Monday, October 08, 2007
Bel paese (dove il sì non suona)
To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the homegrown playwright Carlo Goldoni's birth, La Fenice opera house decided to throw a very lavish birthday celebration: it commissioned an opera ...
One controversy surrounding the new opera: the libretto, oddly, is in English, a choice that irritated some critics. "Here we are at the Fenice reliving Goldoni's theater with subtitles," sniffed one snide review in the daily Il Giornale
Carlo Goldoni compie trecent'anni, e nella sua Venezia si rappresenta una nuova opera per lui. In inglese: il musicista Luca Mosca e il librettista Gian Luigi Melega ritengono che sia la lingua più musicale. Ostrega (non so come si dica in inglese). E così eccoci alla Fenice a rivivere il teatro di Goldoni con sopratitoliSo surtitles of course and not subtitles (sniff). What is striking though is the assertion by the composer and the librettist - Italians both - that English is the more musical language (as if that were the reason they had chosen it!), an idea even more repugnant to tradition than the idea that cooking is best done by the British.
The great Mozart-Da Ponte collaborations - Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte - were written and performed in Italian for what were presumably German-speaking audiences (in Vienna and Prague). And no sub-, sur- or inter-titles back then. I wonder if Da Ponte, who ended up spending the latter part of his life in 'Anglo-Saxon countries', was also impressed by the greater musicality of English and came to regret having written his masterpieces in Italian.
The IHT article continues:
"I know, I know, so what," said Melega, who said that English is more rhythmic than Italian and so more appropriate for Mosca's intricate music ... Today's lingua franca is English, noted Melega adding that he hoped his choice would "help the opera travel outside of Italy, to Anglo-Saxon countries."
On the subject of hell (and what is eaten there), mention should be made of Canto XXXIII of Dante's Inferno, and the grisly tale of Count Ugolino. It includes the famous line in which Italy is for the first time referred to as the bel paese:
Ahi Pisa, vituperio de le genti
del bel paese là dove 'l sì suona,
poi che i vicini a te punir son lenti,
muovasi la Capraia e la Gorgona,
e faccian siepe ad Arno in su la foce,
sì ch'elli annieghi in te ogni persona.
Oh Pisa, shame of those who live in the beautiful land where «yes» is sì, since your neighbors are slow in punishing you, may (the isles of) Capraia and Gorgona move to bar the Arno at its mouth so that it drowns everyone within you.
Au Moyen Âge, Dante est le premier à avoir employé le terme de lingua d’oco. Il opposait l’appellation langue d’oc (occitan) à langue d'oïl (le français et ses dialectes) et à la langue de si (l’italien, sa langue maternelle). Il se basait sur la particule servant à l’affirmation : dans la première, oui se dit òc, mais oïl dans la seconde, et si dans les dialectes italiens. Les trois termes viennent du latin : hoc pour le premier, hoc ille pour le second et sic pour le troisième.The same source notes that Dante includes a passage of original Occitan in Canto XXVI of the Purgatorio:
'Tan m' abellis vostre cortes deman,In Longfellow's translation:
Que jeu nom' puesc ni vueill a vos cobrire;
Jeu sui Arnaut, que plor e vai chantan;
Consiros vei la passada folor,
E vei jauzen lo jorn qu' esper denan.
Ara vus prec per aquella valor,
Que vus condus al som de la scalina,
Sovenga vus a temprar ma dolor.
So pleases me your courteous demand,The Ugolino story is also told (more musically no doubt) in The Monk's Tale, although Chaucer refers to Dante for a fuller account:
I cannot and I will not hide me from you.
I am Arnaut, who weep and singing go;
Contrite I see the folly of the past,
And joyous see the hoped-for day before me.
Therefore do I implore you, by that power
Which guides you to the summit of the stairs,
Be mindful to assuage my suffering!
Of this tragedy it ought enough suffice
Whoso will hear it in a longer wise,
Reade the greate poet of ltale,
That Dante hight, for he can it devise
From point to point, not one word will he fail.