Improper Proper Nouns.
A map of Europe created in Britain will look very different than one produced in Italy, France, Germany, or Poland. Place names are usually different in their original language than they are in their anglicized or vernacular forms. Thus, Rinuccio sings of his beloved "Firenze" (Florence), and Leporello taunts Donna Elvira with Giovanni's conquests in "almagna" (Germany) and "turchia" (Turkey). This can create a problem too for a translator working on a performing translation.
A well known, ubiquitous example of a word with many slight variants is "Israel." The Hebrew standard is [??]. Vernacular forms differ from this benchmark in syllable stress and pronunciation of vowels and consonants. In all vernacular forms, the initial [j] is omitted--and indeed is not strongly enunciated in Hebrew. In British English, one finds a variety of transcriptions: [??], [??], and [??]. American English tends to favor [??], but also [??] and [??] are possible. Longman is the only pronunciation dictionary to specify [??] as a singing standard. For German, Duden acknowledges both [??] and [??]. (2) The French [??] comes as close as any vernacular to the Hebrew standard.
The mere recognition of when a noun is "proper" can sometimes be a challenge. Capitalization, of course, has traditionally been the identifier, at least for English. But we live in a time when the capitalization of words is used and abused freely, often for purposes of emphasis or, as in advertising, Catching the Eye of the Reader. How and when to capitalize is an orthographic nicety that slips all too easily through the cracks of the North American public education system. The Chicago Manual of Style recognizes the complexity of the topic, and identifies procedures "in indexes," "of foreign titles," "of compounds," "after colon," "for irony," etc. In German, capitalization applies to all nouns, whether names or not. Proper names can pass unnoticed in French and Italian, since they are often not capitalized, and never in their adjectival form. Indeed, months of the year in such languages, and other words normally capitalized in English, are arguably not "proper nouns" at all in such languages.
Musicians have long anglicized foreign musical terms in their speech, especially standard Italian words. Diminuendo is rarely pronounced in the Italian manner [di.mi.nu.[??][epsilon]n.do], or more colloquially [di.mi.[??]nw[epsilon]n. do], but as [??]. The same may be said of appoggiatura [??], which differs in its anglicized form in virtually every respect except syllable stress [??]. (3)
The matter of English place names and other proper names is a knot garden, as much for anglophones as others. British place names surface on occasion in British poetry, and thus in art song. Table I elucidates just a few of the more well known ones.
The most extensive coverage of the pronunciation of proper names will be found in the following suggested reference sources:
Forster, Klaus. A Pronouncing Dictionary of English Place-Names Including Standard Local and Archaic Variants. London/Boston/Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.
Jones, Daniel. English Pronouncing Dictionary, 15th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 (ed. Peter Roach & James Hartman).
Konopka, Rafal, Clive Upton, and William Kretzschmar. Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Although this pronunciation dictionary is excellent for English generally, its coverage of proper names, especially foreign names, is not comprehensive. It is primarily useful for comparing the pronunciation in the original language with that of both British and American English. The downloadable version is updated regularly. The city of Florence, for instance, is listed under "Florence" with Br/Am variants, while "Firenze" is listed separately, as follows:
BR [fi'r[epsilon]nzi] AM [fi'r[epsilon]n(t)za] IT [fi'r[epsilon]ntse]
The listing of proper names in their original language is limited to those that are well-known in the anglophone world. "Warsaw," for instance, is listed only in that spelling, not "Warszawa."
Wells, J. C. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd ed. Harlow, Essex: Pearson/Longman, 2008.
I asked a colleague about her experiences with English proper names, and she immediately thought of the word "Arctic." Having both lived in the same region of Ontario, we both agreed that "no-one says [??] in speech." But, if standard English dictionaries of pronunciation are to be believed, that is simply not true. [??] is the British standard and [??] the American, with [??] a variant form, either in both or in American only. Having encountered the word in a Canadian folk song arrangement, my colleague, in recording the song, decided to pronounce the <c> for expressive reasons, to reflect the coldness inherent in the text. The result was haunting, quite aside from being linguistically defensible. The anecdote illustrates the validity of considering purely expressive effect, in addition to linguistic conformity, as a consideration in lyric diction. (4)
The behavior of final consonants in French is perhaps the least predictable element in French phonetics. This is true both of proper names and the regular lexis of the language, and can only be dealt with by familiarity with each individual word.
