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03 October 2010

Ach, das wär ein Leben, das wär ein Genuß / wenn man vergessen könnte, daß man verwandt sein muß / the song of the little orphan with the big suitcase and the wonderful dream

Everybody knows how much I love Kurt Weill's music, that's no secret.

But this is my favorite of all his songs. When I first heard Teresa Stratas sing it in German, I didn't understand a word, but it grabbed my heart and shook my soul instantly, violently. It still does. 

This is one of the very few Weill songs which contain musical echoes of the composer under whom young Kurt Weill studied: Humperdinck, composer of the opera "
Hänsel und Gretel"  (premiered in Weimar in 1893, Richard Strauss conducted; a year later Gustav Mahler conducted it in Hamburg.)

Here again the composer leads a little child into the forest and uses music to guide the child through terror and peril.

But now, a third of a century past Humperdinck's Happily Ever After Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead fairy tale/Kinderm
ärchen, the child wanders through a very different forest, and encounters very different terrors and perils: Europe in the years after World War One.

There's a little ambiguity about the role of Fennimore, is this a little orphan boy or a little orphan girl? It doesn't seem to matter. Maybe Weill and Kaiser wanted to combine Hänsel und Gretel into a single lost, imperiled child.

Georg Kaiser was a poet and playwright (the influential impressionist "Gas" trilogy) and pal of Weill's in Weimar Berlin. He introduced Weill to a young Berlin actress and singer, Lotte Lenya. YouTube had this treasure: Lotte Lenya singing "Fennimores Lied." The recording is from 1956/57, but Lenya, who was Fennimore in the Leipzig premiere, sings it as it was arranged and sung in 1933 in Weill and Kaiser's opera

Der Silbersee: ein Wintermärchen
The Silver Lake: a Winter's Fairy Tale


Der Silbersee was premiered on 18 February 1933 simultaneously at the Altes Theater in Leipzig, the Stadttheater in Erfurt and the Stadttheater in Magdeburg, just 3 weeks after the Nazi Party's Machtergreifung on 30 January 1933. It was directed by Detlev Sierck and conducted by Gustav Brecher (Leipzig). It was the artists' last production in the Weimar Republic before they were forced to emigrate, and it was banned on 4 March 1933 by the Nazis after having been performed 16 times.

I had to listen to "Fennimores Lied" over and over. Eventually I figured out what the singer was singing about.

Fennimore is a little orphan who has to schlep a battered old suitcase back and forth between uncles and aunts who mistreat the child and knock the poor relation in the head.

Fennimore has a dream, a special dream, a favorite dream:

I'm not related to ANYBODY!


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Fennimores Lied

from "Der Silbersee" ("The Silver Lake")
libretto: Georg Kaiser
music: Kurt Weill

Ich bin eine arme Verwandte
und gehöre zu andern dazu.
Ach, wenn sich doch keiner um mich kümmern wollte!
Doch das tuen Onkel und Tante,
und nichts freut sie, was ich auch tu'.
Das ist kein Leben, das ist nur verdruß,
den man, was soll denn werden, ertragen muß.

Ich hab' einen Koffer voll Habe,
den schleppe ich überall hin.
Ach, wenn ich mich doch seiner entledigen könnte!
Weil ich mir die Finger wund schabe
und auch nicht die Kräftigste bin.

Und nirgends will man mich behalten,
weil ich nirgends gern geseh'n bin.
Am liebsten möchte ich einfach weglaufen
und mein bißchen Dasein verwalten
nach meinem eigenen Sinn!
Denn das ist kein Leben, das ist nur Verdruß,
den man, was soll denn werden, ertragen muß.

Manchmal könnt' ich das träumen,
ich wäre gar nicht verwandt.
Und keiner dürfte mich holen und schicken,
ich müßte mich nicht mehr ducken und bücken -
ich drückte dem Nächsten freudig die Hand,
ich bin ja nicht mit ihm verwandt.
Ach, das wär ein Leben, das wär ein Genuß,
wenn man vergessen könnte, daß man verwandt sein muß.

~ ~ ~

Anybody want to take a whack at translating this into any other lingo? English translations exist, but I can't find one on the Web to filch ready-made. Someone certainly translated this into French. The challenge to the poet and the singer is to be a 14-year-old orphan boy with a big old suitcase and a wonderful dream.


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PatFromCH said...

Huh ? How come I get the feeling that this is a Fake Bot thing going on recently ?

Anyways, translation from german into english

I am a Poor Relative
and just belong to others
Oh, if only nobody would take care of me
But that's what Uncle and Aunt do
and nothing pleases them whatever I do
This ain't no life, just quite annoying, but you have to endure
(for you don't know) what will be

I have a suitacase full of belonings
that I carry 'round with me everywhere
Oh If I could only get rid of (this thing) !
For it scrapes my fingers sore
and I'm not the strongest either

And there's nowhere where they want to keep me
because I am not liked to be seen around
I wish I could run away
and manage my mere existance
after my own fashion !
This ain't no life, just quite annoying, but you have to endure
(for you don't know) what will be

(Just in case someone reading this unfamiliar witn Vleeptron: I AM NOT A GERMAN, I just speak the lingo as a second language)

PatFromCH said...

