Language, dialect and accent

07COLDMOUNTAIN1-blog427I had a curious operatic experience recently.  I was listening to a CD recording of a new American opera; Cold Mountain to be precise, and it’s sung in rather distinct southern American tones.  In fact, so much so that a different accent is given to the black character (I only recall one).  I’m really not sure how I feel about this.  Generally, I think, there’s a “standard” operatic version of each of the major opera languages and it’s usually only departed from for comic effect.  Ochs’ rustic accent in Der Rosenkavalier being a case in point.  I think I’d be surprised, maybe even shocked, to hear Peter Grimes sung in a Suffolk burr or Die Meistersinger in deepest Bavarian.  Even Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick is sung in standard operatic English with a nary a New England “a” in earshot, at least in the SFO production.  So why would anyone choose to break this convention for Cold Mountain?  I’m really quite curious to canvass opinion on this.  Do please share your thoughts in comments.

3 thoughts on “Language, dialect and accent

    • So the pattern appears to be “American south”. Can you think of an opera set in the British Isles that is usually sung in a regional accent? I can’t. Now I have to go check “Louis Riel” for accents….

      • Curious. The classic recording of Riel is all over the map. Partly because there’s a lot of dialogue, which tends to be “accented” and partly because some character are being portrayed as “standard English”. I wonder what the new COC production will do.

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