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George Frideric Handel - Oratorio Belshazzar


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Authentic recording


George Frideric Handel
Version from the year 1751

Oratorio in three acts
An historically informed performance
in English

Miriam Allan (Soprano) ~ Nitocris
Michael Chance (Countertenor) ~ Daniel
Patrick van Goethem (Countertenor) ~ Cyrus
Mark Le Brocq (Tenor) ~ Belshazzar, Arioch
André Morsch (Bass) ~ Gobrias, Messenger

Hanoverian Court Orchestra (on period instruments)
Maulbronn Chamber Choir
Conductor: Jürgen Budday

A concert at the minster of abbey Maulbronn

2-CD-Box, 147 minutes, DDD,
KuK 67, ISBN 3-930643-67-7, EAN 42 6000591 033 9
Copyright by K&K Verlagsanstalt anno 2005


Performance & Opus

This recording is part of a cycle of old testament oratorios by G. F. Handel and is one of the many concerts performed at Maulbronn monastery over the past years. The series combines authentically performed baroque oratorios with the optimal acoustics and atmosphere of this unique monastic church. This ideal location demands the transparency of playing and the interpretive unveiling of the rhetoric intimations of the composition, which is especially aided by the historically authentic performance. The music is exclusively performed on reconstructed historical instruments, which are tuned to the pitch customary in the composers lifetime (a = c. 415 Hz).

The performance of Handel´s Belshazzar at the minster of monastery Maulbronn

Copyright by K&K Verlagsanstalt. View more at: The K&K Movie Channel.


Miriam Allan - Soprano (Nitocris)

Miriam Allan - Soprano (Nitocris)Miriam Allan, a graduate student of Emma Kirkby and Julianne Baird, was a prize winner at the 2003 London Handel Society's singing competition. Since completing her studies at the University of Newcastle (Australia), she has developed a lively concert career. She has performed the most important works of Bach, Handel and Purcell with such leading choirs and orchestras as the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Sydney Philharmonia. Additionally - and this is quite unusual for such a young singer - she gives recitals. These are mostly devoted to the repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries.


Michael Chance - Countertenor (Daniel)

Michael Chance - Countertenor (Daniel)Michael Chance's carrier began, as did so many of his colleagues, in King's College, Cambridge, as countertenor in England's conceivably most famous choir. Today he is one of the worlds most sought after countertenors, not only for opera - he sang, for example, the military governor in the world première of Judith Weir's "A Night at the Chinese Opera" - but also for oratorios and songs. He is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music, London. He performs often in Paris, Amsterdam, Stuttgart and Berlin and has also been in America, Japan and Australia many times. Frieder Bernius, Frans Brüggen, John Eliot Gardiner and Trevor Pinnock are just some of the conductors that he works with regularly. A specialty of Michael Chance's is the song evenings he gives with the Gamben-Consort Fretwork, Nigel North and, more recently, Roger Vignoles, in which he sings pieces for voice and lute from the English Renaissance and also, frequently, works from contemporary, mostly English composers.

Patrick van Goethem - Countertenor (Cyrus)

Patrick van Goethem - Countertenor (Cyrus)The Belgian countertenor, Patrick van Goethem, was a student of Marie-Thérèse Maesen and Zeger Vandersteene. After being tutored in Baroque music by Paul Esswood, Julia Hamari and Andrea Scholl, Van Goethem is today a sought after concert singer and works as soloist with many renowned conductors. Van Geothem was a guest on the stages of all the important European festivals and concert halls, such as the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Festival Van Vlaandern, Oude Muziekfestival Utrecht, Festival di Cremona, Bachfest Leipzig, London Bach Festival and Festival de Vézelay.

Mark Le Brocq - Tenor (Belshazzar, Arioch)

Mark LeBrocq - Tenor (Belshazzar, Arioch)Mark Le Brocq held a choral scholarship at St Catherine‘s College, Cambridge where he read English. He won several prizes and awards at the Royal Academy of Music including the Blyth Buesset Opera Prize, the Royal Academy of Music Club Prize and the Worshipful Company of Musicians' Medal. He was formerly a company principal with the English National Opera. Over the years, the tenor has worked together with many important directors, including David Alden, David Poutney, Jonathan Miller, Niklaus Lehnhoff, Graham Vick and David Freeman. He performed regularly with the Gabrieli Consort under Paul McCreesh. He sang with Monserat Caballé and Dennis O‘Neill in Verdi Opera Galas in Bath, the Mozart and the Verdi Requiems in the Barbican Centre, London and the Mozart Requiem with The English Concert under Trevor Pinnock in Salzburg.

André Morsch - Bass (Gobryas, a Messenger)

André Morsch - Bass (Gobryas, Messenger)Born in 1975, André Morsch began his studies in Austria, at the Conservatory in Feldkirch, with Ralf Ernst. He continued his studies with Margreet Honig at the Conservatorium of Amsterdam, graduating with distinction in 2003. His engagements include the role of Achillas (Giulio Cesare) with the State Opera, Stuttgart, Simanov in Jan van de Putte's "Wet Snow" with the National Reis Opera and Mendelssohn's Elias with the Israel Chamber Orchestra in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In September 2002 he won the Prix Bernac of the Ravel Academy in Saint Jean de Luz.


Hanoverian Court Orchestra (Hannoversche Hofkapelle)
The Hanoverian Court Orchestra maintains the tradition of the historic court orchestras and performs with both chamber and symphonic instrumentation. The fact that its members also play in other European Baroque formations, helps forge the sound of the ensemble. The repertoire of the Hanoverian Court Orchestra not only incorporates Baroque music in all its forms, but also Romantic pieces and Classical works, especially Mozart's operas and the Romantic genre. The continual involvement with the music of the 17th and 18th century has allowed each of the Court Orchestra's musicians to become a master of his instrument. From this emerges the expressive and elegant playing that allows the Hanoverian Court Orchestra to maintain its prominent position.

Maulbronn Chamber Choir

The Maulbronn Chamber Choir was founded by its director, Jürgen Budday, in 1983 and is one of the top choirs in Germany today. In addition to learning a baroque oratorio, the ensemble compiles a sacred and secular a-cappella programme every year, its focal point being 19th and 20th century literature. First prize at the Baden Württemberg Choir Competition in 1989 and 1997, second prize at the Third German Choir Competition in Stuttgart in 1990, and a victory at the Fifth German Choir Competition in Regensburg in 1998 document the chamber choir's extraordinary musical standard. The Maulbronn Chamber Choir has received, among others, invitations to the Ettlingen Palace Festival, the chamber music series of the Dresden Philharmonic, the cloister concerts at the Walkenried convent, the First International Festival of Sacred Music in Rottenburg, and the European Music Festival in Passau. The choir has also made a name for itself internationally. The 1983 debut tour through the USA with concerts in, among others, New York and Indianapolis, and the participation in the Festival of Music in New Harmony, Indiana, as well as concert tours through numerous European countries, Israel, Argentina (1993 and 1997), South Africa, and Namibia (2001) were all greeted with similar enthusiasm by the public and critics alike. The third tour through South America followed in autumn 2003 with concerts in Argentina and Uruguay.

Jürgen Budday (Conductor)

Jürgen Budday (Conductor)Jürgen Budday is director of church music and artistic director of the concert series at the monastery of Maulbronn, of the cantor choir and of the Maulbronn Chamber Choir. He studied music education, church music and musicology at the Academy of Music in Stuttgart and, since 1979, has taught at the Evangelic Theology Seminar in Maulbronn. For his teaching and artistic activity, he has received many awards, including the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande (German Cross of Merit) and the Bruno-Frey Prize from the State Academy, Ochsenhausen. Since 2002, Jürgen Budday has also held the chair of the choral committee of the German Music Council. Several concert recordings have been made under his artistic direction. They have often received international recognition and high praise from critics. These have included the Handel oratorios Jephtha, Samson, Judas Maccabaeus and Saul with Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance, Nancy Argenta and Stephen Varcoe.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Version from 1751

The libretto in English
(German translation included):
~ as website ~
as pdf-file (13 pages) for printing ~

The oratorio, Belshazzar, devotes itself to the story of the Babylonian king, Belshazzar, as presented in the biblical story from the book of Daniel. Belshazzar commits sacrilege against the God of the Israelites, upon which a ghostly hand inscribes the mysterious text, the Menetekel, upon the wall of the court, predicting the downfall of the kingdom and the death of Belshazzar at the hands of the Persians. The prophecy is fulfilled that very same night.

