Intercode Translation: Words and Music in Opera

Dinda L. Gorlée
SIGV The Hague & University of Innsbruck

Opera is a synchronization of different media of artistic expression, with a dual emphasis on music and drama. Operatic scholarship has voiced different views on the fusion of verbal and musical discourse, the two extremes being logocentrism and musicocentrism. The interlingual translation of the verbal subtext is a complex enterprise subject to multiple constraints. By focusing on its intricacies in some detail (the anatomy of the human vocal apparatus, high/ low pitches, stress, prosodic and intonational patterns, rhyme, etc., together determining the singability of the libretto), I hope that the discussion will shed light on the manifold problems involved in opera translation. The theoretical remarks are exemplified in an analysis of selected passages from Das Rheingold, by Richard Wagner.

Table of contents

Together with theater, cinema, television, ballet, musical, circus, and other forms of multimedial art, yet different from them, opera is multichanneled and polysensual communication (Hess-Luttich 1986), a highly aesthetic rulegoverned synchronization of different media of artistic expression. Designed for the ear and the eye, opera emphasizes the acoustic medium (vocal and orchestral music, and verbal discourse in the form of a libretto) together with visual drama—movement, gesture, costume, scenery, and other scenic effects.

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