From the ‘unexpected but probably of no importance’ files

I’m not sure how familiar J.R.R. Tolkein is in the non-Anglophone world – I mean, those movies were everywhere a few years ago, but do children in Germany or Italy or Paraguay read The Hobbit? (One of my favorite books as a child was a translation of a German one, The Neverending Story, so I’m guessing there’s a fair amount of back and forth as far as children’s literature is concerned.) I say this not because I am about to launch into a discussion of The Lord of the Rings but because – well, sometimes opera singers turn up in places you would never expect.

After listening to Serse over the weekend, I did a little search to see what recordings by Isabel Bayrakdarian the university library has. Turns out they have the Cleopatra CD, although it’s via an online streaming service that is not working at the moment because they’re doing some sort of epic database migration thing before the term starts in a few weeks. The library also has the soundtrack to those movies of LOTR – and Bayrakdarian is on it! Specifically, the soundtrack to The Two Towers. My first thought was “huh?” and my second thought was “am I going to be embarrassed to check this CD out of the library?” Turns out I’m not.

The music isn’t exciting – just the sort of ‘wooble wooble ethereal’ material that if memory serves goes along with elves in these movies. It’s probably more interesting if you’re imagining elves or replaying bits of the movie in your head as you listen, neither of which was something I felt like doing.

I have this impulse to try to turn the above into a little moral story about the importance of library catalogs, but I’m not sure that it actually demonstrates anything of the kind.

6 thoughts on “From the ‘unexpected but probably of no importance’ files

  1. I believe there are not one but two translations of LOTR into German. Not sure what was unacceptable about the first to merit a second — that’s one of my traction projects. Meanwhile, we really could stand to have a new translation of Die unendliche Geschichte…not to mention everything else Ende wrote (some of which has been translated, though what there was is mostly out of print in English now).

    Actually, even with the kid stuff, we get comparatively little, while they get pretty much everything.

    Wasn’t Renee Fleming also on that sdtk? I think I heard her comment about singing in Old Elvish at some point.


    1. I’d be curious about what made the second translation of LOTR necessary too.
      I didn’t ever come across any of Ende’s other work – I should seek it out. Maybe in German, just for practice.

      Re: Fleming – this sounds familiar, the thing about her comment about singing in Elvish. I didn’t see her on the disc I got, but it might have been one of the other ones.


      1. Apart from Momo — which every civil servant should read before moving on to Beckett — and all the rest of the kid lit, he published a couple of volumes of rather Borgesian short stories, Der Spiegel im Spiegel and Das Gefängnis der Freiheit. I think only the former ever made it into English. (Mirror in the Mirror, tr. Brownjohn — just looked it up on abebooks and hey, $$$!)


        1. Ah, the lure of the expensive and out of print book . . .

          Maybe I’ll start with the short stories. I’ve been reading Murakami’s latest, and by the time I finish that I think I’ll be in the mood for fiction in slightly smaller packages.


  2. La Bayrakdarian has a rather eclectic set of recordings to her name. The best might just be “Joyous Light”; a collection of Armenian sacred music which I really like. Oddly enough the last time COC did Zauberflote persons of Armenian descent sang Pamina, QotN and Papageno (Bayrakdarian, Aileen Kutan and Rodion Pogassov). Is this a record?


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