Chapter published in:Opera in Translation: Unity and diversity
Edited by Adriana Şerban and Kelly Kar Yue Chan
[Benjamins Translation Library 153] 2020
► pp. 53–72
Tradition and transgression
W. H. Auden’s musical poetics of translation
This chapter interrogates W. H. Auden’s ambiguous relationships with translation and examines his opera translations. A virtuoso writer who reveled in language complexities, Auden transgressed both translational rules and public expectations: audiences, music and theatre professionals of his time were all dismayed by his libretti. Yet he was also guided by established traditions and, in particular, by pre-20th-century English literary canons. For educated people of his generation in Britain, references to the values of colonial England were shaken, but not dissolved. Hence, the tendency for Auden to use pastiche and satire as instruments for both criticism and preservation of tradition. Auden also pioneered collaborative translation, writing with his partner Chester Kallman. He thus preempted trends in translation which are key to 21st-century productions.
Keywords: opera translation, libretto translation, re-writing, satire, tradition, W. H. Auden
Published online: 29 October 2020
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