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Thread: What Do You Think Of Chandos Opera In English ?

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    Default What Do You Think Of Chandos Opera In English ?

    I recently borrowed the excellent Chandos CD of Puccini's Turandot sung in a pretty good English translation, with Jane Eaglen and Dennis O'Neill , plus no less than Nicolai Gedda as the aged emperor , conducted by David Parry with the Philharmonia orchestra from my library . I can't recall the name of the transltor, but hearing Puccini in English, although it sounds a bit odd to ears accustomed to the original Italian at first ,is not at all unpleasant .
    Others from this opera in English series on Chandos I've heard include Mackerras conducting The Magic Flute,
    Makropoulos case, Jenufa, Hansel&Gretel, Richard Armstrong leading Ariadne auf Naxos, Rattle's Cunning Little Vixen(originally on EMI ) ,Paul Daniel conducting Falstaff ,Parry conducting The Flying Dutchman,
    conducting Don Pasquale, Mackerras conducting Janacek's Osud (fate),originally on EMI , and I've just borrowed from my library Mackerras conducting La Traviata and Yehudi Menuhin conducting The Abduction from the Serraglio, which I haven't heard yet .
    While they might not be the ultimate in terms of singing , none has been less than good .
    The diction on these sets is so good I don't need to follow with the libretto in the booklets .
    Has anybody else here heard any of these, and what do you think about them ?
    There many others in this series I haven't heard but would like to . These include Otello, Aida, Don Carlo,
    Rigoletto , Ernani, La Boheme,Tosca, Madama Butterly, Barber of Seville, Goodall's Ring (half of which I'heard on LP long ago), Salome and other operas .

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    Opera is a mean of expression. To understand an opera one must comprehend about what is being sung. In theory, i agree with translations. Before WWII italian operas were translated in german in german speaking countries. The other way around was applied in Italy (thus having the great Melchior singing Otello in german).

    However with the technology, most opera houses have subtitles and so opera can ben performed in its original language without menacing one's understanding.

    Normally i prefer in its original language but i'm not against having it translated. I've seen Don Giovanni in english and The magic flute and La Boheme in portuguese (my native language). Yeah...it's strange. Specially in portugese. It's easier to sing with brazilian accent, but with Portugal accent it is very difficult (and truly artful).

    As long it is for the purpose of understanding the play, and not just for the ridiculousness of gaining more visability (as most of pop singers today prefer to sing in english than their own language), i don't have any trouble with that.

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    Goodall's Ring of the Nibelung is excellent. When you can understand the words in your native language, jokes are actually funny. There's something about translating a joke that kills it. Siegfried's first act in English is much more fun than in German.

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    I've only heard a few of this series. It's a great idea to at least have that option of an English language version but the results seem a little hit and miss. The Goodall ring is great despite not having the perfect sound of the more recent recordings in the series and The Magic Flute in English is perhaps my favourite recording of that opera. Osud and Faust are pretty good but I thought that Pagliacci and The Barber of Seville were both fairly poor. Dull sounding, tending to drag on with not particularly inspired singing often, and in the case of Pagliacci you hear more clearly what cheesy melodrama it is. I'd still like to hear more of them, probably one of the Berg operas would be my next choice.

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    I heard a couple a few years past but can't recall what they were and yes it is much better if you know what is going on.

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    Well, we've got two parallel subjects here... 1- how about operas in English? and 2- how about the Chandos recordings?

    Re. operas in English, if the translation is a good one, I say that's okay, and as was pointed out, operas have been translated into the vernacular for a long time. But as was also mentioned, supertitles (surtitles) obviate the need for translation and the rhythm of the original language libretto is then preserved. But sometimes, also, a translation may be a treat, especially I'm thinking about Julie Taymor's Christmas version of the Magic Flute for the Met, which is also an abbreviated production. But I've seen it on TV and bought the DVD and it's great fun. That's of course a special case.

    Re. the Chandos CDs, some are okay, some aren't, and not just because of the English but that the conductor or singers weren't right for the music.

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    I am of two minds about translations. On the one hand, knowing what is being sung and getting into the story is very important. I can enjoy the music if I don't know the language, but only to a point.

