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Thread: Opera in translation

  1. #1
    Daffodylls
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    Default Opera in translation

    can an opera be translated?

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Sometimes. The ENO make a good go of it.

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    Senior Member zlya's Avatar
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    Can't stand translated opera. Saw ENO's "Abduction from the Seraglio" and hated it. Firstly, I still can't understand the words, because the singers are concerned about beautiful sound and projection more than diction. Secondly, all the beautiful German vowels get changed into disgusting English dipthongs.

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    They can: I lombardi a la prima croacciata = Jerusalem

    And I've heard Die lustige witwe many times, as well as The merry widow.

  5. #5
    Daffodylls
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    I think that what is important in a opera is not just the plot, but especially the poetic expression or verses which develop the drama. The reason for not performing an opera in translation is that the musical values of certain syllables are not preserved when one changes languages. The translator provides a new set of linguistic sounds to replace those anticipated by the composer.

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    Senior Member Morigan's Avatar
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    I prefer watching opera with subtitles.

    Also, I love what they do in my city : they display the translation of the lyrics on a wide digital screen suspended above the curtain. I don't know if it's a common thing or not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morigan View Post
    I prefer watching opera with subtitles.

    Also, I love what they do in my city : they display the translation of the lyrics on a wide digital screen suspended above the curtain. I don't know if it's a common thing or not?
    That's what they do here also. But they're hanging a bit to high, so they're easy to look at only if you are in mid-height level seats. I don't find those overtitles comfortable, so I just try to memorize the whole text before attending to the opera.*

    * Here they always perform well known works, so this is not a problem, actually.

    This is how the theatre looks like. (A 19th century lyric house... )

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    Senior Member Morigan's Avatar
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    It looks nice Manuel!

    I agree that it's not ideal to have "overtitles". It also drags your attention away from what's happening on scene...

    However, I find that understanding everything that's being said adds a whole new dimension and a lot more depth into opera. So, until I learn Italian...

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zlya View Post
    Secondly, all the beautiful German vowels get changed into disgusting English dipthongs.
    'Beatiful' and 'German language'. How can those words go together?

    No kidding, Lieder sound just fine, but German simply isn't what I would generally call a 'pleasant-sounding language'.
    ''Oh, the String Quartet - oh, the Divine Scratching!''

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    Member cato's Avatar
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    Lisztfreak.... Your comment about German, reminds me of the part in the movie "Amadeus", when Mozart and the Kapellmister are trying to sway the Emperor to use either Italian or German in a new opera, and the Kepellmister say's, "Excuses your highness, German is a..... a...... too brute for singing."

    About opera in translation through, I'm totally against it. I'm really into Russian opera, and if you put Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame into English, (or any Russian opera) you would strip it of it's historical and cultural meaning.

    Think about this..... Could you see Girshwin's Porgy and Bess proformed by white Germans singing this America opera in German? There is NO WAY you could faithfully translate the American Black Southern Slang using German. NO WAY. Girshwin wrote that opera to be sung in English, by Blacks, speaking/singing in a Black Southern American slang style. German cannot bring out all that Porgy and Bess contains. And English cannot really bring fourh the emotions that Russian opera has.

    No, keep an opera the way it was writen, that's what each composer would want.
    Last edited by cato; May-05-2007 at 03:44.
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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
    That's what they do here also. But they're hanging a bit to high, so they're easy to look at only if you are in mid-height level seats. I don't find those overtitles comfortable, so I just try to memorize the whole text before attending to the opera.*

    * Here they always perform well known works, so this is not a problem, actually.
    I'm prepared to accept any devices within reason to promote opera. So many people are offput by the social conventions of its performance; then they're offput by the price of tickets. It can cost a good chunk of your wages to visit the opera house regularly.

    To the hard-core opera fanatic, translations, sub or supertitles are probably abhorrent - so are incompetent singers, or singers you particularly don't like for some reason, bad productions and bad sets.

    Because it isn't likely to be produced in London in the near future, I bought a DVD of Somnambula. The singing is refined and beautiful in parts and the music is excellent - but the set is horrid - a real eyesore! But as I'm not hard-core, just a moderate enthusiast, and know I can't have everything, I'll bear with it until
    something altogether better comes along.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    I'm prepared to accept any devices within reason to promote opera.

    Me too. If you don't know the language the opera is sung in, you go to the opera for the music only. When I was I child my parents took me to see Carmen and I understood nothing of it.

    It reminds me of a comic opera written by an argentinian group of music-comediants (Les Luthiers)... The opera is sung in gulevace, an invented language (with a lot of comic terms), and when they play it in theatres their introduction to the piece says "The opera is sung in gulevace, the idiom from the land of Gulevandia; this is a rare language so overtitles are provided; it's not like those german and danish operas everybody understands."

  15. #13
    Daffodylls
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    most of classical opera plots are absolutely incomprehensible. – and when I listen Cosi Fan Tutte, for example, I close my eyes, I let me be carried away by the music, - and I don’t care of the trifles of the libretto.

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    Senior Member Morigan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daffodylls View Post
    most of classical opera plots are absolutely incomprehensible. – and when I listen Cosi Fan Tutte, for example, I close my eyes, I let me be carried away by the music, - and I don’t care of the trifles of the libretto.
    Lol! Cosi isn't that complicated... and the story is so funny! I love the "movie" version directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

  17. #15
    Daffodylls
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    The story is funny : that is precisely the problem, because Mozart’s music is sublime and divine, and not just funny!

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