The "CaReFuL" rule, sometimes encountered as an aid for anglophones in knowing whether a final consonant is pronounced or not, is a little better than useless. It is true that the majority of words ending in <c>, <r>, <f>, and <l> are pronounced, but there are many exceptions, especially for <r>. One has a somewhat better chance with this rule of guessing correctly with proper nouns, where the exceptions are fewer.
A select list of names taken from French vocal repertory or related to music is given in Table 2, to illustrate the point and to provide a handy reference tool.
The most authoritative pronunciation guide to both colloquial and formal French is:
Warnant, Leon. Dictionnaire de la prononciation francaise (Tome II, Les noms propres: 1966, Gembloux, Duculot). 4th ed., Paris-Gembloux: Duculot, 1987, under the title Dictionnaire de la prononciation francaise dans sa norme actuelle (Les noms propres, pp. 687-974).
Unfortunately, this volume remains elusive. (5) It has not been revised since 1987, and is not accessible online at present.
Duden--Das Ausspracheworterbuch (Der Grosse Duden, Band 6), 3rd ed. Mannheim: Duden, 1998.
Containing 132,000 words and names, this standard work is available for download. The coverage of proper names is excellent, and covers variants in different languages as well. Thus, there are IPA transcriptions for
"Florence" (engl. [??] / fr [??], and
Words borrowed into German from foreign languages abound, and merit their own dedicated dictionary:
Duden--Das Fremdworterbuch (Der Grosse Duden, Band 5), 10th ed. Mannheim: Duden, 2010 (also available as an app for download).
When foreign borrowings are employed in German, the degree to which they retain their original pronunciation, versus assimilating into the sound pattern of the German language, is unpredictable. Like in French, this is true also for proper nouns, and a reference source is useful in this regard for the teaching studio. Of the two Duden dictionaries listed, Das Ausspracheworterbuch is the more useful, as it includes pronunciations for a vast quantity of names and places.
Migliorini, Bruno, Carlo Tagliavini, and Piero Fiorelli. Dizionario d'ortografia e di pronunzia. Torino: RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1969; 2nd ed., Torino: RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1981.
At the time of his death in 1975, Bruno Migliorini was the most renowned linguist of the Italian language. His Dizionario (generally known as DOP) established itself as the standard in the field of Italian orthography and pronunciation. It was revised posthumously, and now appears online under the title Dizionario italiano multimediale e multilingue d'Ortografia e di Pronunzia, citing eight editors (at the time of writing, with the cautionary note, "Provvisorio e incompleto"). The transcription retains Migliorini's original proprietary transcription symbols and diacritics, and is only loosely based on IPA. Thus, there is a learning curve--fairly straightforward--needed in order to maximize the usefulness of the dictionary. Proper names, at least of places, are listed only according to their Italian orthographic versions (for instance, Moscova).
Antonio Mennella's Dizionario di ortografia e pronunzia (Milano: Armenia, 1989) contains no proper names.
The balance of this article concerns itself with selected examples of issues in pronunciation and musical rendition of Italian proper names.
In a few opera titles, the syllable stress is not immediately obvious to the nonfluent. For instance, La forza del destino [??]; but, La rondine [??], I due Foscari [??], and Un ballo in maschera [??]. [??]. Don Giovanni [??] is easily confused with the word giovane [??]. In different countries, Turandot undergoes slight transformations from the Italian [??]:
American [??] or [??]
The name of the Carthaginian queen, Dido, changes in both spelling and pronunciation with language, from the many settings of Metastasio's Didone abbandonata [??] to Purcell's Dido and Aeneas [??], to Piccinni's tragedie lyrique, Didon [??], to Graupner's Dido [[??]di:do].
