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Traditions du patrimoine antique

Odious and Yet Lovely: Carl Orff’s Scenic Cantata Catulli Carmina

Markus Stachon
p. 11-23

Résumés

Dans cet article, la cantate scénique Catulli Carmina de Carl Orff est analysée du point de vue d’un philologue classique. La conviction des musicologues selon laquelle Orff maîtrisait excellemment les langues anciennes est refutée. En outre, une nouvelle interprétation des termes italiens figurant dans le second acte est offerte. Enfin, la raison pour laquelle Orff a présenté les chants d’amour de Catulle comme une pièce dans la pièce est expliquée par les circonstances historiques de l’époque de production de la cantate.

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Notes de l’auteur

This paper has been first presented at the University of Bonn on 28 September 2017 at the interdisciplinary conference “Classical Antiquity & Memory (19th–21st century)” organized by Penelope Kolovou and Efstathia Athanasopoulou. Later, on 12 January 2018, a German version of the talk has been given at the University of Wuppertal at the “Ianualia”, the annual meeting of North Rhine-Westphalian classicists. Some parts of the paper have also been presented on 12 December 2018 at King’s College London at the conference “Amplifying Antiquity: Music as Classical Reception” organized by Emily Pillinger and Miranda Stanyon. I owe thanks to the organizers of all three conferences and to all participants in the discussions for their useful comments.

Texte intégral

  • 1 See, e. g., the numerous school editions of Catullus, from which R. Nickel, Leben, Lieben, Leiden (...)
  • 2 C. Orff, “Erinnerung”, in Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation I: Frühzeit, Tutzing, 1975 [= Do (...)
  • 3 C. Orff, Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation IV: Trionfi, Tutzing, 1979 [= Dok. IV], p. 7.
  • 4 Probably the bilingual edition by T. Heyse and W. Schöne, Catullus, Carmina / Das Buch Catulls au (...)
  • 5 The original versions, C. Orff, Catulli Carmina I: Sieben Chorsätze a capella (Mainz, 1931), and (...)
  • 6 See Orff, Dok. IV, p. 144. Other notable performances are listed by W. Thomas, “Carl Orff”, in C. (...)

1Nowadays, nearly everyone who learns Latin at some point gets acquainted with Catullus’s love poems: Lesbia’s sparrow (carmen 2, c. 3), a thousand kisses (c. 5, c. 7), and the famous “I hate and I love” (c. 85) are a standard matter in Latin classes1. About a hundred years ago, the German composer Carl Orff, who stresses in his autobiography that Latin and Greek were his favourite subjects in school2, had to become 35 years old to first read Odi et amo (c. 85). When he was on holidays at Lake Garda and visited Sirmione, he encountered the poem on a postcard—the words, he says, immediately transformed into music in his imagination3. When he came back home he bought an edition of Catullus4, selected some poems, and composed ten songs for mixed choir from them, which he edited in two volumes called Catulli Carmina I and II in 1931 and 1932 respectively5. Later, when theatre directors complained that the highly successful Carmina Burana are not long enough to provide a full evening’s entertainment and asked Orff to complement this piece, he revised his old Catulli Carmina, added and excluded some poems, and wrote a frame story. The new version of Catulli Carmina, which was no longer a collection of songs for mixed choir but a scenic cantata (ludi scaenici), premiered on 6 November 1943 at the Leipzig Opera6.

The play’s content

  • 7 Quotations from Orff’s text and descriptions of his music are cited according to the page numbers (...)
  • 8 On Orff’s odd grammar see below, p. 17-18. Translations are my own; for an English translation of (...)
  • 9 Due to their erotic tone, large parts of the prelude (CC, p. 23-35) have been left out in the ori (...)
  • 10 See Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 63, and Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 32.

2The play starts with a prelude which Orff has written himself7. In front of the scene, some young men and women (juvenes et juvenculae) are dancing and swearing their eternal faith to each other: eis aiona tui sum (“I am yours forever”, Catulli Carmina [= CC], p. 1-15)8. They are overtly flirting and carressing: O tuae mammulae, mammae molliculae, dulciter turgidae, gemina poma! Mea manus est cupida, o vos papillae horridulae!, mea manus est cupida illas prensare! (“Oh, your nice breasts, your nice soft breasts, sweetly swollen, twin apples! My hand is keen—o you wild, erect nipples!—, my hand is keen to touch them!”, CC, p.23-29)9. Right when the peni-peniculus (“little pee-penis”) starts to long for the girls’ fonticula (“small fountain”, CC, p. 31), nine old men, Catullus’s “overly severe old men” (senes severiores, c. 5.2)10, who have so far watched the spectacle from an elevated place in the back of the scene, intervene in the young people’s celebration of love: O res ridicula! Immensa stultitia. Nihil durare potest tempore perpetuo. Cum bene Sol nituit, redditur Oceano. Decrescit Phoebe, quae modo plena fuit, Venerum feritas saepe fit aura levis. Tempus amoris cubiculum non est. Sublata lucerna nulla est fides, perfida omnia sunt. O vos brutos, vos stupidos, vos stolidos! (“Oh, what a ridiculous sight! Infinite stupidity! Nothing can last forever. When the sun has shun, it sinks down to the ocean again. The moon, which was just full, starts to wane. Love’s tempest often becomes but a light breeze. Time is not Love’s bedroom. Looked at in the cold light of day, there is no faith, faithless is everything. Oh, you daft, stupid fools!”, CC, p. 46-51).

