Choruses for Athalie by Jean-Baptiste Racine (1639-1699)



On February 25, 1804 the following announcement appeared in the Diario de Madrid:


In the theatre of the Caños del Peral, at 7:30 in the evening will be presented, for the first time, Racine’s tragedy in five acts, entitled Athalie, translated by the most excellent Señor Don Eugenio Llaguno y Amirola. The choruses, composed of thirty persons of both sexes, come between and divide the acts; every effort has been made that the costumes as well as the decoration of the hall have the greatest propriety and decency possible. The latter has been executed by Don Melchor Sánchez, painter of the theatre, and the choruses by Señor Manuel García.


García had been first tenor and director of opera for Madrid’s theatres since 1802 while the famous actor Isidoro Maiquez (1768-1820) was the director of spoken drama: they were friends and often worked together. Thus, García prepared the choruses for Racine’s Athalie as well as Esther, both directed by Maiquez and performed during the Lenten season of 1804.


The Spanish translation used in the 1804 performances is available on the internet (Atalía) and so it is possible to reconstruct the scenes in which the choruses were interpolated.


The story of Athalie:

Here is a plot summary (from Wikipedia):


Athalie, widow of the king of Judah, rules the country and believes she has eliminated all the rest of the royal family. She has abandoned the Jewish religion for the worship of Baal. However, the late king's grand-son Joash was rescued by the wife of the high priest.


    * Act 1 - Joad, the Jewish high priest, ensures Abner, a military officer, that he would support a possible descendant of the king of Judah if he appeared. Then he agrees with his wife Jehoshebath to reveal the existence of Joash and dethrone Athalie, thus bringing the country back to the true religion.

    * Act 2 - Athalie goes into the Jewish temple and finds a baby she has seen in a dream. She does not know that this child is Joash. She asked Joad to bring the child and she invites him to come live with her at the palace. But Joash, was educated in the Jewish religion by the high priest.

    * Act 3 - Fearing a plot by Joad, Athalie wants Joash sent as a hostage. The high priest is preparing to proclaim Joash as king to hasten things.

    * Act 4 - Joash reveals he is the descendant and successor of the kings of Judah. The priests barricade the Temple.

    * Act 5 - Athalie prepares to dislodge the rebels from the Temple. She comes to claim the child. Joad tells her that he is Joash. Outside, the attackers panic and flee. Joad executes Athalie.

This is an early work (García was 29 years old) so it is written in a somewhat "adolescent" 18th-century style. Nonetheless, the choruses would have worked well in the archaic Racine tragedy. There are some nice touches: the pianissimo ending of the 1st chorus; a wild deceptive cadence at m. 64 of the 2d chorus (which may be an error, but it seems clearly written in the parts); the clarinet solo in the 3rd chorus; the strange wind trio that accompanies the 4th chorus; the voice interchange on p. 37 of the 5th chorus.

The following presents García's choruses (indicated by bold type) within the context of the play.

ATHALIE, by Jean Racine (1691).

Translation of the original French by Eugenio de Llaguno y Amírola, 1754.

English translation by J. Radomski, 2010.

                                                                         [Racine, Athalie, Act 1, scene 3]
JOSABET                                                       JEHOSHABEATH

Ya la trompa sagrada                                       I hear already the sacred trumpet:

Escucho: en breve al Templo                          Soon entrance

Permitirán la entrada.                                      into the Temple will be permitted.

Vosotras, entretanto                                        You [women], meanwhile,

Que me dispongo, bendecid humildes            as I prepare to march: humbly bless

Al Dios a quien buscais con vuestro canto.    the God whom you seek with your song.


Coro 1o en la Atalía                                Chorus No. 1 in Athaliah

                                                                  [Racine, Athalie, Act 1, scene 4]


De su magnificencia                                      The universe is filled

Lleno está el universo.                                  With His magnificence.


En vano injusta fuerza                                 In vain does an unjust force

Querrá imponer silencio                             Wish to impose silence

Al pueblo que le alaba:                                Upon the people who praise Him:

No morirá su nombre sempiterno.             His eternal name will not die.


El día anuncia al día                                    Day announces to the day

Su gloria y brazo excelso.                            His glory and lofty arm.


De su magnificencia                                      The universe is filled

Lleno está el universo.                                   With His magnificence.


A revelar venía                                              He came to reveal

Sus divinos preceptos,                                  His divine precepts,

Sus luces immortales                                    His immortal light

A los felices hijos del Hebreo.                      to the happy children of the Hebrews.


De su magnificencia                                      The universe is filled

Lleno está el universo                                    With His magnificence.


Coro 2o en la Atalía                               Chorus No. 2 in Athaliah

                                                                 [Racine, Athalie, Act 2, scene 8]


JOYADA                                                        JEHOIADA

Abrazando a Joás.                                          Embracing Joash.