Guglielmo's extra aria from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, "Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo," has a quantity of proper names and places to deal with. Most are straightforward, but Vienna must be treated as a three-syllable word, with an iato <-ie->. And Canada has the stress on the final syllable in Italian, as the diacritic indicates. (6) As is often the case with comic opera, character roles will reference proper names. In the same opera, Despina, disguised as a doctor, references "his" use of Dr. Mesmer's magnetic therapy in the Finale of Act I, where onomatopoetic trills highlight the words "mesmerica" [??] and Francia [??].
Perhaps the most famous difficult character name in opera is Euridice. Gluck's setting of Calzabigi is the most famous setting of the myth, and is instructive because it exists in both Italian and French versions. The Italian [??] is problematic, as we shall investigate; the French [??] is more straightforward.
Italian Orfeos must take care to keep the unstressed second-syllable vowel close, and not opened to [i]. But the biggest challenge lies in the first syllable. The most common error for anglophone singers is to turn the first syllable into [??], thereby displacing the syllabic vowel. Even if care is taken not to turn the [[epsilon]] into a glide, there is still a strong tendency to make the [u] a syllabic vowel. The English [??] or [??], and similar proper names (Euterpe, Euripides, Euclidean) are the sources of this urge. No matter what the note duration is, the first syllable of "Euridice" should always be sung as a falling diphthong in Italian, not a rising one. This difficulty is neutralized in French, where the first syllable is a pure vowel.
The vowel digraph <eu> is uncommon in Italian, often deriving from words of Greek origin. (7) It is found in three different contexts:
stressed-syllable [[epsilon]:u] euro, feudo, neutro, diphthong pseudo stressed-syllable iato [eu[??]] beuta, Meucci, reuccio, Seul unstressed-syllable [eu] euforico, Europa, iato Eumenidi, feudale, leucemia
Strictly, "Euridice" belongs to none of these. Etymologically it belongs with "Eumenidi," but differs in that the <Eu-> is a secondary-stress syllable, rather than pre-stress. Thus, it could be argued to belong to the first category, diphthongs in stressed syllables. Its stressedsyllable status, plus traditional vocal aggiustamento, favours opening the vowel to an [[epsilon]].
Mozart rhythmicizes "Eumenidi" in a straightforward manner in Dorabella's aria, "Smanie implacabili," from Cosi fan tutte (Example 1). The stresses syllables fall naturally onto beats three and four, the iati splitting the two quarter nots into four eighths.
By contrast, if one randomly compares any five renditions of Gluck's most renowned aria, "Che faro senza Euridice?," from Orfeo ed Euridice on commercial recordings, the chances are good that no two realizations of the text are identical. The difficulty lies in the inherent tug-of-war between the natural spoken declamation of the text and the composer's lovely melody.
The text has two adjacent accented syllables--a relatively uncommon occurrence in Italian speech. Then, three adjacent vowels--the first syllabic unstressed, the second syllabic stressed, and the third nonsyllabic. When it is grafted to Gluck's melody, one must address the problem of unstressed <-za>, placed on a stronger rhythmic beat than the surrounding strong syllables, <sen-> and <Eu->.
Che fa - [??]ro [??]sen - za [??]Eu - ri - [??]di - ce
Grammatically, the statement falls into two parts, with the following stress pattern:
w w S / S w M w S w.
The opening vocal statement is provided in Example 2 for convenient reference. (8)
Even in the most scholarly Urtext editions of Italian operas pre-1800, an editor is obliged to make many informed decisions regarding the placement of syllables underneath the musical notation, since autograph manuscripts and early editions are often loose in this respect. The performer's common sense was relied upon, just as a continuo player's realization of a basso continuo was never provided by the composer, except in figures. Gluck could well have adopted the standard policy of the day: the composer specifies the musical essentials, and the performers do the micromanaging.
