No “La”

A season ago my local opera company did a wonderfully inventive production of La Cenerentola, but they didn’t call it that.  All the posters around town said- Cinderella.  It started me thinking about what I call the opera when I’m talking to other singers or musicians. There is a funny short hand that we all agree on.  For example, sometimes it is just dropping the La.  In my work, we don’t say La Boheme, we say Boheme and we never say The Bohemians.  We say Cenerentola, never with the La and never would we say Cinderella.  That’s a Disney film, not an opera.  And if you start to look at things like Cosi fan tutte, you wouldn’t even attempt an English translation because it ends up sounding like some british farce –‘Thus do they all’ or ‘Women are like that’.  For that obvious reason, the opera gets shortened to ‘Cosi’ and nothing more. Even I got caught recently when I was guest hosting Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and I had to promote the upcoming weeks opera “Iphigenie en Tauride”  I found that to be an awful tongue twister and I’m not the only one I think, as  in an Opera News article Paul Groves who has performed it many times, referred to it as Iphy (iffy) I refrained from calling it that on air, it sounded a little to much like a pet name of your lover.
I brought this up to my friend, composer Jeffery Ryan, who took this idea and ran with it.  I tip my hat to him for his contributions to this list, and I am delighted to provide you with a guide on how to call the opera like a pro.La Traviata-No La
Italiana in Algieri-Italiana not the full title and I don’t hear anyone say “Italian Girl” says Jeff.  As a mezzo, I have to say I’ve heard it, so I’m giving the English a thumbs up.
Le Nozze di Figaro:  Figaro usually, but if we call it by its full name, we say it in English, not Italian-the marriage of Figaro.  You can’t say Marriage, because there are other opera’s with this name.
Don Giovanni-Giovanni
Orfeo et Euridice– Orfeo, we drop Euridice. Not “Orpheus” (which might be confused with “In the Underworld” which by the way we always say in English-Orpheus in the Underworld)
Il Trovatore: “Do we leave the “Il” off Trovatore? I do…”says Jeffery.  Me too.
Der Rosenkavalier:  Ditto “Der” from Rosenkavalier (which is always in German too)
Guilio Cesare:  Cesare
Anna Bolena: Bolena
La Sonnambula: Sonnanmbula is another “No La” and certainly not “The Sleepwalker”!
Lucia di Lammermoor:  is plain old Lucia
Maria Stuarda: try Stuarda here.
Un Ballo in Maschera-Ballo
Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci: on a double bill are always called Cav/Pag
La Fancuilla del West:  Fanciulla
Rape of Lucretia:  Lucretia (Jeffery notes: minus the Rape, it’s really just down to good taste in mixed company–see also that we don’t just say “Screw” for Britten’s Turn of the Screw)

But we also name some usually by the English only:

Die Zauberfloete: Magic Flute
Der Fliegende Hollaender: Dutchman
Les Contes D’Hoffman: Tales of Hoffmann-I don’t think I’ve ever heard it called that.
Dialogues des Carmelites: Dialogue
Then there is Bluebeard’s Castle, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Cunning Little Vixen – They get an English name really just because most of us can’t pronounce them in the original languages
Il Ritorno d’ullisse: Lets go with Ulysses for The Return of…
Die Entfuehring aus dem Serail:  Abduction.
Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Barber of Seville
Jeff volunteers:  I say Pique dame but I think more say Queen of Spades but either way that’s not Russian.

I’m sure we missed some, send me more opera title short hand to add to the list.
Don’t forget to use these professionally sanctioned short forms next time you are in the lobby at intermission and get knowing glances from the other opera fans.

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