There are three versions of Belshazzar, dated 1745, 1751 and 1758. Handel composed the first between 23rd August and 23rd October, 1744. The exact dates are known from the correspondence Handel had with his librettist, Charles Jennens. Jennens had already penned the libretti to Saul and the Messiah. He was an enlightened theologian who didn't shy away from embellishing the biblical story to enhance the libretto's dramatic development. The debut performance took place on 27th March 1745 in the King's Theatre, Haymarket in London. But the work attracted few listeners, with even fewer being enthusiastic. A possible reason for this failure was the political message, from Handel unintended but nevertheless inferable, contained in the libretto. It could be seen as a manifesto against the ruling king of the time, George II, who, as a member of the House of Hanover, was not seen as the rightful monarch by many of the British. So it was that the conquering of the throne by Cyrus was seen as an allegory of a similar conquest in England by a member of the House of Stewart. Belshazzar was discontinued after only three performances and only years later, in 1751, after revisions from Handel, was it resumed. In addition to minor improvements, the changes included new arias, whereby others were cut and the role of Cyrus was song by a countertenor instead of a mezzo-soprano. It was far more successful than the original, and it is this second version (slightly shortened) that was used for this recording. It starts with the second scene of the première.

Charles Jennens created an unbelievably dramatic libretto. He embroidered the biblical story of the Babylonian king, Balshazzar, with historical sources he found in Heredotus and Xenophon. In the oratorio, for example, the key figure of Nitocris is taken from Herodotus's histories apodexis. The oratorio has, even for Handel, extraordinary colour and vitality. The responsibility for the high drama of the piece rests mostly with the choir, which musically represents the three peoples. Babylon, the capital of Assyria, in the year 538 BC, is the scene of the action. The Euphrates flows through the city. It was diverted during the building of the city walls and a lake on the west side of the city was formed. The armies of Media and Persia, under the leadership of King Cyrus, are encamped before the walls.

The first act starts before the gates of Babylon. From the walls, the Babylonians mock Cyrus and his fatuous plans to take the city. Gobrias, a Babylonian who has defected to Cyrus after his son was murdered by Balshazzar, confirms the sturdiness of the city's fortifications. Cyrus consoles him and relates his dream where he has seen the Euphrates dried up. He then devises a plan whereby the river would be diverted to the lake outside the walls, allowing them to penetrate the city using the waterless riverbed. Gobrias supports the idea to venture the plan on the day of the feast to Sesach, when the Babylonians pay homage to their god of wine, Sesach, and it is their religious duty to become intoxicated. Cyrus rouses his army and prays to God for support. The ensuing chorale takes up this plea to God from the Persians. In Babylon, the prophet Daniel predicts, for the imprisoned people of the Jews, the impending downfall of the city and proclaims Cyrus their God-sent liberator. The Jewish people sing a joyful chorale about their imminent deliverance. The chorale's first solemn, homophonic section expresses their hope of rescue.

In the fourth scene, Belshazzar opens the festival in honour of Sesach. The people revel and imbibe excessively. Nitocris pleads with her son to put a stop to the celebrations, but he orders the sacred chalice of the Jews to be brought from the temple to be used as a wine goblet. Nitocris and the Jews warn him of the consequences of this sacrilege. The Jewish people react with the announcement that Belshazzar will shortly feel the wrath of God for his actions. In this three-sectioned chorale, the emotions develop by slow degrees: at first, sadness and hurt, then, in the second and third sections respectively, the suppressed and finally the released anger can be perceived. Especially moving is the demand for remorse that the Jewish people express. It goes singly through all the voices, builds up and finally flows into a homophonic sounding realisation that the waiting apparently will be in vain. The chromatically descending line "and every step he takes on his devoted head precipitates the thunder down" symbolises this hope gradually being transformed into anger.

The second act starts with the Persians excitedly observing the diversion of the waters. "See from his post Euphrates flies…" with the soprano theme (coloratura) reflecting the flowing of the waters and the joyful excitement radiating out amongst the Persians as they watch the spectacle. This further prompts them to partake in a bizarre role-play, in which they contrive a dialogue between the incensed Babylonians (female choir) and the emboldened Persians (male choir). Then Cyrus gives the order to cross the riverbed and capture the city. The Persians intone a belligerent chorale.

The feasting of the Babylonians is at its highpoint. Belshazzar is arrogantly blaspheming Jehova and, just as he is about to take the chalice to his mouth, there occurs what the Jews had warned him would happen. A ghostly hand inscribes on the wall the incomprehensible words "mene, mene, tekel, upharsin". Here, Handel realizes a musical treatment that is possibly is not close to any other operatic convention. The violins ascend unaccompanied in a chromatic line adagio e staccato, ma piano. Belshazzar is struck dumb with horror, solely able to utter an appalled sigh. The people of Babylon cry for help while Belshazzar still points fearfully at the mysterious script. Nobody can decipher the writings, and, at the suggestion of Nitocris, the prophet Daniel is summoned. He translates, from Handel composed as a suspenseful recitative accompagnato, the following: mene, it is the will of the God you dishonoured that the days of your reign be numbered; tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; upharsin, your kingdom will be divided and be given to the Medes and Persians. Nitocris beseeches Belshazzar to plead with Jehova for forgiveness, but he does not allow himself to be swayed, even now. Cyrus and Gobrias infiltrate the city and lay the foundation for the dethroning of Belshazzar.

The third act opens with Nitocris in her chambers receiving news of the conquest of the city. The Jews are joyfully celebrating and thank Jehova for his mercy. Convinced of his strength, the brazen Belshazzar confronts the invaders. He falls in battle, the orchestra executing a military march. Nitocris submits to the new ruler, Cyrus, who promises the Babylonians freedom also. He grants this to Nitocris as well, and even entreats her to accept him as son in Balshazzars stead. Daniel predicts for Cyrus that he will become the deliverer of the people of Israel and will rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem. This, Cyrus commends to do.

Hanoverian Court Orchestra

Marleen Goede-Uter - Concert Master
Eva Politt, Susanne Dietz, Ina Keller, Corinna Hildebrandt, Klaus Bona,
Annette Keimel, Mechtild Werner, Susanne Busch - Violins
Bettina Ihrig, Hella Hartmann, Rachael Yates - Violas
Dorothee Palm, Daniela Wartenberg - Cellos
Cordula Cordes, Christian Zincke - Bass viols
Bernward Lohr - Organ/Harpsichord
Ulrich Wedemeier - Lute
Annette Berryman, Julia Belitz - Oboes
Rhoda Patrick - Bassoon
Friedemann Immer, Christoph Draeger - Trumpets
Friedjof Koch - Timpani

Maulbronn Chamber Choir

Susanne Ferber, Teresa Frick, Hannah Glocker, Ilka Hüftle, Jana Knobloch, Katja Körtge,
Susanne Laenger, Veronika Miehlich, Veronica Sattler, Sabine Stöffler,
Silke Vogelmann, Sabine Widmann, Miriam Wolf

Mirjam Budday, Marianne Dohse, Beata Fechau, Roswitha Fydrich-Steiner,
Kathrin Gölz, Barbara Hirsch, Dietlind Mayer, Hella Pilz, Margret Sanwald,
Angelika Stössel, Steffi Trompler

Sebastian Fuierer, Andreas Gerteis, Hartmut Meier, Mathias Michel,
Konrad Mohl, Rolf Most, Günther Vögelin

Ingo Andruschkewitsch, Paul-Theodor Bräuchle, Daniel Fritsch, Rainer Hirsch-Luipold,
Matthias Kögel, Hansjörg Lechler, Eberhard Maier, Werner Pfeiffer, Can Schnigula


About the edition

Concerts from Maulbronn Monastery, a UNESCO's World Heritage Site:
The abbey, founded by Cistercian monks in the year 1147, is the only completely preserved mediaeval complex north of the Alps. In 1994, it was the 13th German site added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is thus in the illustrious company of such great monuments as the Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal. The internationally renowned monastery concerts have occurred since 1968. The performances take place in the unparalleled atmosphere of the abbey's premises (monastery church, cloister gardens and lay refectory). Under the arches illuminated by romantic candlelight, 25 concerts are held every year. This series presents a selection of some of the most beautiful works of sacred and secular music.

The Edition
"What makes the European atmosphere so impressive? By which means can the European heritage be defined? Where do the roots of European culture lie? Within the context of our documentary series ‘Maulbronn Monastery Edition', we investigate these questions by documenting great works of European music with live excerpts from one of the most authentic sites this side of the Alps. I have personally experienced the perfect acoustics and architectural beauty of the concert site and was greatly impressed. A publisher has no choice but to endeavour to preserve these cultural gems for future generations."

