Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pugacheva takes on the critics

Maybe you know her because of the story (apocryphal? well it's a touch recherche for an urban legend) that Schnittke envisioned her voice in the role of Satan in an opera he wanted to write, I think a Faust opera though I don't recall for certain. Or maybe you know the joking name the Russians have for her: Ustala Alla: Tired Alla. Oh or perhaps you're lucky and know her one song that doesn't sound like everything they should have told kids to fear during the cold war (tell a teen the Russians are sinister and they'll be intrigued; tell him they're unbelievably uncool and tacky and he might enlist), her one song that is an introverted gem, a spare setting for voice and guitar of Tsvetaeva's exquisite poem "Mne nravitjsa."* This is possible, because it was featured in a much beloved Russian film, Ironija Sud'by, i.e. The Irony of Fate. It's a film about hilarity ensuing, I think. Never quite made it through it, though I was graciously given a copy by an auntly Russian psychiatrist who used to diagnose kids, correctly, with the need for "a parentectomy."

What you don't know** is that La Pugacheva perpetrated a disco hit about the New Yorker's music critic. I think the first instance of her tribute occurs at about 1:04.

*what I'd really like is to provide a translation of this, but I tried, my own self, to translate the thing--preserving metre and rhyme--for a long time, and it always came out as translations of poetry so often do, accurate but broken, so eventually I abandoned the project. And I've never seen it translated except literally and without these structural elements, and that's no good either. Oh but here's the song, for all you Tsvetaeva fanbois.

And in fact, gadding about on youtube after the above, I did discover a verse-intact translation of the Tsvetaeva poem, sorta clunky, in the "about" section of an also clunky, though endearingly so, fan cover of the Pugacheva song. Would you have thought there would have been such a thing? It's like Rule 34, except not about porn: if it exists, someone has sat around with a guitar figuring out the chords, sung it with slight intonation problems, and put it on youtube. Oh anyway the point of this was:

"I like it that you`re burning not for me,
I like it that it`s not for you I`m burning
And that the heavy sphere of Planet Earth
Will underneath our feet no more be turning.
I like it that I can be unabashed
And humorous and not to play with words
And not to redden with a smothering wave
When with my sleeves i`m lightly touching yours.
I like it, that before my very eyes
You calmly hug another; it is well
That for me also kissing someone else
You will not threaten me with flames of hell.
That this my tender name, not day nor night,
You will recall again, my tender love;
That never in the silence of the church
They will sing "halleluiah" us above.
With this my heart and this my hand I thank
You that - although you don`t know it -
You love me thus; and for my peaceful nights
And for rare meetings in the hour of sunset,
That we aren`t walking underneath the moon,
The sun is not above our heads this morning,
That you - I like - are burning not for me
And that - I like - it`s not for you I`m burning.

Translator unknown--maybe the fan in question? If it's you, speak up!

**because it simply isn't true

Hat tips for exposing me to the song, and a rousing chorus of "Hachapuri to you" to B, whose oddly timed Georgian birthday dinner occasioned this shaggy dog of a post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ah yes, "million million Alex Ross" - brilliant!

Just so you know,
here's the actual clip from the film -- the one you had linked to is probably from some New Year's eve special with Pugacheva --

hope you can make it through the film! It's really a gem, and worth the trouble. Never watched it with English subtitles, though, so I could be wrong.