Turin in 1893,takes the story of the heroine of the title, who elopes with the Chevalier DesGrieux, only to desert him for the rich old man Geronte, in accordance with herbrother's earlier plans. Des Grieux, now enriched, returns to her life. Sheplans to leave Geronte, delaying to gather together the jewels he has bestowedon her, but is denounced by Geronte as an immoral woman, and sentenced tobanishment. Des Grieux follows her to her exile in the American wilderness,where she dies in his arms.  In the duet O sar?? la pi?? bella (Oh, I shallbe the most beautiful) Manon admires herself in the mirror, preparing to go outwith Geronte. She is interrupted by Des Grieux, returning to her life, and asksif he can forgive her faithlessness. While she begs his forgiveness, their oldlove revives