The Libretto and Translation for “Voices of Light”

VOICES OF LIGHT
An Opera/ Oratorio Inspired by Carl Dreyer’s Film The Passion of Joan of Arc

LIBRETTO by Richard Einhorn

The libretto for Voices of Light is a patchwork of visions, fantasies, and reflections assembled from various ancient sources, notably the writings of medieval female mystics. The texts may be thought of as representing the spiritual, political and metaphorical womb in which Joan was conceived.

1. PRELUDE

[Exclamavit autem voce magna…] “Deus aeterne, qui absconditorum es cognitor, qui nosti omnia antequam fiant, tu scis quoniam falsum testimonium tulerunt contra me; et ecce morior, cum nihil horum fecerim quae isti malitiose composuerunt adversum me.”

[She cried out in a loud voice] “Everlasting God, who knows things hidden and all things before they happen, you know they have borne false witness against me; and see! I die, although I am innocent of everything their malice has invented against me.”
Daniel 13:42

Thronus…flammae ignis;  Rotae eius ignis accensus. Fluvius igneus rapidusque egrediebatur a facie eius;
Millia millium ministrabant, et decies millies centena millia assistebant… Iudicium sedit, et libri aperti sunt.

[His] throne..was ablaze with flames; His wheels were a burning fire. A swift river of fire came forth from his countenance. A thousand thousand waited upon him. Ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood by. The court sat, and the books were opened.
Daniel 7:9

2. VICTORY AT ORLEANS
(LETTER FROM JOAN OF ARC)

Jehanne…la Pucelle vous fait savoir des nouvelles de par decha que en VIII jours elle a cachie les Angloix hors de toutez les places quilz tenoient sur le revire de Loire par assaut et autrement ou il en eu mains mors et prins et lez a desconfis en bataille[…]le frere du conte de Suffort et Glasias mors.

Je vous promectz et certifie[…]en toultes les villes quy doibvent estre du sainct royaume[…]quy que vyenne contre. Car Dieu, le Roy du ciel, le veult, et cela est révélé par la Pucelle…

Jehanne…the Maid sends you news from these parts: that in one week she has chased the English out of all the places that they held along the Loire river, either by assault or otherwise, in which encounters many English were killed and captured and she has routed them in a pitched battle. A brother of the Earl of Suffolk’s and Glasdale were killed.

I promise and assure you [that we will take possession] of all the cities that must belong to [our] holy realm … in spite of all opposition! So God King of Heaven, wills it; and so it has been revealed by the Maid…

 

3. INTERROGATION

HOMASSE!    Masculine Woman! (Medieval slur directed at women)

Hee! quel honneur au femenin sexe!…Par qui tout le regne ert desert, par femme est sours et recouvert.

Oh! What an honor for the feminine sex!…This entire realm, once lost by [wretched men], restored and saved by a woman again!  Christine de Pizan, 1429, one of the earliest known feminist writers.

Virtutem…mysterium secretarum et admirandarum visionum a puellari aetate…essem usque ad praesens tempus mirabili modo in me senseram …

From my girlhood to the present time, in a wondrous fashion I have felt in myself the power and mystery of secret and wonderful visions…St. Hildegard of Bingen, mystic, poet, and composer from the early 12th Century.

HOMASSE!    Masculine Woman!

Une fillete…A qui armes ne sont pesans…et devant elle vont fuyant
les ennemis, ne nul n’y dure.

A little girl …upon whom arms and armor weigh lightly; …before her all foes take off at a run, of them none remains, not even a one.
Christine de Pizan

«Velis aut nolis haec erit tuum.  Ego scio quid elegi»    

“Whether or not you wish it, this will be yours.  I know what I have chosen.”
Na Prous Boneta, 14th Century French heretic who was burned at the stake.

Ex nemore canuto puella eliminabitur ut medelae curam adhibeat.

Out of an oak forest a girl will be sent forth to bring healing.
Ancient prophecy of Merlin thought to refer to Joan of Arc’s mission.

Non induetur mulier veste virili, nec vir utetur veste feminea: abominabilis enim apud Deum est qui facit haec.  

A woman shall not  wear the clothes of a man, nor a man the clothes of a woman, for abominable in the eyes of  God are those who do so. Deuteronomy 22:5

4. THE JAILERS

Tant y a feme scet bon taire. Feme a un cuer par heritage qui ne puet estre en un estage. Or est sauvage, or est privee; ore veult paiz, or veult meslee;

Femme engine en poi d’ure dount un[e] tere tout ploure. Que qui aime et croit fole fame gaste son temps, pert corps et ame. Ore vous ai dit de lur vies, fuoums de lur cumpaignies.

