Friday, November 25, 2011

Sunday Classics preview: Verdi's Jago -- "I believe in a cruel God who created me in his image"


Bryn Terfel sings Jago's "Credo" with Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, on "Italian Night" at Berlin's Waldb├╝hne, 1996.
JAGO [gazing after CASSIO]: Go then;
I see your end already.
Your evil genius drives you on,
and I am your evil genius.
And my drags me on, implacable God
in whom I believe.
[Moving away from the balcony, no longer looking at CASSIO, who disappears through the trees.]
I believe in a cruel God who has created me
in his image and whom, in hate, I call upon.
me like himself; cruel and vile he made me.
From some vile germ or base atom
was I born.
I am evil
because I am a man;
and I feel the primeval slime in me.
Yes! This is my creed!
I believe with a firm heart,
just as does the young widow in church,
that the evil I think and which from me proceeds
was decreed for me by fate.
I believe that the honest man is a mocking buffoon,
and in his face and in his heart,
everything in him is a lie:
tears, kisses, glances,
sacrifice and honor.
And I believe man to be
the sport of a wicked fate,
from the germ of the cradle
to the worm of the grave.
And after this derision comes Death.
And then? And then?
Death is nothingness.
Heaven is an old wives' tale.
-- translation by Gwyn Morris (with Andrew Porter)

by Ken

It's unquestionably true that the most conspicuous deviation from Shakespeare in Verdi and Boito's Otello is the monologue in which Jago announces, "I believe in a cruel god who created me in his likeness." This is widely commentated to be: (a) an attempted "explanation" of Jago's villainous behavior and (b) a regrettable "simplification" of the character. Of course it isn't either of those things, and that's going to be the subject of this week's Sunday Classics post.



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