The reader is now asked to suspend outrage for a moment, and consider a reworking of the melody--a transformation that serves to illustrate an alternate rhythmicization of the words that is arguably truer to the natural stress pattern of the Italian, if nothing else (Example 3). In the final four bars, two different possible settings of the same melody and parallel texts are provided, for the sake of argument. The resultant difference in agogic stress of syllables--first "faro" ("will I do"), then "mio" ("my")--serves to highlight different aspects of Orfeo's torture, for rhetorical purposes. Of course the purely musical "sigh" gestures that are the essence of the aria have been compromised in the process.
Gluck chose to privilege considerations of musical beauty over slavish adherence to textual rhythm. As an eighteenth century German composer, he probably was strongly influenced by the Affektenlehre of his contemporaries, and the primacy of the purely musical gesture to the dramatic effect.
Example 4 shows the opening line, as it can be found in some modern editions of the opera. This leaves a gaping uncertainty as to how to rhythmicize <-za Eu-> on the dotted quarter-note. A number of possibilities are given in Example 5. In the first three examples, the weak <-za> syllable is prominently displayed on the third beat of the bar, at the expense of the ensuing <Eu->. Examples 5 b) and c) privilege the nonsyllabic [u] over the preceding syllabic vowel [[epsilon]] in beat placement, and in c) also in note duration. The only example that mirrors a natural word stress pattern in the music is d), which involves a troncamento of the weak syllable of "senza." (9) It also, like 5a), retains the stress pattern of her name. Example 5b) is perhaps rhythmically regular to a fault, in the unfolding of its many eighth notes, although it is frequently heard, as it has the advantage of smoothing over the vowel changes, if done in an unobtrusive manner. If we return to Example 2, from a 1762 copy of the score, a further option surfaces--one that is not only musically persuasive, but derives from early manuscript sources (Example 6). As in Example 5d), <Eu->retains its stress, and emphasizes her name agogically. From an interpretive standpoint, whichever option is chosen, it is essential for the singer to adhere to a suave, unaccented legato through the changes of vowel color, to avoid drawing undue attention to the vowel changes, especially on the repeated Gs. This is a delicate trade-off between the demands of bel canto singing and clarity of utterance. (12) Over the course of the aria however, it is not possible to avoid the <-za>, as it falls directly on the third beat of the bar, which necessarily splits evenly on <-za il>.
This passage of Gluck is quite similar to an equally well-known passage, from Susanna's aria in Le nozze di Figaro (Example 7). We find the same stress pattern: with the same rhythmic underlay of the words. In Gluck, <-za Eu-> is two different words, and in the Mozart <-ria e an-> three, but the stress pattern and the problems of musical realization are identical. (11) The notation is based on the principle that adjacent vowels, whether connected lexically or phrasally, should be considered as a single "syllable" for text underlay purposes. In most modern editions, notational concerns such as beaming are determined by the placement of the consonants or semiconsonants, even if successive vowels are from different words, and in different syllables. In fact, the first edition of Figaro beams the notes in accordance with this notational policy, leaving no doubt that the trigraphs <-ria e an-> and <-na, e il> must be sung to one note. In the first, <-ria e an-> contains three separate syllables from three different words, the middle one being the verb of the sentence. (12) If all three vowels are observed, the eighth-note G can be sung as triplet sixteenths--the most commonly encountered solution. One simply endures the false stress pattern created between the weak <-ria> on the beat, and the grammatically stronger <e> on a weaker beat. Again, a smooth legato and avoidance of any level of accentuation can win the day. The only way around the false stress would be to treat <-ria> as a short upbeat to the G, placing <e> directly on the stronger fifth beat and splitting the G into two sixteenths for <e an>. This is a tempting solution. But does one sing an upbeat G, thus anticipating the note change early? Or sing an upbeat E, violating the notational letter of the law? The second trigraph in the Mozart is more straightforward, since all the syllables are weak, and can be sung as two even sixteenths, on <na> and <e il>.
The reader likely will have thought of more examples, from performance and teaching experience, that have posed challenges of interpretation and execution. The Gluck Orfeo example is, of course, an isolated one, involving a proper name, of a much more general and ubiquitous challenge in Italian singing--that of grafting a literary text rhythmically onto a musical line in a manner that respects both the literary, grammatical and dramatic integrity of the text, and at the same time the lyrical and purely musical integrity of the vocal line.