Blast ! Forgot a verse !

Sometimes I could dream
of not being related at all
Nobody could send me to get and fetch
I wouldn't have to duck and bow
I'd gladly shake the next man's hand
(because) I am not related to him !

Oh that would be the life, that would be a joy
if one could forget that you have be related.

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Anonymous said...

an italian version

Io sono solo una piena di parenti
e appartengo solo agli altri

Ah, se solo nessuno si fosse occupato di me!
ma lo fecero lo zio e la zia

e non gli piaceva nulla di quello che facevo

Ah questa proprio non è vita, solo noie, ma bisogna sopportare...

Ho una valigia piena, io
che mi porto appresso ovunque
ah se solo potessi liberarmi di lei!
perché mi sono rosicchiata le dita fino all’osso
e non mi resta nemmeno il più forte

E da nessuna parte posso starmene
perche ovunque non sono la benvenuta

Più di tutto vorrei scappare
e vivere la mia piccola vita come mi garba.

Ah questa proprio non è vita, solo noie, ma bisogna sopportare...

A volte ho sognato
di non essere imparentata a nessuno
nessuno potrebbe mandarmi qui e lì a starnazzare e piegarmi
mi piacerebbe stringere la mano al primo che passa
perché non sono affatto un suo parente!

e questa sarebbe la vita, proprio perché non siamo imparentati!

Vleeptron Dude said...

Grazie Matteo!

I will write a longer comment later. First I have to learn your libretto and sing it in the shower. (Wet tiles are so resonant for beautiful music.)

Grazie encore!

Vleeptron Dude said...

ciao Matteo --

you make astonishingly more and better use of YouTube than I do. Your ... come se dice? ... interest in Italian politics is an extremely thrilling 12-act opera (sometimes buffa). I was pleased to see that Sgra. Mussolini is still carrying on the public service and political tradition of her great family. Ho does she get along with Sgr. Bunga Bunga?

Thanks for Hildegard Heichele's "Fennimoreslied" -- I never heard her sing before, that canary sure can warble. I'd mentioned my deep love for Teresa Stratas. If she phoned and asked me to kill a perfect stranger for her, I'd only ask for the guy's home address.

But such is music in the recording age -- younger artists come along, sing the beautiful old songs in their own new personal way, and a sophisticated eardrum, brain and heart needs to move forward into the future, or at least the present.

One problem I have with YouTube is the dreadful musical fidelity of the .mp3 format. As my audio engineer pals used to say, "Close enough for rock n roll," but when you are trying to hear "Mi Gellida Manina" -- well, I am an old bigot raised in the days of fine turntables, fine vinyl LPs, and electronic equipment -- some vacuum tube/valve crap -- worthy of reproducing this complex and sublime music, all the harmonics, the full dynamic range.

.mp3 is not for faithful reproduction of music beauty.

(It's excellent for political speeches in Parliament, however, and for freaky high-speed motorcycle stunts by teenage boys.)

Shame on Vleeptron Dude for my ignorance about Italia, but I was surprised by your comment. I had the (incorrect, wrong) impression that Italia was devoted to and worshipped only operas circa 1750 - 1910, but was unfriendly to and unimpressed by the noisy taverna brawls, the repertoire and screaming that came after World War I. Is Weill and 1920s-1930s Brecht and Berliner cabaret stuff performed much in Italia? Where? Do they sell all the seats? Or do you have to take the train through the Alps to hear this stuff? (In Berlin, stay at the Savoy!)

Who translated Fennimore? You? Bravo!

You would love my Italiano accent. I studied a little at uni and learned il professore's accent. Il professore did not mention that through a serie of professional accidents, the failed biochemist was now gifting us all with Dante via his Siciliano accent.

Once I dated a young woman fluent, her mother from Livorno, and she cringed and crawled under the table when I used my amazing Italiano to order from the menu. Finally she blurted out: You speak like Al Capone! (Actually I think Al was from Napoli.) I'll have the manicotti!


Oh while I got you on the line -- how are the big dangerous volcanos in your neighborhood? I heard Santorini is waking up and making noise. That's not good.

Did you ever see the silent cinema "Cabiria"? Now THERE'S a volcano movie! The Carthaginians throw babies into the furnace mouth of the their Molok god! (Carthaginians were very bad people.)

Well ... I liked Queen Dido a lot. I liked how she waved arrivederci to her lover Aeneas. She was very disappointed with him.

Vleeptron Dude said...

CHE Gellida Manina!

(Well, of course it's gellida ... the pretty little hippie girl who makes pretty paper flowers is dying of TB, there's no heat in her cheap apartment.)

Vleeptron Dude said...

you can find Mimi sung by Teresa Stratas on YouTube, I always burst into tears when I watch her singing with Jose Carreras.

In Inglese, I translate the name of this opera as "The Hippie Chick."

I named one of our cats Mimi.

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