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"Malinconia, Ninfa Gentile"

We have to sing a classical music piece in some language other than English for the final exam in my voice class. I've had a devil of a time picking a good song; for a while I wanted to do "Core 'Ngrato" which isn't from any opera (the teacher prefers we not do an aria) but turns out to be just a little bit past what I can manage. And no wonder, it was written in 1910 specifically for Enrico Caruso, the greatest operatic tenor of all times.

I finally settled on "Malinconia, Ninfa Gentile", an art song that is a love poem to "Melancholy, gentle nymph". Here's a file of Pavarotti singing it.

I couldn't find a good translation of the lyrics, so I did my own. I may never really manage the song very well - some of those "trapasserò"s are right at the top end of my range, and you really have to belt it out with gusto to do it right. But I can at least be proud that my word-nerd cred is intact; my Italian is primitive at best, and generally limited to informing more fluent speakers that "I can't speak Italian, I'm a Yankee barbarian".

I used at online Italian-English dictionary and my half-remembered High School latin verb conjugations, but this is what I came up with.

First, the Italian:
Malinconia, Ninfa gentile,
 la vita mia consacro a te;
 i tuoi piaceri chi tiene a vile,
 ai piacer veri nato non è.

 Fonti e colline chiesi agli Dei;
 m'udiro alfine, pago io vivrò,
 né mai quel fonte co' desir miei,
 né mai quel monte trapasserò.

Then my translation into English. I tried to stay true to the sentence construction, as much as English allows. Italian allows for far more flexible word order, since word-endings determine verb conjugation, not order.

Melancholy, gentle nymph,
I consecrate my life to you;
He who your pleasures despises,
To true pleasures is not born.

Mountains and hills I begged of God;
At last I was heard, and I will live content,
Never beyond the hills did I desire to go,
Never beyond the mountains will I go past.

In particular, I'm not happy with "pago io vivro" as "I will live content". Pagare literally means "To pay a debt" - but there's not a particularly good English word that indicates that one's patience has been repaid that's concise, and fits the meter. So that was my most figurative translation. Perhaps I'm just being fussy.

Anyway, knowing what it means, and having paid careful attention to each word while translating, helps me remember the lyrics quite a bit. Now if I can just get up to that high "e" on trapasserò. Or maybe I'm kidding myself - just because I can sing the note doesn't mean it's in my range. On the other hand, if I could just do it, I wouldn't need to take the class, would I?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
Really, really good choice. That's exactly the kind of thing you should be working on! It's not easy yet won't stress your voice. And it's pretty, too!
Apr. 29th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I'm actually worried that it's a bit much. Or alternatively, that I'm just not a tenor, after all.
Apr. 29th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
You do have a deep-ish voice for a tenor. But that doesn't mean you can't sing things written for a tenor.

And let's face it- if the song was easy you wouldn't like it.
Apr. 29th, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
Gotta back Blanche on this one. From what I've seen, you're most likely a lyric baritone. That E is high, but I have every confidence that you can do it!

Have I mentioned I'm proud of you for taking this calss?

Apr. 29th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
I have no idea about music, so I'll relate as I know how.

That high 'e' sounds like a 60-yard shot on a 40cm X. With practice, you'll hit it. :)
Apr. 29th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
Bellini isn't Classical; he's Romantic.
Apr. 29th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Well, lord love a duck - I'll just go shoot myself in the head.
Apr. 29th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
Seriously, you'll get points with anyone who knows what they're doing for differentiating. Musicians hate it when people lump anything that's not pop/rock crap under that umbrella of "classical."

And while I know you've already made your selection, I'd love to hear you as Guglielmo.
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
Seriously, my grandfather felt, all his life, that by pointing ou people's minor flaws and errors, he was doing him a favor and they'd be grateful.

They weren't.
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
And my father thought that people would forgive him for making ignorant comments, since he didn't know any better - but they don't.
Apr. 29th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Seriously? That's your point of view? That to choose to sing an arietta and calling it "classical" is an ignorant comment that no one would forgive? Really?
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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