    On the other hand translations are problematic. For me, the sound of the language is part of the music. The music is written around the languages flow and rhythms. The libretisist wrote the words to sound a particular way, as any good poet would, and the composer wrote the music with those sounds in mind. Changing the language changes the music as a whole.

    Sometimes, it is jarring to hear in your own language, something that was intended for another. What was a sublime duet becomes as mundane as listening to a weather report.

    Getting one language to do what another does easily can produce, perhaps unintentional, humor. Because of it's abundance of vowels, Italian can rip along a good clip. German on the other hand (or even worse, Russian), not being blessed with as many vowels per word, is harder to get the mouth moving quite so fast. I have an old Seraphim recording of the Marriage of Figaro in German. All the singers are excellent but they have a very hard time enunciating the very rapid parts that Mozart wrote in Italian.
    Since Mozart wrote in German, Italian and Latin it is interesting to see what he does in each language. He does treat them differently because he knew them intimately and had an ear for what works and does not with each.

    Supertitles, I think, are the best way to go.

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    Excellent analysis, dr, and spot on.

    Regarding supertitles, my ex-girlfriend had virtually no classical exposure. The first concert / classical event I took her to was Houston Symphony/Chorus Beethoven's 9th (may as well start off jumping into the deep end, eh?). She loved the music so next I ventured to Houston Grand Opera (which as you may know is one of the premiere 2nd tier companies worldwide). We first saw Magic Flute, then Rigoletto, Masked Ball, Aida, La Boehme, etc and she really enjoyed herself and, per the subject of our thread, picked up on the supertitles immediately. I even asked her about it after her first opera, and she said it took about 5 minutes and she was okay with glancing up for the translation.

    Naturally, most of a libretto is repetitive, just like any song, pop or classical or whatever. You sing "I love her..." or "I'm gonna kill the Duke..." and then repeat a half dozen times. So there's usually enough time to glance at the titles during a song. The only time that's a problem is during a rapid "patter" aria or a quick back and forth exchance, such as we see often in Nozze.

    But you're also correct that the original language is needed for the flow of the music, and translations just don't cut muster due to the difference in syntax.

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    I generally hate vocal music sung in translation. Of course understanding of the text for the full meaning of a song or opera is necessary, but if sung in translation, even in one of the most expertly done of translations, it is a far lower second best.

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    My first Opera in English was Fidelio and it did not sit well with me. Since then I got Tosca and Mary Stuart, both work for me, and I just received Thieving Magpie today and like it very much.
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
    --Malcolm X

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    Something I've not delved into yet but would like to in the future. Specifically for Verdi, some opera I listen purely for music, but Verdi blends music and drama so well and he's my favorite opera composer. I think this could be a more rewarding way to learn the operas better rather than libretto reading which i don't particularly enjoy.
    Last edited by Sonata; Jun-07-2015 at 03:27.

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    I can't understand the English anyway so they do me little good.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    I can't understand the English anyway so they do me little good.
    Generally true, but I am understanding much of the English in the Magpie opera. It may be that this one was recorded more clearly, the voices closer to the microphones. Kind of lose it in the chorus parts though.

    EDIT: I just ordered Elixir of Love in the Opera in English series.
    Last edited by SixFootScowl; Jun-07-2015 at 18:31.
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
    --Malcolm X

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    Lulu and Wozzeck, both conducted by Paul Daniel in the Chandos "Opera in English" series, are excellent. I can also recommend Rattle's Cunning Little Vixen, and the magnificent English-language Jenufa conducted by Mackerras; the latter also gave us a fine recording of Hansel and [as opposed to "und"] Gretel. Then there's the Goodall "Ring", which is one of the greatest ever recorded in my view.

    In general, I think that good English translations work well for most operas... APART from Italian ones, it seems. It may have something to do with the way that Italian composers/librettists fit the words to the music, "slurring together" entire sentences into a handful of syllables where required. Languages that are more "precise" in the pronunciation of separate syllables - e.g. German, French, Russian - are arguably easier to translate because there are more "spare" syllables to play with. Italian opera, where there are often far fewer syllables than words, must be a translator's nightmare!

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    I scoped out the English Cunning Little Vixen, but the music was too strange for me. Is it more Eastern music based?
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
    --Malcolm X

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