Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Rossini’s Siege of Paris: Ottoman Subjects in the French Restoration

Rossini, Le siège de Corinthe (Paris 1826)
In a state of “prophetic intoxication” the Greek elder Hiéros proclaims the future of modern Greece with reference to the ancient Greek past. 

         —listen from 2:04:15 to 2:08:00.

Hiéros hails the fatherland— “O patrie!”— and then recalls the ancient victory over the Persians at Marathon:
    O Grèce! tous tes fils se lèvent à ton nom.
    Le vent fait voler sur leurs armes
    La poussière de Marathon.
            Oh Greece!  all your sons rise up at your name.
            The wind blows upon their arms
            the dust of Marathon.

And the chorus responds, “Marathon!  Marathon!”

Hiéros then invokes Leonidas who led the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae:
    L’écho sacré des Thermopyles
    Se souvient de Léonidas.
         The sacred echo of Thermopylae recalls Leonidas.

And the chorus responds “Léonidas!  Léonidas!”

Finally, Hiéros lead them in a patriotic anthem, composed in the musical spirit of the French “Marseillaise”:  
         Répondons à ce cri de victoire,
         Méritons un trépas immortel.
         Nous verrons dans les champs de la gloire
         Le tombeau se changer en autel.
                  Le us respond to this cry of victory,
                  Let us deserve an immortal death.
                  We will see in the fields of glory
                  The tomb transformed into an altar.

Now the transformation is complete:  Rossini has remade his fifteenth-century Venetians from Maometto Secondo into modern Greek patriots in Le siège de Corinthe. 

Rossini, Le siège de Corinthe (Paris 1826)
Finale of the opera; on the same video as above:

         —from  2:15:00 to 2:16:45

Corinth is conquered and destroyed in flames by the Turks, with Pamyra raising her dagger to kill herself, defying Maometto.  He is left to contemplate— “with horror”— the destruction that he has wrought and the romantic loss that he has suffered:

    Pamyra!  Ciel! quelle tempête,             Pamyra!  Heaven! what a tempest,
     Autour de nous, mugit soudain.         Suddenly roars around us

The orchestra then produces the violent tempest by which he is enveloped and overwhelmed at the opera’s conclusion, the last important singing Turk in the history of European opera.  Pamyra’s soprano high note of defiance is at 2:15:20 while Maometto’s basso high note of despair (the second syllable of “soudain”) comes at 2:15:38.  The embattled Greek chorus challenges him with the cry “O patrie!”—singing from the operatic stage in Paris in the 1820s their solidarity with the Greek struggle for independence.