"I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls"

From: The Bohemian Girl, 1843
By: Michael Balfe (1808-1870)


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Arrangement: Soprano solo, with piano accompaniment

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In the 250 years between Purcell and Britten, Balfe's The Bohemian Girl was one of the few operas by a British composer to achieve significant success. As such, it long held a place in the standard repertoire in English-speaking countries, but toward the middle of this century it gradually fell out of favor, along with most French operas of similar style from the same time period.

The opera's best-known number is this cavatina, sung by the title character Arline. She is the daughter of a wealthy count, but as a small child she got lost, and she grew up with a band of gypsies that adopted her. The dream that she describes is suggestive of her early childhood years, which she only barely remembers. Much of the opera's plot (based on a story by Cervantes) involves her subsequent rediscovery of her family.

The aria is simple and innocent, and not technically difficult. It is accessible to beginners, but has the potential of being dull if not interpreted with sufficient expression. It was once fairly standard as a recital piece, and the music was readily available, but now it seems a bit of a rarity.

I am told that Joan Sutherland's recording of the song is included on each of these CDs: "Home Sweet Home", Decca, ASIN 800000E425; and "Pavarotti's Opera Made Easy: My Favourite Opera In The Movies", Universal/London Classics, ASIN 800000425A. The song has also been recorded by at least one non-classical singer -- the Irish folk singer Enya, whose version I am told is included on an album titled "Shepherd Moon".

Another aria from Bohemian Girl, "Then you'll remember me" is also available on this site. The aria is written for tenor, but it is also well-suited to a light soprano voice. The entire libretto for the opera is also available on this site.

Other sites: Basil Walsh's website celebrating the composer, Michael Balfe.

Notes on Interpretation

The original published music, in what is bar 54 on my copy, has fermatas in the piano part but not in the vocal part. I have followed this for my edition, but clearly it is expected that the singer will take some liberty with the tempo there.

Released: August 24, 1998
Latest update: June 22, 2009
Update history:
06/22/09: New address; removed erroneous accidental, m.75.
10/20/06: New address; no other changes.
03/05/06: New address; no other changes.
10/16/05: New address; no other changes.
06/10/05: New address; no other changes.
10/18/03: New address; no other changes.
01/29/02: Major typographical changes; no change in music.
08/06/01: Correction of typographical error in new address.
06/18/00: New address; negligible typographic adjustments.

Editorial notes: Minor typographical changes only. (See also general editorial notes.)

Source material: Vocal score, Novello concert and acting edition (1915). Oakland Public Library, main branch, 782 B196.

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June 22, 2009