Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

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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?

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