Opera Translation: A Truly Challenging Task

Opera Translation: A Truly Challenging Task
Julie Parker

Julie Parker


Unless you are fluent in foreign languages, it may be difficult to understand what expressive opera melodies really mean. Pagliacci, La Boheme, and Marriage of Figaro are just a few popular operas that have been translated into English. From "Ah je ris de me voir" from Gounod's Faust, to the well-known Mozart aria sung by Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, the beautiful arias from all types of classical music works can be best appreciated when you know how to translate operas.

Opera Translation - A Time-Honored Practice
Unlike typical transcription jobs, opera transcription is somewhat complex, due to the fact that the existing melodic lines must fit perfectly with the flow, bounce and rhythm of the original piece. The original text's meaning should be played fast and loose by the transcriptionist, so that the English performance is equivalent to the initial opera. While it sometimes may be a stark contrast to the original, it should fit the melodic line wholly, and can mimic certain words to ensure the librettos are enjoyable to read.

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How Opera Translation Works
European-language librettos can be edited to grasp audience attention and mirror what is happening onstage. In earlier eras, most arias were composed in verse form. It begins with the literal translations, followed by supertitles in the opera house, and translations prepared for English performances. Humor and poetic richness must be captured to pay tribute to opera librettos.

Gaining an Understanding from an Audience
To better understand the ways in which opera pieces are translated to match the rhythm scheme and the original imagery, it's a good idea to learn how to master capturing the meaning of poetic words to match the directness of the language. Rather than being appreciated on the page, it is more important to blend words and music that can be heard clearly from the stage. Clearly projected words make for a better overall show and when performed in front of an audience filled with people who speak the same language, the charming English version will flow with the melodic lines and it will be sung with precise diction.

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Julie Parker

Julie Parker

Julie Parker is the Transcription Supervisor for GMR Transcription Services, Inc, a leading U.S. transcription company based in Orange County, California. Julie has a true passion for effective verbal and written communication. She applies her passion to providing the excellent customer service and accuracy upon which GMR Transcription's clients depend. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, watching movies, and hosting dinner parties with friends.