When it comes to women, men, hold your tongue! A woman’s heart is just not able To chart a course that’s firm or stable. Now she’s wild, now she’s demure; Now wants peace, then starts a war. The schemes she quickly engineers can drown a countryside in tears

Who loves and trusts mad womankind damns soul and body, wastes his time. Now that I’ve told you of womankind, let’s flee and leave them far behind!
The Vices of Women, late 13th Century misogynist poem

5. PATER NOSTER

Pater Noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum.  Adveniat regnum tuum.  Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo   
et in terra.   

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-6:10

Filia mea dulcis michi; filia mea, delectum meum, templum meum; filia delectum meum, ama me: quia tu es multum amata a me, multum plus quam tu ames me.   Et postquam ego colcavi me in te; modo colca te tu in me. Et sentiebam dulcedinem divinam ineffabilem.   Ista est mea creatura.   

My daughter, sweet to me; my daughter, my beloved, my temple; my daughter, my beloved, love me, since you have been much loved by me, much more than you love me. And after I have laid myself in you, now lay yourself in me.   And I felt an ineffable divine sweetness. This is my creature.

Blessed Angela of Foligno 13th Century mystic and penitent

6. THE JAILERS RETURN

Tant y a feme scet bon taire! Tant y a feme scet bon taire! Femme est dehors religiouse,
Dedanz poignaunt e venimose; A soy sera d’aucun complainte,Ir se fait moult juste et moult sainte.

Femme engendre bataille e guere, exile gent de gaste tere; femme ard chasteus e prent citez enfudre tours e fermetez.

Ore vous ai dit de lur vies, fuoums de lur cumpaignies!

When it comes to women, men, hold your tongue! On the outside she’s religious, on the inside keen and venomous. She will not tolerate complaint, she’s lady justice and a saint.

Woman fosters strife and wars, and exiles men from ruined shores. Castles she burns, cities defeats, destroys the towers and the keeps.

Now that I’ve told you of womankind. Let’s flee and leave them far behind!
The Vices of Women-late 13th Century misogynist poem

7. TORTURE

Glorioses playes…
Glorious wounds…
Marguerite d’Oingt, early 14th Century visionary and poet.

Et desiderabam videre vel saltem illud parum de carne Christi quod portaverant clavi in ligno. 

And I longed to see at least that little bit of Christ’s flesh that the nails had fixed to the wood.
Blessed Angela of Foligno

…ostendit cor suum perforatum quasi ad modum portulae unius parvae laternae … quod ex ipso corde exiverunt radii solares. Imo solaribus radiis clariores…  

He showed [her] his heart,  perforated like the openings in a small lantern…From his very heart issued forth rays of the sun –no — brighter than the sun’s rays…
Na Prous Boneta

…«non est aequum, velle solum de melle meo gustare, et non de felle: si perfecte vis mecum uniri, mente intenta recogita illusiones, opprobria, flagella, mortem, et tormenta, quae pro te sustinui.»    

…”It is not fair to wish to taste only of my honey, and not the gall. If you wish to be perfectly united with me, contemplate deeply the mockery, insults, whippings, death and torments that I endured for you.”
Blessed Margarita, disciple of St. Umiltà, 14th Century.

 

8. ILLNESS
(LETTER FROM JOAN OF ARC)

Jehanne la Pucelle vous requiert de par le Roy du ciel,[…]vous puis que ne guerroiez plus ou saint Royaume de France,[…]et sera grant pitié de la grant bataille et du sang qui y sera respendu de ceux qui y vendront contre nous.  

Jehanne the Maid begs you on behalf of the King of Heaven, make war no longer in the holy Kingdom of France, …and a pitiful thing will be that great battle and the blood that will be shed therein by those who come there against us.

9. SACRAMENT

O feminea forma, O soror Sapientie, quam gloriosa es quoniam fortissima vita in te surrexit, quam mors nunquam suffocabit.  

O feminine form,  O sister of Wisdom! How glorious you are, for in you has arisen the mightiest life that death will never stifle.
St. Hildegard of Bingen

Oh maledetti! Oh grande indignazione!  

O cursed ones! O great indignation!
St. Umiltà of Faenza, great 14th Century Italian mystic.

Fuge, fuge speluncam antiqui perditoris  et veniens veni in palatium regis. 

Flee, flee the cave of the ancient destroyer, and come, coming into the palace of the king.

