What´s the word for…..?


We are always proud of our international cast and creative teams at Bergen National Opera. Now, however, we appear to have a small global convention downstairs in Klokkeklang, the somewhat airless little space in which we work before our productions can have access to the main Grieg Hall stage. So, for Beethoven´s Fidelio, we have a German Florestan, English Leonore, Russian Pizarro, Italian Don Fernando, Korean Rocco and two young Norwegians as Jacquino and Marzelline. Wonderful. But also a Lithuanian director who doesn´t speak English (and neither do Don Pizarro or Don Fernando). And an American conductor. And several delightful Hungarians working in costume. And a bewildered language coach of Czech/German parentage who grew up in Bergen. Hm. Will Google Translate help or hinder? One can imagine lines from the text like: ”Ich glaubte schon, wir würden den Eingang gar nicht finden” emerging as ” Я верыў, Шон, мы былі нават знайсці ўваход ноч”. It fairly trips from the tongue.

In truth, they are all coping remarkably, bonded by Beethoven´s own profound belief that his music could express a truth which soars beyond any discord of language or ideal. There´s a stillness, in this funny featureless basement room, which seems illuminated by the absolute passion of the voices.


Meanwhile, in London last Friday for meetings, I find myself brooding about the nature of performance and the curious ambiguity in word usage, as different worlds describe themselves. Take business: ”he´s a mega-performer for sure” said one be-suited city person to another, on the bus across the Thames. Then, ten minutes later, in the slightly precious tea-room next to English National Opera, I hear someone from ENO´s marketing department sighing ”such a beautiful performance”. Same language, both voices issuing compliments, both sentences entirely alien to each other. Much, of course, has been done to bring the peculiarly dislocated utterances of business and art together, and somehow to rationalise the enormous chasm between the way both worlds’ express themselves. To the artist (at any rate in Europe) business and commerce talk in an impenetrable jargon swirling with achievement markers, targets, quantifiable accountability etc. Artists, then, use terms guaranteed to infuriate any cool-headed industry leader by their sheer inexactness, lyrical descriptiveness or ’arty’ flamboyance.

More about this soon as my brooding becomes less reflective and rather more focused. Expect another, longer blog full of precise adjectives and incoherent statistics. Right now, it´s back to the basement to listen to Fidelio rehearsals. Now where did I put that Belarusian dictionary…?

Mary Miller

In the pictures: Top: Aleksej Dedov and In-Sung Sim. Middle: Daniel Kirch, Oskaras Korsunovas, Jurgita Miezelyte and Rachel Nicholls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s