10. April 2008 · 4 comments · Categories: Ramble

“America is the only country that does not perform opera in its native language,” said director Moira Stern, who also performs as Fiordiligi in the opera.

Okay, first of all, couldn’ “its” refer to two different things? Couldn’t it refer to either America or the opera itself? (Am I making sense? I’m just home from rehearsal and I’m fairly fried.)

But anyway, is it true that on America doesn’t perform operas in our own language? (Since I do know that’s what the writer means.)

I did find out that Opera San José’s Magic Flute will have dialogue in English. I was disappointed. I really prefer the sound of German. Oh well.

But I want opera in its original language. And I’ve written about this before, so I know there are readers out there that disagree.

I read the quote here.


  1. That quote makes no sense to me.

    Is she saying that every opera performed in England is in English? I know that’s true of ENO, but surely other opera companies in England perform in the original language. And does every opera company in Germany translate their operas into German?

    Because there are opera companies in the US that perform in English. Even the Met’s most recent Magic Flute was in English (although that was the rare exception for them). So to say that we, as a country, don’t do it is, well, ridiculous.

    I think it’s really difficult to do a good translation of opera into English. If you do a literal translation, it won’t flow well, and it will draw undue attention to the repetitiveness of the lyrics. I think, for example, of the Duke/Gilda duet right before “Caro Nome” in Rigoletto. It ends with “Addio, addio, addio, addio…” Are you really going to have those characters sing “Goodbye” repeatedly? It would sound silly – but when it’s in a foreign language we either forgive it or don’t notice it. Your other option is to write new text, but then you end up adding a bunch of stuff that isn’t necessary or goes against the literal meaning of the original language.

    As for our production of Flute, I don’t mind that we’re doing the dialogue in English. Since Mozart designed the opera to appeal to the masses, making the dialogue more accessible is fine with me. Even if there is an inherent silliness in speaking in English then launching into German singing.

    This comment is really long!

  2. SF, the Met, Santa Fe, and Kansas City use the original language, and I think Chicago and LA do. St. Louis used to perform in English; I don’t know about now.

    In London, the ENO is said to perform in English. (In the dozen or so times I have been there it has usually been impossible to figure out the language because the orchestra played too loud, or the singers did not sing loud enough.) The Royal Opera (Covent Garden) sings in the original language.

    I prefer the original language if there are supertitles. Many operas do not translate into English with the accents in the English well-placed for music that was written for an unaccented or differently accented language, though German to English can work pretty well.


  3. From the context, I think “its” means “the opera’s” native language, which would make sense, don’t you think?

  4. Actually, I think that they are saying operas should be in the language of the country in which it’s being performed. Just from reading the article. I think that’s why I was being ornery. 😉