At my UK workshop “German for Opera Singers” at the Rich Mix cultural center in London in early September, we discussed how to write an audition request in German as well as the linguistics of various arias, one of them Blondchen’s aria Durch Zärtlichkeit from Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail. Blondchen lectures her captor’s servant Osmin how to win a young lady’s heart and issues a warning not to lose it, too. The participants of the workshop, singers from Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, the UK, and the US, were eager, based on the method how to approach a German text, to understand the aria – and Blondchen’s reprimand.
die Zärtlichkeit = tenderness
das Schmeicheln = flattery
die Gefälligkeit = (here) courtesy
das Scherzen = joking, joke
mürrisch = grumpily, grumpy
das Befehlen = commanding
das Poltern = rumbling
das Zanken = quarreling
das Plagen = pestering
die Treue = faithfulness
entweichen = (here) to disappear, to ooze
1. Mark all nouns.
2. Identify the verbs (activity words) and look how they are conjugated (changed in spelling according to ich, du, er, wir etc.).
3. Look at the meaning of the verb (activity) and find the thing, person (name, function) or pronoun that is doing this activity.
4. Find the thing, person (name, function) or pronoun to whom the activity is directed.
Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln,
Gefälligkeit und Scherzen,
erobert man die Herzen
der guten Mädchen leicht:
Doch mürrisches Befehlen
und Poltern, Zanken, Plagen
macht, dass in wenig Tagen
so Lieb’ als Treu entweicht.
Nouns are always capitalized. There are many of them in this text, most of them nominalized verbs, meaning verbs, turned into nouns, e.g. Scherzen, Zanken etc. There are three verbs: erobert, macht, entweicht – all of them conjugated for third person singular (er, sie, es) or second person plural (ihr).
Who is doing erobert?
It is man, the indefinite pronoun, someone not specific which implies that Blondchen sets a general rule. One conquers “the hearts of the good girls” (die Herzen der guten Mädchen) easily by (durch – the first word) all these things she mentions in the beginning.
Who is doing macht?
The better question would be, “Whats is doing macht?” It’s grumpily commanding, quarreling and pestering.
What is the object of macht?
Who or what receives this action macht (to do, to make)? It is a process, here presented in a relative clause that includes our third verb: entweicht. Liebe als (here: as well as) Treue entweicht – in a few days (in wenigen Tagen)!
Listen to a recording of Durch Zärtlichkeit with Diana Damrau, available on Youtube: