• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Five Sonnets of Louise Labé (1984)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Chester Festival and written for Teresa Cahill

  • 1(pic)1111000hpstr(
  • soprano
  • 20 min

Programme Note

Louise Labé was born in 1522 and died in 1566. She rode to the wars, dressed as an Army captain and probably took part in the siege of Perpignan in 1542. She wrote a quantity of intensely passionate love poetry, and her reputation as a ‘grande amoureuse’ (whether deserved or not), was such that 400 years after her death the authorities of Lyons decided against naming a school for young girls after her. The sonnets are set for soprano, wind quartet, harp and string quintet, and last about 20 minutes. The work was commissioned by the Chester Festival and dedicated to Teresa Cahill.

1. O beaux yeux bruns, ô regards détournés...

O fair brown eyes, averted glances, sighs, tears,
vainly awaited nights, shining days returned in vain.
So many torches consume me, yet only an ember touches you.

2. Je vis, meurs; ie me brûle et me noie...

I live, I die, I burn and I drown.
I suffer terrible sadness mixed with joy.
When I think I have found peace,
Love plunges me into sorrow once again.

3. Tout aussitôt que je commence à prendre...

As soon as I fall asleep, my spirit flies to you.
Sweet sleep, make this dream last, even if it is a lie.

4. Baise m’encore, rebaise-moi et baise...

Kiss me a thousand times and I will return your kisses.
Then each of us, living our separate lives,
will live within the other.

5. Tant que mes yeux pourront larmes épandre...

As long as I can express my love, I am happy to live.
But when I am no longer able to show any sign of love,
then I shall beg for death.