Josef-Stefan Kindler

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Version from the year 1751
Act I



1. Overture

The First Scene is missing in the version
from the year 1751

Scene 2
The camp of Cyrus before Babylon.
A view of the city,
with the River Euphrates running through it.
Cyrus, Gobrias, Medes and Persians

2. Chorus of Babylonians
(upon the walls, deriding Cyrus, as engaged
in an impractible undertaking)

Behold, by Persia's hero made
In ample form, the strong blockade!
How broad the ditch, how deep it falls!
What lofty tow'rs o'erlook the walls!
Hark, Cyrus! Twenty times the sun
Round the great year his course shall run:
If there so long thy army stay,
Not yet to dogs and birds a prey,
No succour from without arrive,
Within remain no means to live,
We then may think it time to treat,
And Babylon capitulate.
A tedious time! To make it short,
Thy wise attempt will find us sport.

3. Gobrias
Well may they laugh, from meagre famine safe,
In plenteous stores for more than twenty years;
From all assault secure in gates of brass,
And walls stupendous; in Euphrates' depth
Yet more secure.

'Tis that security
Shall aid me to their ruin. I tell thee, Gobrias,
I will revenge thy wrongs upon the head
Of this inhuman king.

Oh, memory!
Still bitter to my soul! Methinks I see
My son, the best, the loveliest of mankind,
Whose filial love and duty above all sons
Made me above all other fathers happy,
I see him breathless at the tyrant's feet,
The victim of his envy.

4. Gobrias
Oppress'd with never-ceasing grief,
I drag a painful, weary life;
Of all that made life sweet bereft,
No hope, but in revenge, is left.

5. Cyrus
Dry those unavailing tears,
Haste your just revenge to speed;
I'll disperse your gloomy fears,
Dawning hope shall soon succeed.

6. Cyrus
Be comforted: safe though the tyrant seem
Within those walls, I have a stratagem,
Inspir'd by Heav'n (dreams oft descend from Heav'n)
Shall baffle all his strength; so strong my mind
Th'impression bears, I cannot think it less.

7. Cyrus
Methought, as on the bank of deep Euphrates
I stood, revolving in my anxious mind
Our arduous enterprise, a voice divine,
In thunder utter'd, to the bottom seem'd
To pierce the river's depth. The lofty tow'rs
Of yon proud city trembling bow'd their heads,
As they would kiss the ground. "Thou deep," it said,
"Be dry". No more; but instant at the word,
The stream forsook its bank, and in a moment
Left bare his oozy bed. Amaz'd I stood:
Horror, till then unknown, uprais'd my hair,
And froze my falt'ring tongue. The voice renew'd:
"Cyrus, go on, and conquer: 'tis I that rais'd thee,
I will direct thy way. Build thou my city,
And without ransom set my captives free."

8. Cyrus
Now tell me, Gobrias, does not this Euphrates
Flow through the midst of Babylon?

It does.

And I have heard you say, that on the west
A monstrous lake, on ev'ry side extended,
Four hundred furlongs, while the banks were made,
Receiv'd th'exhausted river?

'Tis most true.

Might we not then
By the same means now drain Euphrates dry,
And through its channel march into the city?

Suppose this done: yet still the brazen gates,
Which from the city to the river lead,
Will bar our passage, always shut by night,
When we must make th'attempt. Could we suppose
Those gates unshut, we might indeed ascend
With ease into the city.

Said you not
This is the feast to Sesach consecrate?
And that the Babylonians spend the night
In drunken revels, and in loose disorder?

They do; and 'tis religion to be drunk
On this occasion.

9. Gobrias
Behold the monstrous human beast
Wallowing in excessive feast!
No more his Maker's image found:
But, self-degraded to a swine,
He fixes grov'ling on the ground
His portion of the breath Divine.
Behold the monstrous human beast...da capo

10. Cyrus
Can you then think it strange, if drown'd in wine,
And from above infatuate, they neglect
The means of their own safety?
Great God, who, yet but darkly known,
Thus far hast deign'd my arms to bring;
Support me still, while I pull down
Assyria's proud, injurious king.
So shall this hand thy altars raise,
This tongue for ever sing thy praise;
And all thy will, when clearly shown,
By thy glad servant shall be done.

11.. Cyrus
My friends, be confident, and boldly enter
Upon this high exploit. No little cause
We have to hope success; since not unjustly
We have attack'd, but being first attack'd,
We have pursu'd th'aggressor. Add to this,
That I proceed in nothing with neglect
Of pow'r divine: whate'er I undertake,
I still begin with God, and gain His favour
With sacrifice and pray'r.

12. Chorus of Persians
All empires upon God depend;
Begun by his command, at his command they end.
Look up to him in all your ways,
Begin with pray'r and end with praise.

Scene 3
Daniel's house
Daniel, with the Prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah
open before him.
Other Jews.

13. Daniel
O sacred oracles of truth,
O living spring of purest joy!
By day be ever in my mouth,
And all my nightly thoughts employ.
Whoe'er withhold attention due,
Neglect themselves, despising you.
O sacred oracles of Truth... da capo

14. Daniel
Rejoice, my countrymen! The time draws near,
The long-expected time herein foretold:
"Seek now the Lord your God with all your heart,
And you shall surely find him. He shall turn
Your long captivity: he shall gather you
From all the nations whither you are driven,
And to your native land in peace restore you."

after Jeremiah 29, 13-14

For long ago,
Whole ages ere this Cyrus yet was born
Or thought of, great Jehovah, by His Prophet,
In words of comfort to his captive people
Foretold, and call'd by name the wond'rous man.
"Thus saith the Lord to Cyrus, his anointed,
Whose right hand I have holden, to subdue
Nations before him: I will go before thee,
To loose the strong-knit loins of mighty kings,
Make straight the crooked places, break in piece
The gates of solid brass, and cut in sunder
The bars of iron, for my servant's sake,
Israel my chosen. Though thou hast not known me,
I have surnam'd thee: I have girded thee:
That from the rising to the setting sun
The nations may confess, I am the Lord,
There is none else, there is no God besides me.
Thou shalt perform my pleasure, to Jerusalem
Saying, Thou shalt be built; and to the Temple,
Thy raz'd foundation shall again be laid."

after Isaiah 45, 1-6; 44, 28

15. Chorus of Jews
Sing, O ye Heav'ns, for the Lord hath done it!
Earth, from thy centre shout!
Break forth, ye mountains, into songs of joy,
O forest, and each tree therein,
for the Lord hath done it!
Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob,
And glorified himself in Israel.
Hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah!

Scene 4
The Palace
Belshazzar, Nitocris, Babylonians and Jews.

16. Belshazzar
Let festal joy triumphant reign,
Glad ev'ry heart, in ev'ry face appear!
Free flow the wine, nor flow in vain;
Far fly corroding care.
Each hand the chime melodious raise,
Each voice exult in Sesach's praise;
Let order vanish! Liberty alone,
Unbounded liberty the night shall crown.
Let festal joy triumphant reign. . . da capo

17. Belshazzar
For you my friends, the nobles of my court,
I have prepar'd a feast magnificent,
Worthy of you and me. Let all my wives
And concubines attend. Our royal mother -

I must prevent thee, son. Who can endure
Th'unbridled license of this festival,
Miscall'd by the licentious, liberty?
Where nought prevails but riotous excess,
The noisy idiot laugh, the jest obscene,
The scurril taunt, and drunken midnight brawl.
My soul starts back at such brutality,
Asserting reason's empire.

It is the custom, I may say, the law,
By long prescription fix'd.
(looking round and spying the Jews)
These captive Jews!
What do they here? They low'r upon our joys,
And envy liberty they cannot taste.
Yet something your perverse and wayward nation
Shall to our mirth contribute. Bring those vessels,
Those costly vessels my victorious grandsire
Took from the Temple of Jerusalem,
And in the temple of Bel laid up,
But us'd them not: - 'tis fit they should be us'd.
And let their God, whose pow'r was found too weak
To save his people, serve the conquerors
Of him and them. We'll revel in his cups:
Their rich materials and choice workmanship
Shall well augment the splendor of our feast.
And as we drink, we'll praise our country gods,
To whom we owe the prize.

Oh, sacrilege,
Unheard of profanation!

18. Chorus of Jews
Recall, O king, thy rash command!
Nor prostitute with impious hand
To uses vile the holy things
Of great Jehovah, king of kings.
Thy grandsire trembled at his name,
And doom'd to death who durst blaspheme;
For he, like us, his pow'r had tried,
Confess'd him just in all his ways,
Confess'd him able to abase
The sons of men that walk in pride.

19. Nitocris
They tell you true; nor can you be to learn
(Though ease and pleasure have engross'd you all)
Things done in public view. I'll not repeat
The seven-fold heated furnace, by that God
Whom you defy, made to his faithful servants
A walk of recreation; nor the king,
In height of all his pride, drove from his throne,
And from the first of men, in thought a god,
Reduc'd to brutal rank: all this, and more,
Thou knows't as well as I, and shoulds't consider.