(1.) My own surname is a case in point, and has complicated my daily affairs throughout my life. (For the record, it is [??].) The name also creates indexing problems comparable to surnames beginning with "Mc-," "Mac-," and Dutch surnames with "Van." It has nothing to do with the Belgian town, Ath, and derives from English "Death" [??], rhyming with "heath," as I always hasten to point out.
(2.) J. C. Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Harlow, Essex: Pearson/Longman, 2008); Duden--Das Ausspracheworterbuch (Der Grosse Duden, Band 6), 3rd ed. (Mannheim: Duden, 1998).
(3.) My father, an avid amateur pianist who provided me as a child with the essential skills for a professional career in music, had nevertheless taught me to say [??]. How many of us are able to roll acciaccatura off the tongue without having to look it up? It is not accacciatura, and has nothing to do with hunting, like the corno di caccia. Rather, it comes from acciaccare, "to crush."
(4.) Thanks to Leslie Fagan for her insights. The song was "Frobisher Bay" by James Gordon.
(5.) Although in print, it is very expensive to purchase the latest edition.
(6.) In the late eighteenth century, pre-Confederation Canada was still a land of fur trapping, and was gratuitously referenced on occasion as a remote, exotic, barren land. Gaetano Rossi's libretto to Rossini's early opera, La cambiale di matrimonio, also references Canada, as the principal baritone, Slook, is a Canadian merchant.
(7.) See the author's article, "Dittongo and Iato in Italian," Journal of Singing 61, no. 4 (March/April 2005): 393-400. The stressed diphthong [e:u] is rare in the sound pattern of Italian, except phrasally.
(8.) The notation has been taken from the 1762 copyist's autograph on the Morgan Library and Museum website, and may differ in detail from published copies familiar to the reader.
(9.) This is the solution that Luciano Pavarotti employs in his recording with piano. It is not, however, the most frequently encountered solution. Janet Baker employs a very similar solution, except <-za> is retained, and treated as a very short upbeat to the third beat. Some prefer to make the vowel transitions as subtly as possible, thereby blurring the move from syllable to syllable. The reader who is familiar with the aria, either through singing or teaching, is likely to have a strong sense of which is the best approach to this passage, and other solutions not presented here are perhaps also worthy of consideration.
(10.) Adams suggests lengthening the <-za> "in order to set up the most natural pronunciation of the name 'Euridice.' Certainly lengthening the middle vowel does not yield a satisfactory result here." David Adams, A Handbook of Diction for Singers, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
(11.) The <-i-> of "aria" is functionally a semiconsonant in a falling diphthong--a vowel only orthographically--and is thus extraneous to the present discussion. The <-cor-> of "ancora" is of course a strong syllable when viewed lexically. But in Mozart's setting the final syllable is apocopated, and the syllable functions as a pick-up to the downbeat on "bru-." The stress of <-cor-> is subtly reflected by Mozart's melodic line, which rises to that syllable, perhaps to compensate for the weak rhythmic stress of the eighth note.
(12.) The grammatical importance of the "e" has been ignored by some of the most renowned singers who, it must be said, appear to sing the entire note to [ja].
Leslie De'Ath is a Canadian vocal coach, pianist, conductor and author. He is Professor in the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, where he has taught since 1979. There he is Music Director of the Opera Program, teaches studio piano, and instructs courses in lyric diction and keyboard literature. He has a wide-ranging career in collaborative pianism, as accompanist, chamber player and orchestral musician. His research interests, in addition to lyric diction and phonology, focus on unusual vocal and piano repertory.
Mr. De'Ath is one of Canada's most recorded pianists, whose releases include the complete piano music of Cyril Scott, the complete piano sonatas of Algernon Ashton, and works for two pianos by Florent Schmitt. His favorable reception as a recording artist has included special citations by Gramophone magazine, The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings, and a recent release with the Elora Festival Singers, nominated for a Grammy. He is presently co-editing a forthcoming book on the life and music of Cyril Scott.
