My History With Listening to Musicals in Languages Other Than My Native Language
Personally, I’ve always loved learning languages and am fluent in three (English, German, and Japanese) and can roughly speak three others (Norwegian, Spanish, and French). Languages have always been a really big part of my life, my mother being Japanese and my grandfather on my father’s side being German and my grandmother on my father’s side being Norwegian, and I being raised in America.
I remember when I first got into musicals, one of my favorites was The Phantom of the Opera and I immediately bought the Original London Cast Recording, the Mexico Cast Recording, and the German movie version of the soundtrack. To this day, I’m pretty sure that I listen to the German one most, the Spanish one second most, and the English one the least. I don’t know why that is, but it’s always just kind of been that way for me even though English is the language that I am most comfortable with speaking.
Oftentimes, it’s the English version of a musical that gets me interested in the musical. And then, I usually just listen to the musical in German or some other language. Maybe it started off as a habit of mine when I was younger and just starting out with the learning of these languages because I always remember listening to music as a way of learning these languages.
Do I suggest listening to musicals in languages other than your native language?
I think that it can be very interesting and a very rewarding experience. I love listening to the musicals that I have fallen in love with such as Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables in languages other language because, to me, it is immensely interesting to see how the words translate in other languages.
I also think that there is much to be learned about cultures in these different translations and stagings.
Foreign Productions of Musicals?
One of my favorite things about musicals is that no two productions are exactly the same. Wigs are different, there are slight differences in the costume designs, there may even be differences in the set!
Most notably with The Phantom of the Opera, we see differences in costumes and wigs. The Czech non-replica production that just recently closed was really interesting and pretty, in my opinion. I fell in love with the Oberhausen cast of PHANTOM, and to this day, it remains my favorite cast.
And I love some of the Wicked promo shots from the German production. I think that they’re pretty unique and different compared to what we usually see in the U.S. and in London. Perhaps my favorite thing about the German production of Wicked, though, is the wigs. They look so real and so beautiful.
But What About Musicals That Are Non-English?
Some of my favorite musicals are non-English musicals. They are, in fact, German-language musicals which originated in either Germany or Austria. Elisabeth, Tanz der Vampire, and Schikaneder are just a few of these.
My favorite thing about musicals that do not originate in England or the U.S. is the difference in set design and costumes. The very culture of musicals varies from country to country and I think that that’s a wonderful thing.
The Culture of Musicals
I love that the world of musicals is its own cultural world. I find it interesting that, in transitions from Germany to Broadway or even London to Broadway (and vice-versa), musicals can undergo severe changes. Some that are accepted by the producers and fans and some that are not.
Even curtain call traditions differ! On Broadway and U.S. Touring productions, usually the actors are the only ones who are openly applauded. In Germany (and likely other countries as well), the conductor joins the actors on stage and gets the final bow. I’m not sure how this is with every show, but from the shows that I have seen in the U.S., I haven’t seen the actors given flowers. In Germany, the actors (usually just the main three) are given flowers at the curtain call. I just find that really interesting and I was surprised by this when I first saw a German musical.
Why do I love listening and watching musicals that are not in my native language, English? Because I can learn about other countries in doing so and I can learn other languages better.
Have YOU ever listened or watched a musical in a different language or even just in a different country than your native one? What was your experience with that?