Away! Is then my mother convert grown
To Jewish superstition? Apostate queen!
These idle tales might well become the dotage
Of palsied eld, but not a queen like you,
In prime of life, for wisdon far renown'd.
On to the feast! I waste my time too long
In frivolous dispute, time, due of right
To pleasure and the gods.


20. Nitocris
O dearer than my life, forbear!
Profane not, O my son,
With impious rites Jehovah's Name.
Remember what His arm has done,
The earth contains not half his fame:
Remember, and his vengeance fear!

O queen, this hateful theme forbear!
Join not against your son
With captive slaves, your country's foes.
Remember what our gods have done
To those who durst their pow'r oppose.
Remember, and their vengeance fear.

Alas! Then must I see my son
Headlong to sure destruction run?

Not to destruction but delight
I fly, and all once more invite
To reign with me this happy night.

O dearer than my life... da capo

Exeunt severally.

21. Chorus of Jews
By slow degress the wrath of God
to its meridian height ascends;
There mercy long the dreadful bolt suspends,
Ere it offending man annoy;
Long patient for repentance waits, reluctant to destroy.
At length the wretch, obdurate grown,
Infatuate, makes the ruin all his own;
And ev'ry step he takes,
On his devoted head
Precipitates the thunder down.


1. Ouvertüre

Die erste Szene fehlt
in der Fassung von 1751

Zweite Szene
Das Lager des Cyrus vor Babylon.
Eine Ansicht der Stadt
mit dem hindurchfließendem Euphrat.
Cyrus, Gobrias, Medes und die Perser

2. Chor der Babylonier
(auf den Wällen, Cyrus verspottend wegen seiner
anscheinend unausführbaren Unternehmung)

O seht, wie Persiens junger Held
in weitem Kreis die Stadt umstellt!
Wie breit die Gräben, wie tief ihr Fall!
Welch hohe Türm' umdrohn den Wall!
Horch, Cyrus! Zwanzigmal fürwahr
kreist die Sonn' ihren Lauf und Jahr:
Wenn dir, so lang dein Heer beharrt,
noch nicht der Raben Beute ward,
wenn nicht von außen Hilfe kommt,
der Vorrat innen nicht mehr frommt,
dann sinnen auf Verträge wir,
und Babylon ergibt sich dir.
O lange Frist! Zu kürzen dir die lange Zeit,
sieh uns zu Scherz und Spiel bereit!

3. Gobrias
Uns gilt ihr Hohn, die sich vor Not bewahrt
durch volle Speicher wohl für zwanzig Jahr',
vor Überfall gedeckt durch Eisentor'
und Riesenmauern; durch des Euphrat Flut
noch mehr geschützt.

Es ist diese Sicherheit,
die hilft, sie zu verderben. Ich sag' dir Gobrias,
ich räche deinen Gram mit blut'gem Schlag
auf dieses Königs Haupt.

O wecke mir
nicht diesen bittren Schmerz! Mir dünkt,
ich seh ihn noch, den Sohn, den liebsten der Söhne,
dess' Kindespflicht und Liebe mich über Maß,
mich weit vor allen Vätern glücklich machte;
ich seh ihn leblos zu des Wütrichs Füßen,
das Opfer seines Neides.

4. Gobrias
Gebeugt von unheilbarem Schmerz,
erkrankt mein müdes, sieches Herz;
beraubet aller Lebenslust,
bewegt nur Rache mir die Brust.

5. Cyrus
Still der eitlen Tränen Flut,
rasch enteil der Rachetat!
Auf, und scheuch den trüben Mut,
denn der Tag der Hoffnung naht.

6. Cyrus
Ermanne dich! Fest wie der Feind sich wähnt
in seiner Burg, denk' ich mit Kriegslist, -
gemahnt von Gott, der oft durch Träume redet, -
zu täuschen seine Macht. Tief trägt, mein Geist
den Eindruck noch, er kann nicht trügerisch sein.

7. Cyrus
Mir schien, dass am Gestad' des großen Euphrat
ich stand, erwägend in besorgtem Geist,
was kühn ich zu wagen sann: als eine Stimme,
im Donner schallend, bis zur Tiefe hin
durchdrang den mächt'gen Strom. Der stolzen Stadt
erhabne Türme beugten bang ihr Haupt,
als küssten sie den Grund. "Du Strom", so rief's,
"versiege!" Und kaum , dass dieses Wort erscholl,
verließ die Flut den Damm, und augenblicklich
war leer das feuchte Bett. Erstarrt stand ich;
Grauen, bisher mir fremd, trieb auf mein Haar
und band die Zunge mir. Und wieder scholl's:
"Cyrus, steh auf und siege! Ich bin's, der rufet,
ich will dein Führer sein. Bau meine Stadt auf,
und ohne Lösung mache frei mein Volk!"

8. Cyrus
Und sage, Gobrias, strömet dieser Euphrat
nicht mitten hin durch Babylon?

So ist's.

Und sagtest du nicht auch, dass gegen West
ein großer See, der sich allseitig ausdehnt
bis zu zehn Meilen, einst beim Uferbau
aufnahm des Stromes Gewässer?

Ja fürwahr!

Und könnten wir
nicht so auch jetzt abziehn des Flusses Lauf
und eingehn in die Stadt hin trocknen Fußes

Sei dies getan, so hemmen Eisentore,
die von der Stadt aus leiten zu dem Strom,
die dort den Durchgang, fest verwahrt bei Nacht,
wenn du den Angriff wagst. Wär' ungesperrt
der Zugang dort, so wär'es leichtes Spiel,
die stolze Stadt zu beugen.

Sagst du nicht,
dies sei das Fest, das sie dem Sesach weihn?
Und dass die Babylonier diese Nacht
im Rausche feiern und in Schwelgereien?

So ist's; und die Berauschung gilt für Pflicht
bei diesem Feste.

9. Gobrias
O schau den Wüstling gleich dem Tier
schwelgend im Unmaß der Gier!
nicht mehr des Schöpfers Ebenbild,
versinkt er, fröhnend seinem Schlund,
und schändet, kriechend an dem Grund,
den Gotthauch, der im Busen schwillt.
O schau den Wüstling gleich dem Tier...da capo

10. Cyrus
Befremdet dich es denn, wenn weinberauscht
die von dem Gott Geschlagenen
weichen vor dem Pfad der eignen Wohlfahrt?
Du Gott, der, der mir nur fern bekannt,
so hoch erhoben meine Hand,
hilf dass ich beug' in blut'ger Schlacht
Assyriens ruchlos stolze Macht.
Dann wird erhöht dein Altar,
dein Preis gefeiert immerdar,
und dein Gebot, wenn mir bekannt,
vollbracht durch deines Dieners Hand.

11. Cyrus
Seid, Freunde, wohlgemut, und kühnlich schreitet
zu dieser hohen Tat. Mit gutem Grund
vertraun wir auf Erfolg; nicht ungerecht ja
ist dieser Kampf: des Feindes Angriff nur
vergelt' ich mit Verfolgung. Auch bedenkt,
dass ich in allen Werken nie vergaß
der höchsten Macht; was je ich unternahm,
begann ich stets mit Gott, dess' Gunst ich suche
in Opfer und Gebet.

12. Chor der Perser
Die Reiche stehn in Gottes Rat,
durch sein Geheiß erhöht, zerstört auf sein Geheiß
Blickt auf zu ihm in aller Tat;
beginnt mit Dank, beschließt mit Preis.

Dritte Szene
Daniels Wohnung
Daniel, der die Weissagungen des Jesaja
und Jeremiah geöffnet vor sich liegen hat,
und andere Juden

13. Daniel
O heil'ges Buch, der Wahrheit Quell und Grund,
der reinsten Weisheit reicher Schacht!
Bei Tag sei stets in meinem Mund,
all mein Gedanke sei bei Nacht.
Wer auf dein Wort nicht achtsam hört,
versäumt sein Heil, von Wahn betört.
O heil'ges Buch, der Wahrheit Quell und Grund... da capo

14. Daniel
Sei freudig, o mein Volk: es kommt die Zeit,
die langersehnte Zeit die Gott verhieß!
"So sucht nun Gott den Herrn von Herzensgrund,
ihr sollt ihn sicher finden. Und er bricht
die alten Fesseln euch: er versammelt euch
aus allen Völkern, wo zerstreut ihr weilet,
und führt zur Heimat euch in Frieden wieder."

nach Jeremiah 29, 13-14

Denn lang zuvor,
in Zeiten ehe Cyrus noch der Welt
bekannt war, hat Jehova durch den Seher
mit Trostesworten dem gefangnen Volk ihn
verkündet, und genannt den Wundermann.
"So sprach der Herr zu Cyrus dem Gesalbten,
dess' Hand er auserkoren, alle
Heiden zu beugen: Ich will vor dir schreiten,
zu lösen das Schwert vom Gurte mächt'ger Fürsten,
zu ebnen krumme Pfade, zu zertrümmern
die Tore von starkem Erz und zu zerhauen
die Eisenriegel, zu der Meinen Heil,
Israel meines Volkes! Da du mich noch nicht kanntest,
hab' ich benannt dich, hab' ich gegürtet dich,
damit vom Aufgang bis zum Niedergang
die Völker laut gestehn: Ich bin der Herr,
und keiner sonst! Kein andrer Gott ist neben mir!
Drum folge meinem Willen, zu Jerusalem
sprechend: Sei neu erbaut! Und zu dem Tempel:
Erheb aufs neue aus den Trümmern dich!"

nach Jesaja 45, 1-6 und 44,28

15. Chor der Juden
Singt, Himmel, singt! Denn der Herr vollbracht' es;
Erd', jauchz' in Freuden auf!
Stimmt ein, ihr Berge, in den Jubelsang!
Ihr Wälder und ihr Ströme,
singt: denn der Herr vollbracht es
Jehova hat erlöste Jakob,
und herrlich sich erzeigt in Israel.
Halleluja! Amen, Halleluja!

