Sei’n wir wieder gut – Part 1: Background, Style, Vocabulary

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Friedrichshain, Berlin

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-soprano, 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.

The tension falls away from his heart, when he proclaims to his impresario (der Musiklehrer) in an imperative, “Sei’n wir wieder gut.”

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 Hugo 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 two we will learn what der Komponist actually says (and the soprano sings); we will examine the linguistics of “Sei’n wir wieder gut.”

Vocabulary

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

From: Ach ich fühl’s – German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing, Lulu Press, 373 pages, ISBN: 978-1-312-46345-5

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More information about the book: click here.

 

 

 

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berndhendricks

Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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