St. Hildegard of Bingen

…car plus est adjoustee foy au mal de tant comme le bien y est plus auttentique…  

…evil is rendered more believable by putting it together with good to make it more respectable…
From The Quarrel of the Rose – Christine de Pizan

10. ABJURATION

Exaudi, Deus omnipotens, preces populi…Puelle agentis secundum opera que sibi dixeras 

Hear, Almighty God, the prayers of your people…of the girl acting according to the works which you had spoken of to her.
(Prayer commissioned by King Charles VII pleading for Joan’s freedom from imprisonment, 1431.)

Si quis in me non manserit, mittetur foras sicut palmes, et arescet,et colligent eum, et in ignem mittent, et ardet.

Those who do not remain in me will be discarded like branches: they will wither. So they will be gathered up, thrown on the fire, and burnt.
(John 15:6, recited to Joan of Arc by Father Erard during her trial, at the confrontation in front of St. Ouen.)

« Domine, istud quod facio, non facio nisi ut inveniam te. »  

“Lord, that which I do, I do only to find you.”
(Blessed Angela of Foligno)

«Depone animos.»    

“Renounce your purpose.”
(From The Passion of St. Perpetua, a history of an early Christian martyr.)

…Une femme – – simple bergiere – –Plus preux qu’onc homs ne fut à Romme!
…a woman – – a simple shepherdess – – More valiant even than Rome’s worthiest!
Christine de Pizan

Ne universos nos extermines.    

Destroy us not all together.
(St. Perpetua)

Benedicite, ignis et aestus, Domino.  

Fire and heat, praise the Lord!
(Daniel 3:66)

«Depone animos.»  

 “Renounce your purpose.”
(St. Perpetua)

…N’y a si forte Resistance qui à l’assault de la Pucelle ne soit morte. Hester, Judith, et Delbora, qui furent dames de grant pris,[…] Mains miracles en a pourpris. Plus a fait par ceste Pucelle.
… No force is there so strong –Try as they might to resist the attackof the Maid — it dies in vain before long. One hears of Esther,  Judith and Deborah, Who were ladies of great courage and worth; […] Through them God performed miracles on Earth, but he fulfilled even more through this Maid.
(Christine de Pizan)

…eadem hora mittemini in fornacem ignis ardentis. Et quis est Deus qui eripiet vos de manu mea?
Benedicite, ignis et aestus, Domino;  

 …The same hour you will be thrown into a furnace of burning fire. And who is the God who will snatch you from my hand? Fire and heat, praise the Lord!
(Daniel 3:15 and 3:66)

« Domine, istud quod facio, non facio nisi ut inveniam te. Inveniam te postquam id perfecero! »    “Lord, that which I do, I do only to find you. May I find you after I have completed it!”
Blessed Angela of Foligno

11. RELAPSE

Karitas abundat in omnia de imis excellentissima super sidera atque amantissima in omnia quia summo regi osculum pacis dedit.   

Love overflows into all things,from out of the depths to above the highest stars; and so Love overflows into all best beloved, most loving things, because She has given to the highest King the Kiss of Peace.

(St. Hildegard of Bingen)

12. ANIMA (MASSIEU AND JOAN)

…anima eius amore fluens et languens.

…The Spirit flowing and melting with love.
(There are Seven Manners of Loving, Beatrice of Nazareth, 13th Century.)
…est ceste Ame cheue d’amour en nient.    

…This Soul has fallen from love into nothingness.
(Marguerite Porete, 14th Century member of the Free Spirit movement who was burned at the stake.)

…mens eius insane suspensa ex vehementi cupidine…
…per solum Amorem aeternum trahitur in aeternitatem Amoris
…anima eius amore fluens et languens.

…The Spirit madly possessed by violent desire…
…Only through everlasting Love is it drawn into the eternity of Love.
…The Spirit flowing and melting with love.
(Beatrice of Nazareth)
…est ceste Ame cheue d’amour en nient.    

…This Soul has fallen from love into nothingness.
(Marguerite Porete)

…anima eius amore fluens et languens
…per solum Amorem aeternum trahitur in aeternitatem Amoris
…anima eius amore fluens et languens
…per solum Amorem aeternum trahitur in aeternitatem Amoris   

…The Spirit flowing and melting with love…

Only through everlasting Love is it drawn into the eternity of Love..

.The Spirit flowing and melting with love…

Only through everlasing Love is it drawn into the eternity of Love.
(Beatrice of Nazareth)

13. THE FINAL WALK

[Exclamavit autem voce magna…] «Deus aeterne, qui absconditorum es cognitor, qui nosti omnia antequam fiant, tu scis quoniam falsum testimonium tulerunt contra me; et ecce morior, cum nihil horum fecerim quae isti malitiose composuerunt adversum me.»  

