My Easter Sunday was probably not like yours.
In my down time yesterday morning (I’ve been a church musician for 47 years, so this isn’t my first rodeo…), I tried to catch up on work by writing supertitles. But it was a little disorienting to sandwich Scarpia between services, and translating Tosca while in a church does create a bit of psychic dissonance.
Scarpia is evil in more ways than any of us give him credit for. And Puccini’s ability to encompass this wickedness and the glorious text of the Te Deum in a single piece of music is breathtaking.
No one who translates Tosca can avoid a wry chuckle when approaching “Ma falle gli occhi neri” in Act I. Thirty-three years ago (!), when supertitles were in their infancy, a well-meaning translation of this line backfired. Of course, Tosca is asking her Mario to re-paint the blue eyes in the Madonna’s portrait so they look more like her own dark eyes. Unfortunately, the “Give her black eyes” translation became legend.
It was a walk in the park to translate this opera on the heels of having finished supertitles for Romanelli’s libretto for Rossini’s Pietra del paragone. The Italians of 1900 are a lot easier to understand than the ones from 1812… [Oh, and P.S. if anyone can suggest a good modern-day translation for civetta (screech owl) yelled in the context of a cat fight, leave it in the comments.]
Photo by Eric Melear