While not a leaf seems faded; while the fields With ripening harvest prodigally fair, In brightest sunshine bask; this nipping air, Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields His icy scimitar, a foretaste yields Of bitter change, and bids the flowers beware; And whispers to the silent birds, 'Prepare Against the threatening foe your trustiest shields' For me, who under kindlier laws belong To Nature's tuneful quire, this rustling dry Through leaves yet green, and yon crystalline sky, Announce a season potent to renew, 'Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song, And nobler cares than listless summer knew. William Wordsworth, "September 1815" TABLE I. Bredon [phrase omitted] Cirencester [phrase omitted] colloq. [phrase omitted] Donegal Irish [phrase omitted] Falk [phrase omitted] Highlands/Hielands Scot. [phrase omitted] Leicester [phrase omitted] Lough Derg Irish [phrase omitted] Marylebone [phrase omitted] Michaelmas [phrase omitted] Norwich [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] Reading [phrase omitted] Salisbury [phrase omitted] Shrewsbury [phrase omitted] Warwick Brit. [phrase omitted] TABLE 2. Pronounced Mossoul B [b] Mab Noel Jacob Paul C [k] Auric Ploermel Bernac Siebel Duparc M [m] Bethleem Frederic Ephraim Isaac Islam Jeanne d'Arc Jerusalem Marc Siam Offenbach Te Deum Poulenc N [n] Baden D [d] Alfred Beethoven Bagdad Carmen David Gerolstein Herold Hahn Le Caid Hoffmann Le Cid Lohengrin Madrid Wotan Rothschild Q [k] Le Coq d'Or Talmud R[r] Auber Yniold Endor G [g] Van Gogh Esther [R] Strasbourg Honegger (also, [stR] at Jupiter beginning) Lahor H [[integral]] Foch Luther K [k] Franck Singher Hyde Park Werther Maeterlinck S [s] (**) Adonis Shylock Agnes L [l] (*) Ariel Atlas Azael Bacchus Bresil Barrabas Claudel Baucis Graal Bilitis Israel Brutus Mehul Cadmus Michel Ceres Ronsard Manon H [-] Allah Messiaen Anouilh Oberon Jehovah Pan M [-] Adam Rouen Joachim Tristan N [-] Bazan Valentin Don Juan (both) Villon Falcon Vilmorin Ispahan Q [-] Cinq-Mars Jason R [-] Boulanger Jocelyn Gautier Julien Roger Koechlin Xavier Pronounced Cinq-Mars Xerxes B [b] Claudius Ys Damas Zeus C [k] Damis T [t] Benedict Daphnis Brest Dardanus Christ Desnos Ernest Dukas Faust Eros Goliath Francis Hamlet Gil Blas Macbeth Hermes Magnificat D [d] Ines Perth Janus Proust Juan Gris Robert Lillas Sabaoth Louy's Tybalt Marcellus V [v] Kiev Mars Tel-Aviv Medicis X [ks] Aix-en-Provence Mephistopheles Aix-la-Chapelle Mercedes Ajax G [g] Momus Beatrix [R] Morales Cadix Moreas Felix Naxos Phoenix H [[integral]] Orpheus Pollux K [k] Paris (male name) Styx Pelleas Syrinx Reims Z [s] Fez (courante, [z]) Rubens [z] Berlioz L [l] (*) Saint-Saens Boulez Semiramis Suez Thais Tircis Silent Tiresias B [-] Christophe Colomb Venus D [-] Eluard Walpurgis Gounod Willis Milhaud S [-] Camus Thomas H [-] Charles Troyens Cinq-Mars Versailles (chinois) T [-] Albert M [-] Degas Caplet Delibes Clerambault N [-] Denis Ibert Djinns Jesus-Christ Jesus Lescaut Judas Mozart Louis X [-] Bordeaux Nicolas Z [-] Grez Orleans Louis Paris (city) Orleans (*) Avril has a pronounced final [l], but is strictly not a proper noun in French. (**) The Anglophone instinct to voice final [s] in many of these words should be consistently avoided. In compiling this list, I found no French names with final <s> pronounced as [z].