Vierte Szene
Der Palast
Belsazar, Nitocris, Babylonier und Juden.

16. Belsazar
Ein freudig Fest lasst uns begehn!
Lasst froh das Herz im Glanz des frohen Auges sehn!
Frei ströme Wein, der Quell der Lust;
entfleuch, o nagender Gram, der Brust!
Hebt an des Glockenspieles Klang,
stimmt ein in Sesachs Preisgesang.
O süß' Behagen, wo die Freude lacht!
Zaumlose Fröhlichkeit krön' diese Nacht!
Ein freudig Fest lasst uns begehn!...da capo

17. Belsazar
Für euch, o Freunde, ihr Edlen dieses Hofs,
bereit' ich heut dies hohe Festgelag',
ehrend so euch wie mich. Führt meine Fraun
in die Gemächer ein. Die teure Mutter -

Ich muss dich warnen, Sohn! O wer ertrüg'
so zügellose freche Lustbarkeit,
von euch Freiheit und Freude missbenannt;
wo alles tobt in wüster Schwelgerei,
in lärmenden Geschrei, unzücht'gem Scherz,
in niedrem Spott und wildem trunknem Mut!
Ich beb' entsetzt vor solcher Völlerei,
die Sitt' und Anstand höhnet!

Dies ist die Ordnung unsres heil'gen Tags,
nach altem Recht und Brauch.
(schaut um sich und erblickt die Juden)
Die Judenschar,
was tut die hier? Sie schmollt bei unsrer Lust,
und neidet Freuden uns, die sie entbehrt.
Doch nun soll dies verkehrte finstre Volk uns
das Festgelag' verschönern! Bringt jene Schalen,
die prächt'gen Schalen, die mein Ahn' als Sieger
geraubt im Heiligtum Jerusalems
und in dem Tempel Bels aufgestellt,
doch nicht gebraucht. Wohlan, bringt sie hierher!
Es dien' ihr Gott, dess' Macht zu nichtig war,
sein Volk zu retten, unsrer Heldenschar,
die ihn besiegt; aus seinen Schalen trinkt!
Es soll ihr strahlender Glanz und Formenschmuck
die Pracht erhöhn, zur Feier dieses Tages.
Und wenn ihr trinkt, so preist des Landes Gott,
der diesen Ruhm verlieh.

O Greueltat!
O unerhörter Frevel!

18. Chor der Juden
Zurück, o Herr, nimm die Gebot'!
Entweihe nicht mir revlem Mut
zu niedrem Dienst das heil'ge Gut,
dass nicht Jehovas Zorn dir droht.
Dein Ahnherr bebte vor dem Gott
und traf mit Tod des Lästrers Spott:
denn er erprobte seine Hand,
den er allzeit gerecht erfand,
dess' Rache strafend schlägt
den Mann, den Stolz und Trotz bewegt.

19. Nitocris
Sie reden wahr; und wissen musst du selbst
(ob trunkner Mut auch euren Sinn betört),
was alle Welt gesehn. Ich spreche nicht
vom feuervollen Ofen, den der Gott,
den ihr verhöhnt, für seine treuen Diener
zu kühler Labung machte; nicht vom König,
den er vom stolzen Throne herabgestürzt,
und ihn, der sich gewährt den Göttern gleich,
verwandelt hat zum Stier: all dies und mehr
weißt du sowohl wie ich, o lass dich's warnen!

Hinweg! Bekehrte seine Mutter sich
zu jüd'schem Aberglauben? - Abtrünn'ge Mutter!
Dies Märchenwerk steht an dem Kind'schen Wahne
des greisen Weibes, doch eine Fürstin nicht
voll Lebenskraft, durch Weisheit hochberühmt. -
Auf zu dem Fest! Ich frevle an der Zeit
mit eitlem Wortgezänk, statt sie zu weihn
den Göttern und der Lust


20. Nitocris
O meines Lebens Lust, hab Acht!
Und sprich nicht, o mein Sohn,
in frechem Mut Jehova Hohn:
Bedenke, was sein Arm vollbracht!
Die Erd' ist seines Ruhmes voll:
bedenk und fürchte seinen Groll.

O Mutter, lass ab von eitlem Drohn!
bekämpfe nicht den Sohn,
auf unsrer Feinde Heil bedacht:
Bedenke unsrer Götter Macht,
sie stürzen den, der ihrer lacht:
bedenk und fürchte ihre Macht.

O weh! So muss den Sohn ich sehn
blindlings in sein Verderben gehn?

Nicht zum Verderben, nein, o nein,
zur Lust! Und alle lad' ich ein,
der Lust mit mir die Nacht zu weihn.

O meines Lebens Lust hab Acht!... da capo

Sie gehen getrennt ab.

21. Chor der Juden
Allmählich steigt Jehovas Zorn,
bis er die höchste Höh' erreicht;
dort hemmt noch lang' Barmherzigkeit den Streich,
eh' er den Frevler strafend beugt;
langmütig harrt er seiner Reu', an Gnad' und Milde reich.
denn wenn Verstockung scheucht das Heil,
erreicht endlich ihn der Rache Pfeil;
und welchen Weg er geht,
trifft sein geächtet Haupt
in Flammenstrahl der Donnerkeil.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Version from the year 1751
Act II


Without the city, the river almost empty.
Cyrus and Chorus of Persians and Medes.

22. Chorus of Persians
See, from his post Euphrates flies,
The stream withdraws his guardian wave,
Fenceless the queen of city lies!

Why, faithless river, dost thou leave
Thy charge to hostile arms a prey,
Expose the lives thou ought'st to save,
Prepare the fierce invader's way,
And, like false man, thy trust betray?

Euphrates hath his task fulfill'd,
But to divine decree must yield.
While Babel queen of cities reign'd,
The flood her guardian was ordain'd;
Now to superior pow'r gives place,
And but the doom of Heav'n obeys.

Full Chorus
Of things on earth, proud man must own,
Falsehood is found in man alone.

23. Cyrus
You see, my friends, a path into the city
Lies open. Fearless let us enter, knowing
That those we are to cope with are the same
We have already conquer'd, strengthen'd then
With aid of great and numerous allies,
Wakeful and sober, rank'd in just array;
Now all asleep, or drunk, at best disorder'd
A helpless state! Still worse, when they shall hear
We are within their walls.

24. Chorus of Persians
To arms, to arms, no more delay!
God and Cyrus lead the way.




Scene 2
A banquet-room, adorned with the images
of the Babylonian gods.
Belshazzar, his wives, concubines, and lords,
drinking out of the Jewish temple-vessels,
and singing the praises of their gods.

1. Chorus of Babylonians
Ye tutelar gods of our empire, look down,
And see what rich trophies your victory crown.
Let our bounteous gifts, which our gratitude raise,
Wine, gold, merry notes, pay our tributes of praise.
Sesach, this night is chiefly thine,
Kind donor of the sparkling wine!

2. Belshazzar
Let the deep bowl thy praise confess,
Thy gifts the gracious giver bless!
Thy gifts, of all the gods bestow,
Improve by use, and sweeter grow.
Another bowl! 'Tis gen'rous wine,
Exalts the human to divine.

3. Belshazzar
Where is the God of Judah's boasted pow'r?
Let him reclaim his lost magnificence,
Assert his rights, prov'd ours by long possession,
And vindicate his injur'd honour! -

As he is going to drink, a hand appears writing
upon the wall over against him:
he sees it, turns pale with fear,
drops the bowl of wine, falls back in his seat,
trembling from head to foot,
and his knees knocking against each other.

Ah! -

4. Chorus of Babylonians
Help, help the king! He faints, he dies!
What envious demon blasts our joys,
And into sorrow turns?
Look up, O king! Speak, cheer thy friends!
Say, why our mirth thus sudden ends,
And the gay circle mourns?

