Monday, February 26, 2007

Onegin Afterthoughts

It has been noted that Dimitri Hvorostovsky professes being bored with the role of Onegin. Which is exactly why he is the perfect Onegin.

I snagged his aria on the broadcast the other day with some intention, if I can figure out how and it's not illegal, of posting it and Lisitsian's reading.

Rumor has it the next run will include Mattila and Hampson, which means Very Mixed Feelings here at MFI. Although...

I watched a DVD of Macbeth, possibly my favorite Italian opera, this weekend with Thomas Hampson. He actually sounded pretty good and his fussy acting seemed to have found a good use. Plus it was overshadowed by the very fun over-the-topping of Paoletta Marrccu, who's singing it in DC this Spring (the reason I 'flixed it.) Maroccu doesn't have the world's easiest time with the role, but she doesn't sing it like she's saving herself for a matinee of Boheme the next afternoon, and that's the #1 qualification for singing Lady Gruach. #2 is not sounding like she sang a matinee of Macbeth earlier in the day, and she doesn't, particularly, though she doesn't reach the early Dimitrova standard of a 1:1 ratio of florid and mean. Anyone who's heard her in-house should feel free to tell me exactly how excited I should be. Measured in, um, International Excitement Units. 0=how excited I am about coming to work tomorrow; 10=end of Bush administration or Podles/Klytemnestra.

This didn't end up being very much about Onegin but I'm sure you've figured out by now not to put much stock in my subject lines, or what's beneath them.

Oh wait, I'll add this to bring us back to Onegin: earlier in the week I was asked to recommend a translation of Pushkin's novel in verse. It's a subject I have a hard time not talking to strangers in the street about. In googling around for the spelling of Falen (not Phalen) I found Wikipedia's Onegin page, which has many useful links, including this article by Douglas Hoffstadter in the New York Review of Books (yeah, I'm ordinarily not smart enough to read the NYRB) that talks about the various translations. Naturally enough I am very rah rah Hoffstadter because his predlictions are mine pretty much. Short version: read Falen, avoid Johnston, and don't even dream of going with Nabokov, whose translation is an exercise in snarkyness, or more accurately a novel-length rhetorical gesture on themes of "poetry can't be translated." (Well, it probably can't. But if you don't think so, go stick pins in moths or something and don't waste our time with your unreadable drivel. You might as well have translated it into binary while you were at it.) It's said the accompanying volumes of commentary are extraordinarily enlightening, but I'm sure they'd sit happily next to Falen on the shelf.

4 comments:

Micaela said...

Representative sample of Nabokov writing on translation: "For if in Russian and French the feminine rhyme is a glamorous lady friend, her English counterpart is an old maid or a drunken hussy from Limerick." So, therefore, write a rather odd translation of Pushkin that comes with three volumes of footnotes. I tried reading some of the Nabokov, but stuck with Falen. Until I have time to learn Russian.

And as for the broadcast, well, I loved it. But seeing an opera next door to the King of Prussia Mall produces an amount of cognitive dissonance that boggles the mind.

Maury D'annato said...

In moments of supreme irksomeness, I want to suggest that those who would read Onegin but don't speak Russian should instead read Vikram Seth's Golden Gate. It's a long story. I mean, Golden Gate isn't, but it's a long story why you might as well just do that. And I don't really believe it. Seth, incidentally, recommends Johnston's translation in one verse of Golden Gate.

Winpal said...

Glad to hear the positive comment about the Hampson Macbeth. He's been announced to do it here in SF this fall, generating an IEU of something less than Pi on my part. You give me hope.

The Lady M is the intriguingly named Doina Dimitriu. Romanian and studied with Leyla Gencer, which generates a few more IEU sparks. She has sung in Chicago and Santa Fe. I wonder if any of your correspondents have heard her?

ch. r. said...

I think clips of last saturday's similcast are showing up on YouTube.

I am very tempted to bring a friend to the rebroadcast (as a first time intro). Please tell me this isn't total insanity?