Abnér amado,                                                  Beloved Abner,

Siempre me encontrarás agradecido               You will forever find me grateful

A tu importante obsequio. Que te acuerdes    For your important favor. I beg you

Te ruego de la hora señalada.                          to remember the appoined hour.

Y nosotros a quienes esa fiera                         And we, whose prayer that

Sacrilega muger, reina homicida,                    wicked and sacriligeous woman,

Perturbó la oración, y mancillada                    homicidal queen, disturbed;

Dejó la vista con mirarla solo,                         and whose vision was blemished

Entremos donde con la sangre pura,                just by seeing her;

Por mis manos vertida,                                     Let us enter where pure blood,

Lave aun el marmol que pisó atrevida.            shed by my hands,

                                                                          May cleanse even the marble

                                                                          upon which she trod.


El coro                                                            Chorus

¡Qué luminosa estrella                                 What a luminous star

A nuestros ojos brilla!                                  Shines before our eyes!

Ninõ tan admirable                                       Such an admirable child:

¿Qué será en algun día?                               What will he be one day?


¿Quién de tu nacimiento                             Who can tell us

Nos podrá dar noticia?                                of your birth?


Dichoso tu mil veces,                                    A thousand times happy,

Niño, a quien Dios estima:                           Child, whom God favors:


Dichoso, pues Él propio                                Happy, for He Himself

de instruirte se digna.                                   Deigns to teach you.


Coro 3o en la Atalía                               Chorus No. 3 in Athaliah

                                                                 [Racine, Athalie, Act 3, scene 7]


¡O vosotros levitas! mis acentos                     O, ye Levites! Accompany now

Y agitación acompañad ahora                         My words and turmoil

Con vuestros harmoniosos instrumentos.       With your harmonious instruments.


(El coro canta al son de la música                 (The chorus sings to the sound

de los levitas.)                                                 of the Levites' music.)


Escúchense las voces                                    Listen to the voices

Del Señor, y su oráculo divino.                    of the Lord and his divine oracle.

Sea en los corazones                                     May there be in your hearts

Lo que con el rocío                                       That which, with dew,

Es en la primavera                                        the fresh morning is to

A tierna planta el fresco matutino.              the tender plant in spring.


JOYADA                                                         JEHOIADA

Cielo, atiende a mi voz; y las palabras            Heaven, heed my voice; and

Que salen de mi boca escucha, o tierra.           listen to the words that come

                                                                          forth from my mouth, O Earth.

No digas ya, Jacob, que el Señor duerme:       Do not say, Jacob, that the Lord sleeps:

Pecadores, huid, que Dios despierta.                Sinners flee, for the Lord awakes.


(Suenan los instrumentos, y Joyada                (The instruments sound, and Jehoiada

prosigue)                                                          continues)

¿Cómo se ha transformado                              How has the most precious gold [Joash]

En plomo vil el oro1 más precioso?                 been transformed into vile lead?

¿Qué pontífice2 veo degollado                        What priest [Zechariah] do I see slain

En este sacro sitio? Llora, impía                      in this holy place? Weep, impious

Jerusalem, ciudad pérfida: llora,                      Jerusalem, faithless city: weep,

Desdichada homicida de profetas.                   wretched murderer of prophets.

Tu Dios de aquel amor que te tenía                  God has taken away the love He had

Se ha desnudado, y es tu incienso ahora           for you; and your incense is now

Para sus ojos holocausto impuro.                      an impure holocaust before His eyes.


    ¿A dónde aquesos niños,3                                       Whither do you lead those

Y esas mujeres conducis atados?                      bound children and women?  

El Señor a la reina ha destruído                        The Lord has destroyed the queen

De las ciudades. Y sus sacerdotes                     of cities. And her priests

Se ven siervos, sus reyes desechados.               have become slaves, her kings dethroned.

A sus solemnidades ya no gusta                        It no longer pleases her God that people

Su Dios que vengan gentes.                               come to her solemnities.

Trastornate tu Templo: arrojad llamas,              Tear down your Temple; throw flames,

¡O cedros eminentes!                                         O great cedars!

    Jerusalem, objeto de mi llanto,                        Jerusalem, object of my weeping:

¿Qué manos te quitaron en un día                     What hands took away, in one day,

Tu gracia y hermosura?                                     Your grace and beauty?

Quien trocára mis ojos en dos fuentes               Who will turn my eyes into two fountains

para poder llorar tu desventura!                         that I might weep over your misfortune?


AZARIAS                                                          AZARIAH

¡O santo Templo!                                               O holy Temple!


JOSABET                                                           JEHOSHABEATH

¡O Rey David!                                                    O King David!