Behold! - See there! -
Pointing to the hand upon the wall,
which, while they gaze at it with astonishment,
finishes the writing, and vanishes.

Oh, dire portentous signt! But see, 'tis gone,
And leaves behind it types unknown,
Perhaps some stern decree of fate,
Big with the ruin of our state!
What God, or godlike man, can tell
The sense of this mysterious spell?

5. Belshazzar
Call all my Wise Men, Sorcerers, Chaldeans,
Astrologers, Magicians, Soothsayers:
They can perhaps unfold the mystic words,
Dispel our doubts, and ease us of our fears.

A Sinfony (Allegro Postillons)

Enter Wise Men of Babylon.

6. Belshazzar
Ye sages, welcome always to your king,
Most welcome now, since needed most! Oh, minister
To my sick mind the med'cine of your art.
Whoe'er shall read this writing and interpret,
A splendid purple robe behind him flows,
A chain of gold his honour'd neck shall grace,
And in the kingdom he shall rule the third.

Wise Men
Alas, too hard a task the king imposes,
To read the characters we never learn'd!

7. Chorus of Babylonians
Oh, misery! Oh terror, hopeless grief!
Nor God nor man affords relief!
Who can this mystery unveil,
When all our wise diviners fail?

Enter Nitocris.

8. Nitocris
O king, live for ever!
Let not thy heart its wonted courage lose,
Nor let thy countenance be chang'd with fear,
Though all thy wise men fail thee, in the kingdom
There is a man, among the Jewish captives,
In whom the Holy Spirit of God resides,
And in thy grandsire Nebuchadnezzar's day
Wisdom, like that of God, was found in him,
By which he could interpret mystic dreams,
Explain hard sentences, dissolve all doubts:
Daniel his native name, but by the king
Nam'd Belteshazzar. Let him now be call'd,
He'll read the writing, and interpret it.

Enter Daniel.

Art thou that Daniel of the Jewish captives?
I have heard of thee.
That thou canst find interpretations deep,
And dissolve knotty doubts. If thou canst read
This writing, and explain, a purple robe
Adorns thy body, a gold chain thy neck,
And in the kingdom thou shalt rule the third.

9. Daniel
No, to thyself thy trifles be,
Or takes thy rich rewards who will!
Such glitt'ring trash affects not me,
Intent on greater matters still.

10. Daniel
Yet, to obey His dread command,
Who vindicates His honour now,
I'll read this oracle, and thou,
But to thy cost, shalt understand.
Thou, O king,
Hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of Heav'n,
Whose vessels they have brought before thee,
And thou, thy lords, thy wives, and concubines,
Have drunk wine in them! Thou hast prais'd the gods
Of gold and silver, brass, iron, wood and stone,
Which neither see, nor hear, nor aught perceive!
But Him, the God whose hands upholds thy life,
And in whose high dispose are all thy ways,
Thou hast not glorified, but hast blasphem'd.
From Him the hand was sent, by His appointment
These words were written:

which I thus interpret.

MENE: the God, whom thou hast dishonour'd,
The days hath number'd of thy reign, and finish'd it.

TEKEL: thou in the balances art weigh'd,
And art found wanting.

PERES: thy kingdom is divided,
And to the Medes and Persians given.

11. Nitocris
Oh, sentence too severe, and yet too sure,
Unless repentance may reverse the doom!
Regard, O son, my flowing tears,
Proofs of maternal love!
Regard thyself; to cure thy fears,
Regard the God above.
Repentance sure will mercy find,
But wrath pursues th'obdurate mind.
Regard, O son, my flowing tears... da capo


Scene 3
Cyrus, Gobrias and Chorus of Persians
and Medes, within the City

13. Cyrus
O God of truth, O faithful guide,
Well hast thou kept thy word!
Deep waves at my approach subside,
The brazen portals open wide,
Glad to receive their lord.
The hostile nations scatter'd fly,
Nor dare my presence stay.
Where'er I go, sure victory
Attends, for God is always nigh,
And He prepares my way.

14. Cyrus
You, Gobrias, lead directly to the palace,
For you best know the way. This revelling herd
Cannot oppose our passage; those who would,
Fall easy victims. For the rest, they fly,
Or take us for their friends, and reeling shout
For joy. We'll be their friends, and join the shout.
I seek no enemy except the tyrant;
When he is slain, our task is at an end.
My worthy friends, let us not stain our swords
With needless slaughter! I begin already
To count this people mine, myself their shepherd,
Whose office is to feed and to protect them,
Not to destroy.

15. Chorus
O glorious prince, thrice happy they
Born to enjoy thy future sway!
To all like thee were sceptres giv'n,
Kings were like gods, and earth like Heav'n.
Subjection free, unforc'd, would prove
Obedience is the child of love;
The jars of nation soon would cease,
Sweet liberty, beatific peace
Would stretch their reign from shore to shore,
And war and slav'ry be no more.

 Erste Szene
Außerhalb der Stadt, der Fluss fast wasserlos
Cyrus und der Chor der Perser und Meder.

22. Chor der Perser
Seht, wie so schnell der Euphrat flieht!
Wie er den Wellenschild entzieht!
Offen liegt nun die Königsstadt!

Erster Halbchor
Wie, falscher Euphrat, deine Stadt
stellst du des Feindes Waffen bloß?
Verhängst dem Volk der Knechtschaft Los,
eröffnest des Erobers Pfad,
und Heuchlern gleich, übst du Verrat?

Zweiter Halbchor
Die Pflicht erfüllte treu der Fluss,
doch weicht er nun des Himmels Schluss,
als Babel noch der Preis der Welt,
war ihr der Strom zum Schutz gestellt;
nun gibt er höh'rer Macht der Preis
und weichet auf des Herrn Geheiß.

O stolzer Mensch, gesteh' es ein,
Falschheit ist nur in dir allein.

23. Cyrus
Ihr seht, o Freunde, ein Eingang in die Feste
liegt offen. Furchtlos dringet ein, wissend,
dass die, die wir bekämpfen, jene sind,
die wir so oft besiegten, als sie noch
verstärkt durch Scharen mächt'ger Freunde,
wachend und nüchtern standen schlachtgereiht.
Nun all' im Schlaf, im Rausch und in Verwirrung:
ein wehrlos Volk! Vollends, wenn sie uns sehn
inmitten ihrer Stadt.

24. Chor der Perser
Voran, voran! Nicht zaudert mehr!
Gott mit Cyrus führt das Heer.




Zweite Szene
Ein Festsaal, geschmückt mit den Bildern
der babylonischen Könige
Belsazar, seine Frauen und Hofleute
trinken aus den jüdischen Tempelgefäßen
und singen Gesänge zum Preis ihrer Götter.

1. Chor der Babylonier
Ihr schützenden Götter des Landes, o seht,
o schaut, welche Beute den Sieg auch erhöht!
Was ihr selbst uns gewährt, was den Dank in uns nährt,
Wein, Gold, Freudensang, flamm' als Opfer vom Herd.
Sesach! Die Nacht ist einzig dein,
der freundlich gab den goldenen Wein

2. Belsazar
Kränzet den Becher rings im Kreis,
es gilt des Weins, des edlen Weines Preis!
Von allen Gaben, die uns freun,
ist's diese, die mein Herz erkor.
Noch einen Kelch! Schenkt wieder ein! 's ist Götterwein
Er hebt zum Himmel uns empor!

3. Belsazar
Wo ist der Gott, dess' Allmacht Juda rühmt?
Heisch' er doch wieder seinen Herrscherglanz,
den er verlor an uns seit langer Zeit,
und räche sich an seinen Siegern! -

Als er im Begriff ist zu trinken, erscheint eine Hand,
welche ihm gegenüber an die Wand schreibt;
er erblickt sie, erblasst vor Schreck,
lässt das Trinkgefäß fallen,
stürzt nieder auf seinen Sitz
und zittert an Händen und Füßen.

Ha! -

Chor der Babylonier
Helft unserm Herrn! Er sinkt! Er stirbt!
Wer ist der Gott, der uns verdirbt
und Jammer uns verhängt?
Sieh auf, o Herr! Sprich, - blicke froh!
sag' wie so schnell die Freud' entfloh,
und der Schreck sie verdrängt?

Schaut hin! - Seht da! -
Zeigt auf die Hand an der Mauer, die,
während alle sie mit Erstaunen anstarren,
die Schrift beendet und dann verschwindet.

O schrecklich Wunderwerk! - Doch sieh, es schwand,
und ließ die Schrift von fremder Hand!
Vielleicht des Schicksals strenger Spruch,
kündend dem Volk Verderb' und Fluch!
O wer, wer ist in diesem Kreis ,
der uns die Schrift zu deuten weiß?