[She cried out in a loud voice] “Everlasting God, who knows things hidden and all things before they happen, you know they have borne false witness against me; and see! I die, although I am innocent of everything their malice has invented against me.”
(Daniel 13:42)

14. THE BURNING

Dominus condit sibi unum ignem dicendo sic: «vides hunc ignem; qualiter totam materiam et substantiam lignorum convertit in suam naturam, eodem modo natura divinitatis convertit in se animas quas sibi vult…»    

The Lord made for her a fire, saying: “You see this fire; as it changes all the matter and substance of wood into its own nature, even so, Divine Nature changes into itself the souls it wants for itself…
(Na Prous Boneta)

Rex noster promptus est suscipere sanguinem innocentum.Sed nubes super eundem sanguinem
plangunt. Unde angeli concinunt et in laudibus sonant. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto. 

Our king is swift to receive the blood of innocents. But over the same blood the clouds are grieving.
Hence the angels sing and resound in praises. Glory to the Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.
St. Hildegard of Bingen

15. THE FIRE OF THE DOVE. PROTEST

Ah! Jehanne, Jehanne!

Oh!    Ah! Joan, Joan!

 

…valde beatus fuisti cum Verbum Dei te in igne columbe imbuit.(ubi tu quasi aurora illuminatus es…)

…you were greatly blessed when the Word of God steeped you in the fire of the dove. (Where you were illumined like the dawn…)
(St. Hildegard of Bingen)

EPILOGUE (LETTER FROM JOAN OF ARC)

Car Dieu le Roy du ciel le veult, et cela est révélé par la Pucelle…  

So God the King of Heaven, wills it; and so it has been revealed by the Maid…

————-

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The principal biography used for background research was Saint Joan of Arc, by Vita Sackville – West (Doubleday). In addition, Marina Warner’s exceptional book-long essay, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (Knopf) was a major influence on the overall approach to the libretto and Joan of Arc’s life. Many of the mystical texts were initially found in Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature, edited by Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff (Oxford University Press) Copyright © 1986 by Oxford University Press.

Translations from the Bible, Hildegard von Bingen’s Visions of St. Hildegard, The Confessions of Na Prous Boneta, The Book of  Blessed Angela of Foligno, Concerning the Blessed Margarita of Faenza, Prayer of Charles VII, There are Seven Manners of Loving,  copyright © 1995 by Peter K. Marshall All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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The letters of Joan of Arc from which the libretto’s letters were constructed, may be found in Letters of Joan of Arc, translated and edited by Claire Quintal and Daniel Rankin (Pittsburgh Diocesan Council of Catholic Women). 1969. Used by permission

Excerpts from the Ditiè de Jehanne d’Arc of Christine de Pizan copyright © 1977 by Angus J. Kennedy and Kenneth Varty Medium Aevum Monographs, n.s. 9 Oxford. Used by Permission.

Translations of the prophecy of Merlin, excerpts from Quarrel of the Rose by Christine de Pizan,  Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of Simple Souls, Ditiè de Jehanne d’Arc of Christine de Pizan copyright © 1994/95 by Nadia Margolis. Used by permission.

The misogynist poetry may be found in Three Medieval Views of Women, translated and edited by Gloria K. Fiero, Wendy Pfeffer, & Mathé Allain (Yale University Press) Copyright © 1989 by Yale University. Used by permission.

Translations of excerpts from St. Hildegard von Bingen: Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum. Edited and translated by Barbara Newman. Copyright © 1989 by Cornell University.

Translation of Hildegard von Bingen’s Karitas habundat copyright © 1980 by Barbara Lachman. Used by permission.

Additional translations copyright © 1994/1995 by Richard Einhorn. All rights reserved.

Special thanks to Bob Cilman and the Northampton Arts Council, New England Foundation for the Arts, Meet The Composer, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Ricki Kantrowitz, Nadia Margolis, Peter K. Marshall, Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff, Margaret Irwin-Brandon and the Arcadia Players, Dennis and Amy Doros, Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey, the Centre Jeanne d’Arc in Orleans, the Joan of Arc Historical Museum of Domremy, Marc Farre, David Wolfson, Andy Cohen, Michelle Ryang,  Peter Gelb, Grace Row, Steve Epstein,  Michael Mushalla at CAMI, Ron Taft,  Lee Pritchard, Lucinda Carver, Jill Bauer, the many performers and scholars who gave so generously of their time, and my wife, Amy Singer, who has been so much more than understanding.