“Sei’n wir wieder gut” is an aria of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss. In it the otherwise nameless character der Komponist, performed by a mezzo-sopran, praises music as “the sacred one among the arts,” die heilige unter den Künsten.
He has endured some humiliation after he arrived at the palace of Vienna’s richest man. He was to present his opera seria “Ariadne auf Naxos,” when he learned that the commeddia dell’arte troupe of the coquettish performer Zerbinetta had been hired to perform a burlesque right after his show, for him an insult to his noble work. Things got worse. Because his dinner with his guests was running late, the host ordered that farce and tragedy had to be performed at the same time – how that is now up to the artists. At first, der Komponist had refused, but then Zerbinetta persuaded him in the most flirtatious way to play along – successfully.
All tension falls away from his heart, when he proclaims to his impresario (der Musiklehrer) in an imperative, “Sei’n wir wieder gut.” (See last week’s blog entry “Imperative: How to Give an Order in German.”)
The text speaks the language of forgiveness and relief when he sees alles mit anderen Augen, of surrender and the bottomless naivité of a pure artist. Librettist von Hofmannsthal does not bother to instill complicated grammar into the text since the vocabulary of passion is sufficient to describe the inner turbulence of the character.
This week, in part one we look at the vocabulary. Next week, in part 2 we will learn what der Komponist actually says (and the soprano sings); we will examine the linguistics of “Sei’n wir wieder gut.”
die Tiefen (plural) = die Tiefe, noun created from the adjective tief (deep)
die Tiefe = depth
das Dasein = existence as a philosophical term; da (there, here) + sein (to be)
unermesslich = immeasurable, fathomless; messen = to measure
manches = some things, derived from the pronoun and the article word manch = some, e.g. manchmal = sometimes
unterlegen = here: to add text to music; legen = to lay, under = unter
recht gut = pretty good; recht stems from richtig (correct).
lieblich = lovely
fürchterlich = horrible, dreadful; die Furcht = fear
der Mutige = noun indicating a person and derived from the adjective mutig; a person who is courageous. In German we can derive a noun describing a person from any adjective: der Ungeduldige (the impatient one, male), die Schnelle (the fast one, feminine), du Guter (the good one, male)
versammeln = to gather (people); sammeln = to gather, collect things
Next week: Sei’n wir wieder gut – Part 2: the Text, the Linguistics