frontpage‎ > ‎


English Versions of Song & Aria Texts
These English versions of various sung texts mostly have been made to use in program notes I have written.  But, first off, let me state that I am not fluent in any language other than English.  My versions have depended on literal translations of others (special thanks to JPL Children's Associate Marie Myers for helping me with some of the French texts) and online translation tools for the meaning of the words.  

What I have attempted is to take the literal and translate it into poetry, either as free verse, or, when I can, using the rhyme schemes of the original poetry, as well as adopting prevailing poetic conventions of English poets living during the time a particular poem was written.
Poetry is just as much about sound as it is about meaning, and if the translation is ugly, awkward, and unnecessarily hard to follow, it isn't much better than simply pasting the lines into an online translator and accepting the output as the intended meaning.  If the translation ignores the lyrical aspects of the poetry it does a disservice to the poet, and also ignores the essence of why the composer set the words in the first place.  And if it ignores the grammatical conventions of the new language it might also mask the intended meaning of the lines, even if it does define each separate word correctly. 
Although my English versions try to be completely faithful to the meanings of the originals, I deliberately make changes if I think the lyrical qualities of the English version are improved by, e.g., adding adjectives or adverbs (I do this especially to more closely approximate the meter of the original language), or by changing verbs to verbals (or vice-versa). 
So, if you require an exactly literal translation be forewarned.
For me, a good translation of a poem will read like a poem in the new language, too. I find this especially important in program notes for a live performance; I think (hope) most listeners read the translation before the singing starts and then pay attention to the singer.
That being said, I also believe that the original language as set by the composer should almost always be retained for sung performances.
Faure / Leconte de Lisle : Lydia
Subpages (79): View All