Master of Music (MM)
Don Carlos, Giuseppe Verdi’s third French opera, was first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1867; today, it is commonly performed in its Italian translation. This translation is problematic, however, because it departs from the original French in more than language: as a translation to be sung, it often conveys a different meaning, places key words on different sections of the melody, and consists of a different sound. This latter aspect and its relationship to notated melody is the focus of this study. For the purpose of this study, the sound of a language is defined by the overtones of its vowels (called formants). Since formants have relative pitches ranging from low, [u], to high, [i], text has an internal, “hidden” melody that interacts with the notated melody in a variety of ways. Through an analysis of Don Carlos’s recitative and romance “Fontainebleau … Je l’ai vue” from Act I, this study shows that the formants may highlight certain keywords, draw a connection between related words, and mirror the contour of the melody (the latter especially at melodic cadences involving the e muet); it furthermore shows that, in the French version, the correspondence between formants and notated melody is generally more meaningful. Not even in the French, however, do the contours of formants and the melody correspond consistently; in fact, they sometimes correspond less well. This inconsistency suggests that Verdi did not observe the contour of the formants deliberately. Finally, this thesis also considers the problem of singing certain vowels on a high pitch and concludes that the French text is almost always easier to sing.
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Owen, Justin Andrew, "Hidden music: vowel formant theory and the languages of Verdi's Don Carolos" (2012). LSU Master's Theses. 1896.