How different Les Mis is when it is translated to another language and culture?

Any discussion related to any production or staging of Boublil and Schönberg's Les Misérables.
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Re: How different Les Mis is when it is translated to another language and culture?

Postby 23623 » Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:38 pm

Prisoner 24653 wrote:The first: though I don't know much German (and most of what I do know comes from lyrics for musicals; :lol: ), there was a bit in the German translation of AHFOL that I found rather sweet. For the "Cosette! I don't know what to say..." / "Then make no sound." bit, they translate it as "Cosette! Ein Name wie ein Lied." / "Ein Lied für dich." ("Cosette! A name like a song." / "A song for you.") I found that rather lovely. :)

Gee, I had actually typed up a thing about the German lyrics and it had been sitting somewhere in my computer for sooooo long that I somehow completely forgot about it! :oops: This translation was so sweet indeed and was actually what made me write that draft in the first place. Just want to add that for the next lines I actually prefer "I am lost / I am found" to "Meinst du mich / ewig dich" so whenever I'm playing Les Mis in my head, Marius and Cosette would sing "Cosette, such fine name like a song / A song for you / I am lost / I am found" :)

In Confrontation, Valjean and Javert's last line is "Ich schwör es dir, bei meinem Blut" (This I swear to you by my blood). The first few times I heard the line I couldn't help but think this confrontation would be really interesting with Tanz alumni as Valjean and Javert, lol

Prisoner 24653 wrote:And for the second thing I noticed: Has anyone else ever had an experience where you find a bit that uses the same lyrics as a line in another show, and it affects the way you perceive the song? I've had a few of those -- "Die Musik der Dunkelheit" comes up in the Viennese lyrics for "Music of the Night" in Phantom, and also in the lyrics for "Fresh Blood" in the Swiss production of Wildhorn's Dracula; and I can't heir "Sei(d) bereit" in any context without thinking immediately of Tanz der Vampire. So where does Les Mis come into this? When I was listening to one of the Japanese recordings, I noticed that in the ABC Café scene, Feuilly's line near the beginning ("At Rue de Bac they're straining at the leash") is translated as "Dare ni mo tomerarenai" ("They/we can't be stopped by anyone") -- the same as the way they translated the line "I think I'll try defying gravity" in Wicked. So now I'm imagining Feuilly in the English version running into the Café and singing "I think I'll try defying gravity!" to the same tune as his intended line in that scene. :lol:

Ah, and to answer 23623's question about how "Damn their warnings, damn their lies" is done in other languages... The Japanese version makes it:
"Keikoku wa uso da! Shimin wa tatsu zo!" ("Their warnings are all lies! The citizens will rise!")

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one with the "sei bereit" problem! Also I keep singing "In 1832 to love me was her doom" even though I know it is supposed to be 1732. Gosh when can my two favorite musicals stop ruining each other... :lol: Off topic but seeing TdV cast members in Les Mis (and vise versa) always gives me strange feelings. Krolockvert Suicides remind me of "Gier", and I can totally picture Alfreds who grow up and become Enjolrases singing "Für Patria", lol!

Hahaha I like the idea of green Feuilly! “Feuille” actually means “leaf” in French right? I guess that sort of...fits?

Is it weird that I still hear "DOWN their warnings" on every recording? On the topic of swearings, do they appear in foreign Les Mis lyrics too? Doesn't have to be the “damn their warnings” line. I'm just curious. :mrgreen:

Random discovery: just found that Argentine Valjeans got "24602" (dos cuatro seis cero dos) as the prisoner number. Sounds better than "24601" (dos cuatro seis cero uno) but still kind of awkward. Does anyone know what the number was in other Spanish-language productions? I only know the really awkward 24601 in the original Madrid production, this less awkward 24602, and 23623 in the Madrid revival.

Sorry for the long post btw! :oops:
Revolution, but civilization

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Re: How different Les Mis is when it is translated to another language and culture?

Postby 23623 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:55 am

I just found a Chinese version of ECAET, performed by a Chinese singer who irrc had actually been on Broadway. There's no Chinese production of Les Mis so this is just the singer's personal work I guess, but I'd like to share the translation anyway.

The Chinese lyrics are written in a very poetic style and I like the translation overall. It's really aesthetically pleasing to read. (My translation is not, though. :oops: ) However there are some parts that just...don't make any sense. For example there are untranslated English lines for no reason. "Empty chairs at empty tables" is in English. "Oh my friends my friends" is in English but the line that follows ("don't leave me" / "don't ask me") is in Chinese. It sounds really weird to me because these lines CAN be translated without making the rhyme messy, and there are NO super important phrases (e.g. ABC, etc) that must be kept. :shock:

Let the cold wind dry my tears
Bury the grief inside my heart
Empty chairs at empty tables
Mourning alone, I speak of melancholy
Here they made their speech
The sparkles of freedom shining so bright
They sang an eulogy for tomorrow
Not regretting in the slightest that it might never come
At the corner of the empty room
Was once their voice full of passion
The revolution was for me, for you, and for our dream
Their impassioned and forlorn singing
And the vow was carved deep in my heart
Deep in my heart
This elegy
Accompanied him at the break of the dawn
Oh my friends my friends don’t leave me
I still exist in this world
Like a lone wolf abandoned by its pack
Tears wetting my shirt, I am feeling so lost
Come the spirits to my window
Come the spirits that linger on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Who can I speak to of my deceased friends
Oh my friends my friends don’t ask me
If your sacrifice is really worth it
Empty chairs at empty tables
We look at each other in silence
Revolution, but civilization

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Re: How different Les Mis is when it is translated to another language and culture?

Postby Morbidmuch_ » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:04 am

I'll be seeing Les Mis in Swedish next week (yay!) and speaking of EcaEt, the last lines of the Swedish translation is so beautiful (can't remember the rest of the song though :lol:)

Empty chairs and empty tables
And a song that no one hears
Lamarque est mort [disco dances patriotically]

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