5. Belsazar
Ruft meine Weisen, Zauberer, Chaldäer,
Sternkundige, Wahrsager und Magier:
Sie deuten mir vielleicht die Rätselschrift,
und lösen mir den Zweifel und die Furcht.

Sinfonia (Allegro Postillons)

Die babylonischen Magier treten ein..

6. Belsazar
Ihr Weisen, stets willkommen eurem Herrn,
und nun zumeist in höchster Not! O reicht nun
dem kranken Geist die heilende Arznei!
Wer diese Worte löset und mir deutet,
den schmück' ein Prachtgewand und Purpurkleid,
den Nacken zier' der goldenen kette Pracht,
und als den Dritten ehre ihn das Reich.

O Herr, unmöglich ist, was du begehrest,
den Sinn der Zeichenschrift verstehn wir nicht.

7. Chor der Babylonier
O Missgeschick! - O Jammer! - Weh und Leid!
Kein Gott, kein Mensch, der Hilfe beut!
Wer gibt den Sinn des Spruches kund?
Verstummet selbst der Weisen Mund?

Nitocris kommt.

8. Nitocris
O Herr, nicht verzage!
Lass nicht dein Herz verleugnen deinen Mut,
noch sei dein Angesicht von Sorge bleich,
versagt auch ihre Weisheit. Vor dem Tore
verweilt ein Mann im Kreis der jüd'schen Sklaven,
den seines Gottes heiliger Geist erfüllt,
und in den Tagen Nebukadnezars einst
ward Weisheit wie von Gott in ihm erprobt,
durch die er löst des Traums verborgnen Sinn,
den dunklen Zauberspruch der Zweifel Qual
Daniel heißt er im Volk, doch vor dem König
Belteschazzar. Führt ein diesen Mann!
er liest die Schrift dir, und er deutet sie.

Daniel kommt.

Bist du der Daniel aus den jüd'schen Sklaven?
Ich vernahm, dass du
zu lösen weißt gemeiner Zeichen Sinn,
und zerstreust Zweifelsqual. wenn du mir liesest
und deutest diese Schrift, soll Purpur dir
den Leib umkleiden, goldner Schmuck den Hals,
und als den Dritten ehret dich das Reich.

9. Daniel
Nein! Halte Prunk und Pracht an dir,
gib Lohn an den, der sein sich freut.
So eitler Tand gefällt nicht mir,
der ganz sich Gottes Dienst geweiht.

10. Daniel
Doch beug ich mich dem Machtgebot
dess', der nun rächt erlittnen Hohn.
Ich les' den Urteilsspruch! Und du
sollst nun zum Schrecken ihn verstehn.
Du, o Fürst,
hast wieder unsern Gott dich frevelnd aufgelehnt,
dess' Kelche du zum Fest begehret,
woraus du selbst, die Frau'n, das Hofgesind'
in Wein geschwelget! Du verehrtest Götter
von Gold und Silber, Erz, Eisen, Holz und Stein,
die ohne Aug' und Ohr und Sinne sind:
doch Ihn, den Gott, der deine Wege lenkt,
in dessen starker Hand dein Leben steht,
ihn hast du nicht geehrt, - gelästert ihn!
Von ihm kam diese Hand, auf seine Weisung
schrieb sie die Worte:

die ich so erkläre.

MENE: - Der Gott, den du so frech gelästert,
hat deines Reiches Tage gezählt, und endet sie

TEKEL: - Du wurdest gewogen auf der Waage
und zu leicht befunden.

PERES: - Es wird dein Reich geteilet,
und nun den Medern und Persern eigen.

11. Nitocris
O allzu strenger Spruch, der dich zermalmt,
wenn nicht die Reue hemmet den Vollzug.
O blick' auf deiner Mutter Gram,
neig' ihrem Flehn dein Ohr,
und blick' in dich in Reu und Scham,
und blick' zu Gott empor!
Der Reue fließt sein Gnadenborn,
Den Starrsinn schlägt sein Rachezorn.
O blick' auf deiner Mutter Gram... da capo


Dritte Szene
Cyrus, Gobrias und Gefolge,
innerhalb der Stadt

13. Cyrus
O Gott des Heils, du teurer Hort,
wohl hieltest du dein Wort!
der Strom hemmt vor mir seinen Lauf,
weit offen springt die Eisenpfort',
froh meines Einzugs, auf.
Der Feinde Scharen flohn zerstreut,
wo sie gewagt zu nahn.
Wohin ich schritt, war mir der Sieg bereit;
denn Gott, er war mir stets zur Seit',
und brach vor mir die Bahn.

14. Cyrus
Du, Gobrias, leite gradewegs zur Burg hin,
dir ist der Weg bekannt, dies trunkne Volk
versperrt uns nicht den Eingang; wer es wagt,
fällt unsrem Schwerte, oder flieht in Hast,
nimmt uns auch wohl für Freund' und jauchzt
im Freudenrausch. Als Freunde stimmt in ihren Ruf.
Feind sei uns keiner hier, als dieser König;
sank er dahin, ist unser Ziel erreicht. -
O tapfre Schar, beflecket nicht das Schwert
mit wüstem Morde! Wie die eigne Herde
dünkt mir bereits dies Volk, ich selbst ihr Hirt,
dess' Pflicht ist ihre Hut und ihre Weide,
nicht ihr Verderb.

15. Chor
O tapfrer Fürst! Dreifach beglückt,
wer einst dein künftig Reich erblickt!
Wär' jeder Thron dem deinen gleich,
dann wär' die Erd' ein Himmelreich,
es folgte frei, bereit und blind,
gehorsam als der Liebe Kind.
Der Streit der Völker wär' versöhnt,
Freiheit und Fried' und Seligkeit
trügen ihr Reich von Land zu Land,
und Krieg und Knechtschaft wär' verbannt.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Version from the year 1751


Scene 1
The Palace
Nitocris, Daniel, Jews

16. Nitocris
Alternate hopes and fears distract my mind,
My weary soul no rest can find.
My busy fancy now presents
A gracious scene: my son repents
And God recalls his doom.
Now to false shame he quits his fears,
False courage takes, and madly dares
His impious feast resume.
Then arms and dying groans resound,
And streams of blood gush out around.
Alternate hopes and fears distract my mind,
My weary soul no rest can find.

17. Nitocris
My hopes revive, here Arioch comes! By this
'Tis plain the revels are broke up. Say, Arioch,
Where is the king?

When you had left the room,
A while deep silence reign'd; the king sat pensive,
As doubting whether to break up the banquet,
Or to continue. At length some parasites,
Those insects vile that still infest a court,
Began to minister false comfort to him.
With this, again
They sat them down to drink. The bowl went round,
The king forgot his fears, the wine inspir'd him,
And he blasphem'd again. Not long we sat,
When from without the gates a noise tumultuous
Was heard, loud shouts and cries, and clashing arms.
The king deputed some to learn the cause.
I gladly seiz'd the opportunity,
And fled a place to swift destruction doom'd.

Enter a Messenger.

All's lost, the fate of Babylon is come!
Cyrus is here, ev'n within the palace!

Cyrus, impossible!

It is too true;
A tumult heard without, the gates unbarr'd,
Disclos'd a dreadful scene: the guards overpow'rd
By numbers far superior, fell before them
With faint resistance. The victorious foe
No sooner saw the gates set open wide,
But rush'd at once, and easy entrance gain'd

18. Chorus of Jews
Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth!
How is Sesach taken,
And how is the praise of the whole earth surpris'd!
Thy counsel stands, O Lord,
And thou dost all thy pleasure!

Scene 2
Belshazzar, his lords, and other Babylonians,
with their swords drawn.

19. Belshazzar
I thank thee, Sesach! Thy sweet pow'r
Does to myself myself restore.
Thy plenteous heart-inspiring juice
All my courage lost renews.
I blush to think I shadows fear'd.
Cyrus, come on, I'm now prepar'd!
Exeunt to meet Cyrus.

during which a battle is supposed, in which Belshazzar
and his attendants are slain

Scene 3

Cyrus, Gobrias and Chorus.

21. Gobrias
To pow'r immortal my first thanks are due;
My next, great Cyrus, let me pay to you,
Whose arm this impious king laid low,
The bitter source of all my woe.
Tears, sure, will all my life employ,
E'en now I weep, but weep for joy.

22. Cyrus
Be it thy care, good Gobrias, to find out
The queen, and that great Jew, of whom thou tolds't me.
Guard them in safety hither; if harm befall them
I shall repent, and curse my victory.

Exit Gobrias.

23. Cyrus
Destructive war, thy limits know;
Here, tyrant death, thy terrors end.
To tyrants only I'm a foe,
To virtue and her friends, a friend.
Destructive war ...da capo

Re-enter Gobrias,
with Nitocris, Daniel, and Jews.

