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Thread: OTF - The Old switch-a-roo

          
   
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    Senior Member Involved Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Cool OTF - The Old switch-a-roo

    Many years ago, the CBC broadcasted an Edmonton Opera performance of the Marriage of Figaro sung in English.

    Pause

    That what I thought, exactly!

    I won’t call it a cottage industry, but there are many operas that have had their libretti adapted or translated in other languages. Some of them by design – Dialogues des Carmélites was first performed in an Italian translation at its La Scala première before its Paris debut in the original French libretto by the composer.

    In my record collection I have a fine version of Pagliacci sung in German (A Munich performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch) It takes some getting used to, but it kind of works.

    All this to say that there’s something to be said for opera sung in the local language for local audiences. Maybe some of the “big staples” (like my example of Mozart’s Figaro) are harder to warm up to,m but less traveled repertoire, and especially light opera or operetta work well. This is why this vintage performance I found on LiberMusica of Auber’s Fra Diavolo I think is worthwhile.

    The opera was Auber's greatest success, one of the most popular works of the 19th century and was in the standard repertory in its original French as well as German and Italian versions. It is loosely based on the life of the Itrani guerrilla leader Michele Pezza, active in southern Italy in the period 1800-1806, who went under the name of Fra Diavolo ("Brother Devil").

    Expanding and renaming the roles of Beppo and Giacomo (two accomplices of Fra Diavolo) Laurel and Hardy starred as "Stanlio" and "Ollio" in the 1933 feature film Fra Diavolo (sometimes titled as The Devil's Brother or Bogus Bandits) based on Auber's opera. There is not a great deal of singing in the film. Much of the chorus material is intact, and Diavolo has three numbers; however, Zerline gets to sing only the small bit necessary to the plot (singing when she undresses), Stanlio and Ollio only repeat songs heard by others, and no one else sings.

    For comparison, a YouTube performance of the original French version can be found here.

    The audio quality here is at times suspect, but once you get used to the sound, you'll like this!

    Daniel François Esprit AUBER (1782 - 1871)
    Fra Diavolo, ou L'hôtellerie de Terracine, opéra comique in three acts (1830)
    Original French libretto by Eugène Scribe; Italian translation by Manfredo Maggioni

    PRINCIPAL ROLES
    Fra Diavolo - Giuseppe Campora,
    Zerline - Alda Noni,
    Lord Cockburn - Gino Orlandini,
    Lady Pamela - Mitì Truccato Pace,
    Lorenzo - Nino Adami,
    Giacomo - Fernando Corena,
    Beppo - Giuseppe Nessi,
    Mathéo - Pier Luigi Latinucci,

    Coro della RAI di Milano (Roberto Benaglio, chorus master)
    Orchestra sinfonica della RAI di Milano
    Alfredo Simonetto, conducting
    HOPE 237
    Recorded : 5/3/1952

    Synopsis - http://www.opera-arias.com/auber/fra-diavolo/synopsis/
    Libretto - http://musicologia.unipv.it/collezio...f/ghisi097.pdf
    LiberMusica URL - https://www.liberliber.it/online/aut...r/fra-diavolo/

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I am a sworn enemy of opera in translation. Sure, for operetta maybe it's a bit more understandable, but I've seen operettas that dealt with the issue like this: the spoken dialogue was translated into the local language, while the musical numbers were sung in the original language, with supertitles.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Thank heaven for supertitles (initiated, I think, by Toronto's Canadian Opera Company) -- they leave the choice of whether or not to have a translation up to individual audience members.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    Thank heaven for supertitles (initiated, I think, by Toronto's Canadian Opera Company) -- they leave the choice of whether or not to have a translation up to individual audience members.
    And I recall reading that Beverly Sills was instrumental in getting the supertitles started in the U.S. of A. after having seen them in a Canadian production.

    My early operagoing days were just before that, so sadly I had no idea what I was listening to but for the general synopsis. That for Boris Godunov too. The main thing that sticks in my mind from Boris is the simpleton. Probably that nasal voice stood out.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Supertitles are genius - I, too, recall sitting and trying to follow the action from the typically sketchy outline of the plot from the program synopses: Oh, this is when Tannhäuser sings "Maria" and is expelled from the Venusberg, so that means we are about half way thru Act I....

    The very thought of opera sung in local translation makes me cringe. The Ring sung in Italian! Aida sung in German! Yikes!

    That said, my first opera was Hoffmann's Erzahlungen, aka Les Contes D'Hoffmann at the Komische Oper. Of course, since it was my first opera, and never having heard it sung in French (not to mention also that I was studying German), it seemed perfectly normal to me. I vaguely recall being told that it was the Komische Oper's policy in those days to present all of its operas in German.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I am a sworn enemy of opera in translation. Sure, for operetta maybe it's a bit more understandable, but I've seen operettas that dealt with the issue like this: the spoken dialogue was translated into the local language, while the musical numbers were sung in the original language, with supertitles.
    I'm with you there Luiz and some singers aren't too keen either. A few years ago I had a conversation with a singer who was singing at English National Opera for the first time. He said that the production team/conductor kept changing the translation all the way through rehearsals and at one stage they had to revert to the original Italian in order to get through a piece and save time. He didn't enjoy the experience at all. This was the first time I'd seen an opera in translation and I hope it'll be the last.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Supertitles are genius - I, too, recall sitting and trying to follow the action from the typically sketchy outline of the plot from the program synopses: Oh, this is when Tannhäuser sings "Maria" and is expelled from the Venusberg, so that means we are about half way thru Act I....

