questions on some opera lyrics

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adgalati
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:08 am

questions on some opera lyrics

Post by adgalati » Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:33 am

I have a few questions about the lyrics in the absolutely beautiful "Che Gelida Manina." I understand all the lyrics now, but some of the grammatical choices still confuse me.

First and foremost, why is it that towards the end of the aria, Rodolfo starts using voi and the voi tense when talking to Mimi? specifically the last part: "Or che mi conoscete, parlate voi, deh parlate chi siete, vi piaccia dir". I was thinking it could be metaphorical, referring to her eyes? but I feel like that doesn't quite fit.

Secondly, where does this word "Talor" come from? I've seen it translated as "from time to time" and I see how that could come from the "or" part, but I can't find a translation for the word by itself anywhere. I assume it's a sort of mixture of words and isn't one by itself, if someone could clear this up for me on where it comes from that would be awesome.

Lastly, this is more of a question about opera lyrics in general. I notice that in a lot of scenes/arias in various operas, some sentences are ordered very strangely (in an english perspective at least). I understand that the order of words in english isn't necessarily the same as it would be in italian and other languages and you can rarely translate literally word by word, but sometimes it seems like the words are ordered abnormally backwards. Is that a common way for people to speak or is it just a poetic thing that they do in songs?

I know it's a lot to ask in one post but i feel like it'd be worse if i posted three different topics at the same time. Thanks in advance for the help!

colagiuppy
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:48 pm

Re: questions on some opera lyrics

Post by colagiuppy » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:19 pm

Hi! I'll try to answer your questions
1) In 19th century italian you addressed people using "voi", so Rodolfo is actually talking directly to Mimi. In modern italian "voi" has been substituted by "lei" in formal conversations, even tough "voi" is still sometimes used in southern Italy especially by elderly people.
2) "Talor" is an apocope of the word "talora"
3) You must keep in mind that these are lyrics to music, not prose, and opera librettos tend to be written in a quite poetic fashion, so it's no wonder that the order of the words is sometimes not the one you would normally use in spoken language. Furthermore, most of opera lyrics were written more than a century ago, and many words and expressions are not used anymore and may sound archaic or even obscure to italians themselves. As an example, no one nowadays would say something like "Libiam ne' lieti calici" to make a toast!

Hope it helped ;-)

Geoff
Posts: 251
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:55 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: questions on some opera lyrics

Post by Geoff » Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:37 am

I can't answer most of that but talor will be a contraction of talora, which means sometimes. I expect the tal in talora is derived from tale (such).

You probably need a native Italian speaker to answer the rest definitively but it is my understanding that parts of Italy used to use voi instead of lei for the formal you.

adgalati
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:08 am

Re: questions on some opera lyrics

Post by adgalati » Fri Aug 28, 2015 3:37 am

Talora, that makes a lot of sense. Usually google translate can figure out a word when the last vowel is omitted but apparently not for that one!

And ok, that's very interesting that voi was used for one person back then. It does sound fantastic to the music though, "or che mi conosce..." wouldn't be as pretty, but i guess if the libretto was written in that tense, Puccini would have found a way to make it sound just as good :D

Grazie Mille!!

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