24. Duet

Great victor, at your feet I bow,
No more a queen, your vassal now!
My people spare! Forgive my fears,
I mourn a son, indulge my tears,
Resistless nature bids them flow.

Rise, virtuous queen, compose your mind,
Give fear and sorrow to the wind.
Safe are your people if they will;
Be still a queen, a mother still,
A son in Cyrus you shall find.

25. Cyrus (to Daniel)
Say, venerable prophet, is there aught
In Cyrus' pow'r by which he can oblige
Thee, or thy people?

O victorious prince,
The God of Israel, Lord of Heav'n and earth,
Long ere thy birth, foretold thee by thy name,
And shew'd thy conquests! 'Tis to Him thou ow'st,
To Him thou must ascribe them. Read those lines,
The great prediction which thou hast already
In part accomplish'd, and, we trust, will soon
Fulfil the rest.

26. Soli and Chorus
Tell it out among the heathen,
That the Lord is King.

27. Cyrus
Yes, I will build thy city, God of Israel!
I will release thy captives, not for price,
Not for reward, but to perform thy pleasure.
Thus prostrate I confess, Thou art the Lord,
There is none else, there is no God beside Thee.
Thou condescendest to call me thy shepherd,
And I will feed thy flock. To me Thou hast giv'n
The kingdoms of the earth; and shall I suffer
Thy kingdom to lie waste, Thy chosen people
In exile and captivity to wander?
Far be from Cyrus such ingratitude!
Hear, holy people! Hear, elect of God!
The God of Israel (he alone is God)
Hath charg'd me to rebuild his house and city,
And let his exil'd captive people go.
With transport I obey! Be free, ye captives,
And to your native land in peace return.
Thou, O Jerusalem, shalt be rebuilt;
O Temple, thy foundation shall be laid.
No thanks to me; to God return your thanks,
As I do mine! We all are to his goodness
Indebted deep, to Him be all the praise.

28. Soli and Chorus

I will magnify Thee, O God my king!
And I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

Daniel, Nitocris
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And let all flesh give thanks
Unto His holy name for ever and ever.


Erste Szene
Der Palast
Nitocris, Daniel, Juden

16. Nitocris
Vorahnend hofft und bangt mein zweifelnd Herz,
die müde Seele zagt im Schmerz.
Ein freundlich tröstend Bild erfreut
mir nun den Geist: Mein Sohn bereut,
und Gott verzeiht versöhnt.
Dann seh' ich, wie er muterfüllt
empor sich rafft, und ruchlos wild
dem Frevelfeste fröhnt:
dann tönt's wie Todesstöhnen schwer,
ein Strom von Blut wallt rings umher -
Vorahnend hoff und bangt mein zweifelnd Herz,
die müde Seele zagt im Schmerz.

17. Nitocris
Ich hoff' auf's neu - denn Arioch kommt: ein Zeichen
mir, dass ihr Gelag' zu End'. Sag, Arioch,
wo ist dein Herr?

Als du den Saal verlassen,
saß alles still und stumm, der König sinnend,
im Zweifel, sollt' er bei dem Fest verharren,
sollt' er es enden. Da drängt das Hofgesind',
die Schmeichlerschar, die seinen Thron umstellt,
heran, mit eitlem Trost ihn zu locken.
Drauf setzten sie sich
zum Zechen wieder hin, es kreist der Kelch:
der Fürst vergisst die Furcht, der Wein entflammt ihn
zu neuer Lästerung. Nicht lange war's,
so scholl es vor der Burg wie Lärm und wie
verworrne Ruf', Geschrei, Getös' und Schwertgeklirr.
der König schickt hinaus, den Grund zu wissen.
Ich aber griff nach der Gelegenheit
und floh den Ort, dem schweres Unheil droht.

Ein Bote kommt.

Entflieh! - Erfüllt ist Babylons Geschick!
Cyrus ist hier - mitten im Palaste!

Cyrus? - Unmöglich ist's!

Es ist zu wahr!
Aus der Stadt scholl Getös' - das Tor, geöffnet,
entrollt ein schrecklich Bild: die Wach', erliegend
raschem Überfalle, ward entwaffnet
nach schwacher Abwehr. Und der kühne Feind,
da er das Tor vor sich geöffnet sah,
stürzt' er heran und nahm die offne Burg.

18. Chor der Juden
Baal sank dahin, Nebo stürzte,
und auch Sesach schwindet!
Und wie sank das Wunder aller Welt dahin!
Dein Schluss nur steht, o Herr!
Du tust all dein Gefallen!

Zweite Szene
Belsazar, seine Genossen und andere Babylonier,
mit gezogenen Schwertern

19. Belsazar
Ich danke, Sesach, deiner Macht,
durch die aufs neu' mein Mut erwacht.
Dein herzerquickend edles Nass
füllt mit Kraft mich und mit Hass.
O Scham, dass ich vor Schatten wich!
Cyrus, heran! Nun treff' ich dich!
Ab, Cyrus entgegen.

während einer Schlacht, in welcher Belsazar
und die Seinen fallen

Dritte Szene
Cyrus, Gobrias und der Chor

21. Gobrias
Den ew'gen Mächten sei der erste Dank;
es sei der nächste dir, o Held, geweiht,
vor dessen Arm der Frevler sank,
der bittre Quell von allem Leid.
Gram, ach, verzehrt mich lebenslang!
ich wein' auch jetzt, doch nur aus Dank!

22. Cyrus
Suche in Eile, mein Gobrias, wo die Fürstin
weilt und der Prophet, von dem du sagtest.
Leite sie sicher zu mir; trifft sie ein Unfall,
kehrt sich der Sieg in Schmach und Reue mit.

Gobrias ab.

23. Cyrus
O Kampf und Schlacht, hier ist dein Ziel!
O mächt'ger Tod, dein Reich zerfiel.
Tyrannen nur bin ich ein Feind,
dem Recht und seinen Freunden Freund.
O Kampf und Schlacht ...da capo

Gobrias kommt zurück
mit Nitocris, Daniel und anderen Juden.

24. Duett

O Held, gebeugt siehst du mich nahn!
Nicht Fürstin mehr! Dein Untertan!
O schon' des Volks! es zagt mein Herz,
mir sank ein Sohn, vergib den Schmerz,
er bricht in vollem Strom sich Bahn!

Steh', Fürstin, auf, und sei gefasst!
Wirf von der Brust der sorgen Last!
Frei soll dein Volk sein, dein der Thron;
sei Fürstin noch, und Mutter auch:
sieh' nun in Cyrus deinen Sohn!

25. Cyrus (zu Daniel)
Sprich, o ehrwürd'ger Seher, steht etwas
in Cyrus' Macht, zu deinem Heil zu raten
und er Deinen?

O erhabner Fürst!
Der Gott von Israel, Herr des Weltenalls,
hat uns verkündet längst dich, deinen Sieg
und deinen Namen; ihm verdankst du ihn,
nur er hat ihn verliehen! Lies dies Blatt,
die Vorverkündung, die du schon erfüllt hast
zu einem Teile, und fürwahr fortan
zu Ende führst.

26. Solisten und Chor
Kündet überall den Heiden,
dass der Herr gebietet.

27. Cyrus
Ja, ich erbau' die Stadt dir, Gott von Israel!
befrei' auch die Gefangnen: nicht um Lohn
und nicht um Lob, nur dass gescheh' dein Wille.
Anbetend zeug' ich laut: Du bist der Herr,
und keiner sonst, kein andrer Gott als Du!
Du riefst mich gnädig, zu weiden deine Herde:
ich will ihr Hirte sein! Du hast mir verliehn
die Reiche dieser Welt: und sollt' ich dulden,
dass dein Reich verwüstet liegt, und dass dein Volk
Verbannung und Gefangenschaft erleide?
Fern soll von Cyrus solcher Undank sein!
Hör', frommes Volk! Hör', o heil'ger Mann:
Der Gott von Israel (er allein ist Gott!),
er rief mich, zu erneuern ihm Stadt und Tempel,
und frei zu lassen sein gefangnes Volk.
Voll Freude folg' ich ihm! Seid frei, und ziehet
zum teuren Vaterland in Frieden heim.
Du, o Jerusalem, sollst neu entstehn,
du Tempel dich neu heben aus dem Staub!
Mir keinen Dank! Zu Gott kehrt euren Dank,
wie ich es tu; es setzt um sine Güte
in tiefe Schuld: nur ihm sei aller Preis!

28. Solisten und Chor

Sei von mir gepriesen, o Gott, mein Herr!
Gebenedeit dein Nam' auf immer und ewig!

Daniel, Nitocris
Mein Mund ruft aus das Lob unsres Herrn:
Sag' alles Volk ihm Dank
vor seinem Angesicht auf immer und ewig.