Green Light for Old Phrases

While we cannot use all opera vocabulary in our everyday lifes, life gives us a green light for the following phrases. We find these phrases in arias and in spoken dialogue—as well as in today’s language. You can use them freely and without embarrassment.

Was haben wir hier verloren? = What is the use for us to be here? verlieren = to lose, participle: verloren

Was fangen wir an? = What are we going to do? (anfangen = to start an activity)

Es geht wie am Schnürchen = everything goes according to plan, without a glitch; Schnürchen n = diminuitive of Schnur; thread, cord, string. The phrase could stem from the cord or rope a coachman used to control a horse with.

Das geht selten gut aus = This rarely ends well.

Es ist bald um ihn getan = Soon, he is done.

Es ist um mich geschehen = I am lost, no one can help me, geschehen = to happen

ganz aus der Fassung = to be absolutely confused. Fassung fhere: composure; fassen = here to grasp, to understand

Diese Person wird mich um meinen Verstand bringen = This person will drive me crazy; Verstand m = mind, here: sanity

Wo denkst du hin? = What are you thinking? Are you crazy?

Bist du bei Sinnen? = Are you crazy? Lit.: Are you with your senses?

Ich weiß nicht, wo mir der Kopf steht = I am confused. Lit.: I do not know where my head is.

Soon: A series about the language of Ariadne auf Naxos

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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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