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Sunday: April 3, 2005

Two Footnotes

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:01 PM GMT-0500

I always have a mild urge to call them ‘feetnotes’ . . . .

Two things that surprised me about Der Rosenkavalier at the Met yesterday:

1. I don’t think I’d ever heard a non-ironic non-metaphorical use of the word ‘lackey’ before, but the Met’s surtitles used the word dozens of times. Perhaps they use an archaic translation? If so, how to explain the first verb in this passage:

“Lerchenau’s men are stoned on brandy. They’re molesting our maids worse than Turks or Croatians. Fetch the lackeys!”

Any translation that uses both ‘stoned’ (except in reference to collective punishment) and ‘lackeys’ is having trouble maintaining a consistent stylistic register.

By the way, I wonder how long before the unapologetic ethnic slurs in some operas cause trouble. As I recall, the other Strauss’s Die Fledermaus mocks gypsies and Hungarians as well as lawyers, stutterers, and a couple of other groups I’ve forgotten. Not Jews, though, unless my memory deceives me, which is a pleasant surprise, now that I think about it — perhaps Johann thought that had been overdone.

2. No one else laughed when the three orphan girls begging for charity from the Marschallin sang

&#147Father fell on the field of honor. Following him is our goal.”

Am I wrong in seeing a mildly obscene pun? Surely a woman in 1911 could only ‘fall’ on the field of ‘honor’ by engaging in premarital sex. I suppose I should check the German text, but I’m guessing that the metaphor of ‘fallen woman’ and the restriction of ‘honor’ in women to chastity transcended linguistic boundaries.


  1. In Hong Kong, a porter asked me, quite seriously, “Do you want a lackey?”

    Comment by Felix — Wednesday: April 13, 2005 @ 3:15 AM GMT-0500

  2. I want a lackey!

    Dr. Weevil – I think (subesquent to text-check) you’re on to a joke, there, with the field of honor.

    Comment by Michael Tinkler — Tuesday: April 19, 2005 @ 9:53 AM GMT-0500

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