Followup to my post about the language of Italian opera, and how it’s never rendered properly in opera-house translations.
I was listening again to Il Trovatore, and came to the moment when the baritone realizes that the gypsy he’s captured is not only the woman who burned his infant brother alive, but is also his hated rival’s mother. The rival is named Manrico, and, as I listened, I heard the baritone labelling the gypsy with these words: “Di Manrico genitrice.”
Which is very fancy, to the point of silliness. First, it’s backwards poetic phrasing: “Of Manrico the mother.” Except the word used isn’t mother, but something wildly stilted: “Of Manrico the parent,” or (because “genitrice” is far more stiff than that) “of Manrico the begetter.”
But I’m sure it’ll be translated at the opera house, in the titles, as “Manrico’s mother.” When I saw La Gioconda at the Met, there were countless examples of that. The libretto (written by Verdi’s great librettist Boito, under an assumed name) is highly literary. In the last act, the baritone, skulking as usual, observes that night is falling.
Except he doesn’t put it that way. He sings, “Il ciel s’oscura” — “the heavens are darkening,” or something like that. I’ve taken my Italian about as far as it can go, but I know that the normal word for “sky” is “cielo,” not “ciel,” and “s’oscura,” to the best of my knowledge, isn’t common usage. Put the baritone’s words into Google Translate, and it can’t find an English rendering at all.
But the translation on the seat in front of me just said “Night is falling,” which robs the opera of all its melodramatic flair. At least try “The sky is darkening,” like this English translation available online. (You’ll have to scroll far down into Act IV to find the line.)