English Translation by Leonard Lehrman (with assistance from Muzza Eaton)
In the USA they've translated the Russian opera "Rusalka" by Alexander Dargomyzhsky.
The work is almost unknown to the public in this part of the world.
A single production dates from 1922.
["Up on the mountain, beer we were brewing... Ay lyuli..."]
This part of the chorus has never yet been heard onstage in English. The pioneering translator/composer Leonard Lehrman rightly decided to leave the traditional Russian Refrain as is, untranslated. It's similar in fact to the English folkloristic "tra-la-la."
"We also left the word 'rusalka.' But after the Russian sounds comes the English ['mermaid'], so that people understand and comprehend the word in the original," says Leonard Lehrman.
Leonard Lehrman's love for all things Russian comes from his mother. She was born in Russia, in Samara. Before the war [World War II] she came as a girl to the USA, became recognized in America as a Pushkinist, and her whole life propagandized for Russian music and literature.
"Rusalka" is based on an unfinished drama by Pushkin. It is a story of love, betrayal and revenge. Dargomyzhsky began working on it after lengthy travels throughout Europe. In Paris and Vienna he drank in the new musical styles and trends and created the most Russian of his operas.
"Why has it not been translated into English before [now]? Well, because it's very difficult to translate this opera. Because it's nearly impossible to translate Pushkin in general," says Leonard Lehrman.
Mother and son worked on the English version for a number of years. Catching both the meaning and the rhythm - not an easy task. A translator is a slave in prose; in poetry, a competitor--a classicist once remarked. Emily Lehrman did not alas live to see the premiere.
A large gathering in a not large living room: a chorus of 17 [actually 16, of whom 15 were present] plus 5 soloists. All of them in successful careers, having performed throughout the whole world. The new project excites them: not only for an American audience, but for these professionals, Dargomyzhsky's "Rusalka" is terra incognita. The single production of the work in this part of the world dates from 1922.
"I had never heard anything about this opera. But when I began to become acquainted with the score, I was just delighted with it. It is so melodious," says Helene Williams (soprano).
"In this opera there are both characters, and emotions. In them it is possible to perform 'according to Stanislavsky.' But we're still expected to pull ourselves up to that standard," remarks tenor Gregory Mercer.
At one time [Leonid] Sobinov and [Feodor] Chaliapin shone in "Rusalka." To this day, Chaliapin's Miller is reckoned as unsurpassed. The part of the old father, the Mad Miller, who loses his daughter, was performed by the great Russian bass when he was first in his twenties, and he returned to it his whole life.
"I know that this was a favorite role of Chaliapin. And in general this is a very 'starry' role, gratifying for the singer. On the internet I found many excellent, remarkable performances," says David Anchel (bass).
The premiere of the opera on stage is planned at the famed library of Bronx College [sic], in which are preserved hundreds of books in Russian, among them the score of "Rusalka," including the untranslated "Ay-lyuli" as well.
[ Correction: The soloists have all sung with Bronx Opera. Emily Lehrman donated over 100 Russian books to the library at Queens College. The performance was planned (and took place) at Queens College's Aaron Copland School of Music, Nov. 22, 2015. It can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/151122DargoRusalka ]
Zhanna Agalofka - Channel One