Coro 4o en la Atalía                                  Chorus No. 4 in Athaliah

                                                                    [Racine, Athalie, Act 3, scene 7]


    No olvides tus piedades,                                   Do not forget your kindnesses,

Dios de Sion,                                                     God of Sion,

No olvides tus piedades.                                   Do not forget your kindnesses.


(Vuelven a sonar los instrumentos, y a               (The instruments sound again and,

breve rato los interrumpe Joyada.)                    after a short while, Joad interrupts them.)


JOAD                                                                 JEHOIADA

¿Qué Jerusalem4 nueva                                       What new Jerusalem appears

De lo escondido del desierto sale                        from hiding in the desert,

Llena de luz y de esplendor, que lleva                full of light and splendor, which bears

Una immortal señal sobre su frente?                   an immortal sign on her forehead?

¡Cantad, cantad, o pueblos de la tierra!              Sing, sing, O peoples of the earth!

Jerusalem renace                                                 Jerusalem is reborn

Más atractiva, hermosa y excelente.                   more attractive, beautiful and excellent.

¿De dónde la ha venido copia tanta5                   Whence comes such abundance

De hijos en sus entrañas no engendrados?          of children not born in her womb?

                                                                            [i.e. Gentiles]

Jerusalem, levanta ya, levanta                             Jerusalem raise, yes, raise

La eminente cabeza, y de tu gloria                      your eminent head and you shall behold

Mirarás esos reyes admirados.                            those kings who admire your glory.

A los reyes verás de las naciones                        You shall see the kings of nations

Besar el polvo que tocó tu planta,                       kiss the dust that you trod,

En tu presencia humildes y postrados.                humble and prostrate in your presence.

Los pueblos, las naciones a porfía                      The people, the nations, insistently

A gozar corren de tu luz sin tasa.                       run to enjoy your light beyond measure.

Dichoso el que con santo fervor sienta               Happy the one who, with holy fervor,

Que por Sion el alma se le abraza!                     Feels that from Sion his soul is embraced.

    Vierte, cielo, el rocío                                          Pour down, heaven, the dew

    Que en tu seno se encierra,                                That in your breast is enclosed.

Y al Salvador produzcanos la tierra.                   And may the earth bring forth our Savior.


Coro 5o en la Atalía                                   Chorus No. 5 in Athaliah

                                                                     [Racine, Athalie, Act 3, scene 8]


SALOMIT                                                          SALOME


Dios de hablar a su pueblo se ha dignado:          God has deigned to speak to his people;

Mas ¿quién podrá explicarnos lo que advierte    But who can explain to us that which

A su profeta? ¿Quién podrá decirnos                  He reveals to His prophet? Who can tell us

Si a destriurnos, o a ampararnos viene?              whether he comes to destroy us or to help us?


Llegó de Sion                                                    The end has come to Sion,

El fin, y la ardiente                                           and the burning flame

Llama su ornamento                                        turns her splendor

En cenizas vuelve.                                             to ashes.


A Sion ampara                                                   Sion is protected

Su Señor clemente,                                            by her merciful Lord,

Y por fundamento                                             and has as a foundation

Su palabra tiene.                                               His word.


A un abismo veo                                                I see Sion descend

Que Sion desciende.                                          into an abyss.


Sion a los cielos                                                 Sion ascends to Heaven      

Llega con su frente.                                          with her head raised.


¡O qué tristes voces                                         Oh, what sad voices

Mis oídos sienten!                                            come to my ears!


¡O qué victoriosos                                           Oh, what victorious

Cánticos alegres!                                             songs of joy!


En su amor antiguo                                          Let us always hope

Esperemos siempre6:                                        in his ancient love:

Su cólera es justo                                              It is just to reverently

Temer reverentes.                                             fear his anger.


¡O qué tristes voces                                          Oh, what sad voices

Mis oídos sienten!                                            come to my ears!


¡O qué victoriosos                                             Oh, what victorious

Cánticos alegres!                                              songs of joy!


¡Oh qué abatimiento!                                      Oh, what humiliation!


¡Qué gloria celeste!7                                        What heavely glory!


A Sion ampara                                                 Sion is protected

Su Señor clemente,                                          by her merciful Lord,

Y por fundamento                                           and has as a foundation

Su palabra tiene.                                              His word.



3Cautividad de Babilonía.

4La Iglesia.

5Los Gentiles.

6Llaguno has "fieles" instead of "siempre".

7Llaguno has "perene" instead of "celeste".

This music is for personal use only. All copyright restrictions apply.

Coro 1o en la Atalía
Coro 2o en la Atalía
Coro 3o en la Atalía
Coro 4o en la Atalía

Coro 5o en la Atalía

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