Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
soprano Elissa Alvarez
pianist Eunmi Ko
We are happy to celebrate the legacy of Pauline Viardot this summer as her 200th birthday approaches July 18th!
Though this composition first appeared in publication in 1890, it is not certain when it was originally written. Despite highest praise and regard, from fans and famed colleagues alike, Pauline Viardot never identified herself as primarily a composer. Born into a well-known musical family in Spain in 1821, Pauline Viardot emerged as a famous musician and performer in her own right by the age of seventeen when she made her operatic debut in Rossini's Otello. She studied composition with Anton Reicha and piano with Franz Liszt and ran in Parisian circles with Berlioz, Gounod, Meyerbeer, and Saint-Saëns, among others. With over 100 vocal works, Viardot's compositions varied greatly in style. She was an accomplished pianist and was known for her gifts as a great singing actress; these elements of pianistic and vocal drama are on display in "Le rêve de Jésus," with poetry by Stéphan Bordèse. The song, in which Jesus describes a premonition of his own persecution, expands to near scena proportions as the initial, gentle melody gives way to description of the terrifying dream itself. At the close of the nightmare, the original, sweet melody returns, an act of self-soothing for narrator and providing melancholic reflection for the listener.