Episode 63. Polyglot Wagner

Episode 63. Polyglot Wagner (Opera in Translation I)



Something a little different today: Wagner sung in a variety of languages, none of them German. Throughout much of the 20th Century, it was not at all unusual for Wagner’s operas to be performed in the vernacular. I have chosen to present this phenomenon in recordings and live performances over nearly six decades (1903-1962) and in four different languages (French, Italian, Swedish, and Russian). We examine how the language being sung influences phrasing and expression, even characterization. Operas represented include Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal. Singers include Germaine Lubin, Maria Callas, Birgit Nilsson, Elisabeth Söderström, Mafalda Favero, Marjorie Lawrence, Ninon Vallin, Marcella Pobbe, Karin Branzell, Aureliano Pertile, Georges Thill, Leonid Sobinov, Miguel Fleta, Paul Franz, Ivan Ershov, Sergei Lemeshev, César Vezzani, Set Svanholm, Martial Singher, Bernhard Sönnerstedt, Rolando Panerai, Sigurd Björling, Boris Christoff, and Mark Reizen. Hop aboard the Wagner Express for a most unusual journey!


Salut à toi, noble demeure [Dich, teure Halle] (Tannhäuser) [sung in French]. Germaine Lubin; Orchestra conducted by Henry Defosse [1929]

Wie Todesahnung… O du mein holder Abendstern (Tannhäuser) [sung in Swedish]. Bernhard Sönnerstedt, Sten-Ake Axelson, Royal Stockholm Opera Orchestra [1947]

Forging Song (Siegfried) [sung in Russian]. Ivan Ershov [1903]

Chant de la forge [Nothung! Neidliches Schwert] (Siegfried) [sung in French]. Paul Franz; Orchestra conducted by Eugène Bigot [1930]

Sola da miei prim’anni [Einsam in trüben Tagen] (Lohengrin) [sung in Italian]. Mafalda Favero [1928]

Seule dans ma misère [Einsam in trüben Tagen] (Lohengrin) [sung in French]. Ninon Vallin; Orchestra conducted by Gustav Cloëz

Allons, debout, compagne de ma honte [Erhebe dich, Genossin meiner Schmach! (Lohengrin) [sung in French]. Martial Singher, Marjorie Lawrence; Orchestra conducted by Piero Coppola [1933]

Aurette, a cui si spesso [Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen] (Lohengrin) [sung in Italian]. Marcella Pobbe; Umberto Cattini, Orchestra Sinfonica Cetra [1957]

Das süße Lied verhallt (Lohengrin) [sung in Russian]. Leonid Sobinov, Antonina Nezhdanova [1910]

Cigno fedel [Mein lieber Schwan] (Lohengrin) [sung in Italian]. Miguel Fleta [1926]

Da voi lontan [In fernem Land] (Lohengrin) [sung in Italian]. Aureliano Pertile [1932]

In fernem Land (Lohengrin) [sung in Russian]. Sergei Lemeshev; Orchestra of the Bolshoi Opera [probably late 1940s]

Chant du Printemps [Winterstürme] (Die Walküre) [sung in French]. César Vezzani; Piero Coppola conducting the Orchestre de l’Opéra-Comique [1931]

War es so schmälich (Die Walküre) [sung in Swedish]. Karin Branzell [1923]

No! Non ti scopra ancor [Nein! Lass ihn unhenthüllt!] (Parsifal) [sung in Italian]. Rolando Panerai, Vittorio Gui, Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI [1950]

Titurel, il più campion [Titurel, der fromme Held] (Parsifal) [sung in Italian]. Boris Christoff; Vittorio Gui, Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI [1950]

Wie duftet doch der Flieder (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) [sung in Swedish]. Sigurd Björling, Herbert Sandberg, Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra [live 1962]

Hans Sachs isn’t the only one who likes lilacs!

O Sachs, mein Freund (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) [sung in Swedish]. Elisabeth Söderström, Herbert Sandberg, Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra [live 1962]

Selig wie die Sonne (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) [sung in Swedish]. Elisabeth Söderström, Sigurd Björling, Set Svanholm, Margareta Bergström, Sven-Erik Vikström; Herbert Sandberg, Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra [live 1962]

L’aube vermeille [Morgenlich leuchtend] (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) [sung in French]. Georges Thill; Orchestra conducted by Eugène Bigot [1935]

Ewig war ich (Siegfried) [sung in Swedish]. Birgit Nilsson; Sixten Ehrling, Royal Swedish Orchestra [live, 1955]

Leb’ wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind (Die Walküre) [sung in Russian]. Mark Reizen; Vassili Nebolsin, Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater [1953]

Dolce e calmo [Mild und leise] (Tristan und Isolde) [sung in Italian]. Maria Callas; Arturo Basile, Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI [1949]

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