‘The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg’, and the strangeness of subtitled songs

Posted on January 2, 2018


Read the full article on Firstpost, here: http://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/the-umbrellas-of-cherbourg-subtitled-songs-and-how-to-enjoy-musicals-in-a-foreign-language-4283361.html

Among the great pleasures of a musical are the lyrics, especially when styled in the old-school Broadway mould. Take C’est moi from Camelot, the magnificent adaptation of the Arthurian legends by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music). The song is sung by Lancelot, who’s setting out to be a knight of the Round Table, and it brings out his key qualities – that he’s French (hence that title) and vain (hence these words about his virtues):

C’est moi! C’est moi! I blush to disclose,
I’m far too noble to lie.
That man in whom
These qualities bloom,
C’est moi, c’est moi, ‘tis I.

I’ve never strayed
From all I believe;
I’m blessed with an iron will.
Had I been made
The partner of Eve,
We’d be in Eden still.

I love how delightfully pompous Lancelot is, and how clueless he is about this pompousness. I love the wordplay, the unpredictable rhymes: whom/bloom, believe/Eve, will/still. I love the dry if you say so, my Master expressions on his manservant’s face (the 3.02 mark in the video below). I understand what’s being sung, how it’s being sung, and the joy is of not just a musical but also a literary kind. It’s like enjoying ornately wrought prose – except in an audiobook form, and set to music.

Continued at the link above.

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