Holly's Reviews > Seven Mozart Librettos: A Verse Translation

Seven Mozart Librettos by J.D. McClatchy
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's review
Oct 24, 2010

really liked it
Read from October 24, 2010 to February 10, 2011

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Holly Disclaimer: I was provided this book at no charge with the understanding that I would review it for Goodreads.

As McClatchy states, the verses from the seven Mozart operas included in this book were, of course, not penned by Mozart, but by various librettists, some hired by Mozart. McClatchy chooses to use Mozart in the title of the books because it is commonly acknowledged that he was the dramatist and in most instances, de facto author of the librettos. This book is an English translation of the verses of the librettos from their original Italian or German as the case may be.

Each opera contains an Introduction, consisting of McClatchy's comments, the Story (by Act) and the Background. McClatchy's comments based on his extensive knowledge of Mozart and the piece, I found very satisfying. The prose explanation of the opera, teeters on the edge of condescension. Between the Notes on Translation, the Introduction, the Story, the Background and then...finally, the verse itself, I was exhausted. The verse becomes a little bit tedious. But let's face it, when you read it while listening to Mozart's music it is nothing short of glorious. I remember from the play "Amadeus" when Mozart 'fixed' the musical march by ??? that he said, "There, I fixed your march. I took out all those extra notes." Too bad he couldn't do that for this book.

The Theory of Translation is that all translations are lies. While I ascribe to that underlying premise, I must say that the translation of the 18th Century verse from both Italian and German is quite simply beautifully done. The translation from Italian is more difficult I think because all translations from the Romance Languages lose much of their lyric qualities. This translation retains the lovely charm of the original and all of the Italian pomp. The two translations from German are really comfortably current American reads. Of course their subjects lend themselves to America today more easily.

Save the lesser parts of this translation for your most leisurely hours, but cue up the opera on your CD player, I-pod or turntable while you read the English verses and enjoy Mozart as you never have before.

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