    The very thought of opera sung in local translation makes me cringe. The Ring sung in Italian! Aida sung in German! Yikes!

    That said, my first opera was Hoffmann's Erzahlungen, aka Les Contes D'Hoffmann at the Komische Oper. Of course, since it was my first opera, and never having heard it sung in French (not to mention also that I was studying German), it seemed perfectly normal to me. I vaguely recall being told that it was the Komische Oper's policy in those days to present all of its operas in German.
    Understandable when you didn't know the difference but pleased you still caught the bug!!

    I was looking to see what else was on while I'm in Vienna and looked at the Volksoper. They do everything in German. Not sure I want to see Il barbiere di Siviglia sung in German.

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Lander (sospiro) View Post
    Not sure I want to see Il barbiere di Siviglia sung in German.
    Not even Fritz Wunderlich can quite sell me on that, as beautiful as his singing is.


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    A few years back, I bought tickets to the Met's new production of The Merry Widow without realizing that they'd translated the libretto into English. It was rough - at one point "chanteuse" is rhymed with "floozy," and a recurring so-called joke is the malapropism of the widow Glawari's millions/melons. Mein gott, nie wieder.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    And I recall reading that Beverly Sills was instrumental in getting the supertitles started in the U.S. of A. after having seen them in a Canadian production.

    My early operagoing days were just before that, so sadly I had no idea what I was listening to but for the general synopsis. That for Boris Godunov too. The main thing that sticks in my mind from Boris is the simpleton. Probably that nasal voice stood out.
    As a matter of fact not only I dislike opera in translation like I said, but I also pick a fight with the widespread practice of printing a full synopsis of the opera's plot, which is almost always the rule in all playbills.

    I think that this is an example of a traditional, die-hard practice that currently no longer makes sense, given the ubiquity of supertitles.

    I find that it is condescending and gives away the plot-driven surprises that some patrons who have never seen the opera before, might otherwise enjoy.

    When we go see a new movie in a cinema, we are not given a leaflet with the full synopsis. Much the opposite, we have an interest in NOT learning about the full plot, and attempts at disclosing it are frowned upon and rightfully called "spoilers," because they, well, spoil the surprises.

    Why is opera different?

    The playbill for the opera I just saw yesterday, the contemporary piece Cold Mountain, handled this situation a bit better. The synopsis did not reveal the whole ending. It just had, as the last line, something to the effect of "but Teague wasn't done." Period, full spot. It doesn't say that Inman kills Teague in the scene before last, only to be killed unexpectedly by the young boy that accompanies Teague. It doesn't reveal either that in the last scene, Ada is seen 8 years later, raising her child she had from her one and only love night with Inman. So the emotional punch of the last two scenes is not spoiled by the synopsis. That's better.

    In my opinion, in this day and age of supertitles, synopses should no longer be printed for the audience. Maybe a simple line would suffice, such as, for Cold Mountain, "the plot deals with the hardship caused by the Civil War on the women left behind by their companions who fought the war, and the conflict between deserters and the squads that intended to chase them down and punish them." Nothing else is necessary since we can follow the whole plot printed on the supertitles.

    Sure, a patron who approaches an opera for the first time might just choose to refrain from reading the synopsis, but still, I don't understand why it must be there every time.

    Opinions?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I actually find the synopsis helpful when I'm attending an opera with which I'm unfamiliar (i.e., one for which no recording is available). I'd prefer not to spend the entire evening with my eyes glued to the supertitles, and having a general familiarity with the plot action beforehand enables me to focus more on the actual performance. For me, this doesn't amount to any sort of a spoiler.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I actually find the synopsis helpful when I'm attending an opera with which I'm unfamiliar (i.e., one for which no recording is available). I'd prefer not to spend the entire evening with my eyes glued to the supertitles, and having a general familiarity with the plot action beforehand enables me to focus more on the actual performance. For me, this doesn't amount to any sort of a spoiler.
    I agree. With a movie you're not having to refer to subtitles and even if it's a foreign language film, they're on the screen so you don't have to keep looking elsewhere.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Lander (sospiro) View Post
    I agree. With a movie you're not having to refer to subtitles and even if it's a foreign language film, they're on the screen so you don't have to keep looking elsewhere.
    Sure, but in opera the words come less speedy than in a movie. The lines are sung, which takes more time. So we can peak at the supertitles and look back at the stage. Also if you are not too close to the stage, often the supertitles can be seen as part of the same visual field.

    As a matter of fact I prefer to sit farther away from the stage, especially if I'm reviewing the opera for one of the partner companies. Being farther away allows me to better gauge the voices (regarding projection, volume). So usually I don't need to be moving my eyes too far from the stage, in terms of angle of view, to see the supertitles.

    I had not read the novel and hadn't watched to movie Cold Mountain with Nicole Kidman, so I actually enjoyed the surprises at the end of the opera, and appreciated the fact that this more limited synopsis didn't spoil them.

    I often do my homework before I see an opera that is new to me, but when it's a very dramatic piece with a rich plot, sometimes I do make a point of not learning about the whole plot in order to enjoy the twists.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I prefer to sit close to the stage, so that may be part of the explanation. But in opera, the text is sung, and even though it is usually slower than spoken text, it's still often more difficult to understand than speech. Film, unlike live performances, can also make use of varying camera angles to help convey meaning.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    I think it would be fairly easy for me to enjoy a new opera without knowing the synopsis because I'm used to opera. I took a total newbie to see L'elisir d'amore. She had no idea of the story and even though it's a simple plot, she only took in about half of it which was a shame. She said if she'd had a rough idea of what it was about before she went, she'd have enjoyed it more.

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