Who among us has never misheard the lyrics to a piece of music & gotten a good laugh when we found out what the real words are? Some of us – myself included – also like to make up new lyrics to familiar tunes, not that we’d ever sing them in performance. Oh, no, singers (especially those with classical training) are all perfect angels. Right.
Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana certainly lends itself to both linguistic misinterpretation & parody. The text is based on a collection of medieval poems found in a library in southern Germany in the 19th century. Many of the poems are written in Latin, but some are in German & a few are macaronic (a combination of Latin & a vernacular – in this case, German or French.) For a modern English speaker, hearing all of those languages sung in the same piece is bound to create confusion & possible hilarity. The first movement of Carmina Burana, O Fortuna, has been the subject of numerous “reinterpretations;” there are at least related 18 videos on YouTube. If you need a good laugh & have a bit of time to kill, I’d highly recommend watching a couple of them, but be warned: some contain potentially NSFW lyrics &/or images. Then again, isn’t that apropos given that the original words to Carmina Burana are all about spring, drinking, & the, er, physical side of l’amour?
If you’d like to hear Carmina Burana sung live – & with the original lyrics! – you can do so on Saturday, May 5th at 8pm. Concert Artists of Baltimore, their Orchestra & Symphonic Chorale, the Peabody Concert Orchestra, the Peabody Hopkins Chorus, & Peabody Children’s Chorus are joining forces to present the piece at the Lyric. Another of my favorite choral works, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, is also on the program, & I’m very pleased to say that I’ll have the privilege of being onstage that night. Maestro Polochick, if you’re reading this, I promise to sing only Orff’s “official” words. Really.
Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, Chichester Psalms, Concert Artists of Baltimore, Edward Polochick, Leonard Bernstein, Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, Peabody Institute