Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

"What then remains, but to bow your heads before such a wonder?"

I came very close to translating music. I did. The libretto is close, right? Right before Christmas, the New York Choral Society performed Hector Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ in Carnegie Hall, with supertitles translated by yours truly. The hall was packed. I was very lucky to be there.

There were some stunning reviews, and deservedly so, for the concert was fantastic. But one, this one, from Downtown Magazine, gave me such satisfaction. And I quote:

"The show’s epilogue was indelible all on its own. The whole company projected of Christ’s future and ultimate sacrifice with some very simple yet heart wrenching words: 'What then remains, but to bow your heads before such a wonder?'"

How could the reviewer possibly have known what was being said, without the supertitles projected for all the audience to see?

I don't need public acclaim for my work. It's nice, but I'd rather the notice fall on my work. The books, the poetry, the music, the work that should be seen and read and heard by as many people as possible.

So when people do notice the work, and especially when they notice it so seamlessly that they don't even consider there was a translator standing in between them and the original text, that is a very high compliment, indeed.