3In order to substantiate their opinion, they offer the young people a stage play from which they shall learn about Catullus who once also thought that his love with Lesbia would last forever but whose hopes have been dishearteningly disappointed: Audite ac videte Catulli Carmina! (“Watch and listen to the songs of Catullus”, CC, p. 51-52). The young people, at first glance eager to learn from the old men’s wisdom, accept this offer and promise to listen carefully: Audiamus! (“We are going to listen”, CC, p. 52).

4The play within the play, which from now on mainly consists of Catullan poems, begins with Catullus entering the stage accompanied by the chorus singing Odi et amo (“I hate and I love”, Catullus, c. 85; Orff, CC, p. 54) as a kind of overture. Then Lesbia appears and Catullus sings Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus (“Let us live, my Lesbia, and love”, c. 5; CC, p. 55-57) to her. The enthusiastic display of love ignoring the “grumpy old people’s gossip” (rumoresque senum severiorum, c. 5.2-3) is a parallel situation to the prelude in which the young people just wanted to enjoy their passion. The chorus finally counts their hundreds and thousands of kisses (c. 5.7-13). When Catullus sings Ille mi par esse deo videtur (“He seems equal to a god to me”, c. 51; CC, p. 57) to Lesbia who echoes the last words of each stanza and thus for the first time in the play becomes present by voice, he falls asleep in her arms. The choir, which now reveals to be a kind of a tragic chorus of friends, warns Catullus not to become otiose: Otium, Catulle, tibi molestum (“Idleness does harm to you, Catullus”, c. 51.13-17). Lesbia leaves him and starts dancing in front of a tavern in the back of the scene. When Catullus wakes up and sees Lesbia dancing, he calls his friend Caelius and complains to him that the girl he loved so much now behaves like a whore. The corresponding poem (c.58) is not sung but rhythmically spoken. The metre of Catullus’s words nunc in quadriviis et angiportis glubit magnanimi Remi nepotes (“Now at street corners and alleys she loiters and rips off haughty Remus’s progeny”, c. 58.4-5) matches the beat of her dance (CC, p.58). Fairly disappointed, Catullus concludes that Lesbia’s promise that she would prefer him even to Jupiter is, like all women’s pledges, to be handed down to the wind and the waves (c. 70; CC, p. 58-60). Catullus’s song, which is sung by a tenor soloist, is accompanied by the choir’s female voices constantly repeating la-le-ra la la la and thus providing the rhythm to Lesbia’s dance in the background. When Catullus claims that Lesbia said to him that she would never marry anyone else but him (Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle quam mihi, “There is no one, my lady says, whom she would rather marry than me”, c. 70.1-2), Orff sarcastically makes some men from the chorus echo quam mihi (“than me”)—so Catullus apparently was not the only one who heard this promise from her, a choir’s bass and tenor soloist did so as well. The first act of the play ends with the old men applauding: Placet, placet, placet, optime, optime, optime! (“Well done, bravo!”, CC, p. 60).

  • 11 See Liess, Carl Orff, p. 103; W. Thomas, “Conclusio”, in Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation V (...)
  • 12 Orff, Dok. IV, p. 92, himself said that the Italian words have grown out of the music by themselv (...)
  • 13 The interpretation that the bass soloist singing the final dormi ancora might be Caelius himself (...)

5The second act starts with Catullus sleeping in front of Lesbia’s house. In his dream, during which the poems are not sung by Catullus’s solo tenor, but by the choir, he has some hope again that he can spend his life with Lesbia: Jucundum, mea vita, mihi proponis amorem hunc nostrum inter nos perpetuumque fore (“You promise to me, my life, that this love between us will be happy and last forever”, c. 109; CC, p. 60-62). Meanwhile, Lesbia comes out of her house, carresses the sleeping Catullus, and sings: Dormi, dormi, dormi ancora (“Sleep, sleep, keep sleeping”). The fact that she slips into Italian might be a demonstration of the story’s timelessness11, maybe the words sung in a language that is yet about to develop are also to be regarded as some form of Latin that is obscured by Catullus’s sleepiness12. However, when the words Dormi, dormi, dormi ancora are repeated not by Lesbia’s voice but by a choir’s bass, Catullus jolts awake from his dream because he has seen his (former) friend Caelius instead of himself in Lesbia’s arms13: Desine de quoquam quicquam bene velle mereri aut aliquem fieri posse putare pium (“Leave off wishing to deserve any thanks from anyone, or thinking that anyone can ever become grateful”, c. 73; CC, p. 63), the chorus of friends advises him. At the end of the second act, the old men applaud again (CC, p. 63).

  • 14 C. 87 and c. 75 are also linked together in Heyse’s translation which Orff was probably using (He (...)

6The third act begins, like the overture, with Odi et amo (“I hate and I love”, c. 85; CC, p. 64). But this time it is not Lesbia who appears after the recitation of that poem, but a completely changed Catullus. He decides to satisfy but his sexual desires in future: He writes a letter to Ipsitilla, whom he overtly invites to have casual sex with him (c. 32; CC, p. 65). Then he immediately tells about the ridiculously high price Ameana, a puella defututa, requested for her service (c. 41; CC, p. 65). Finally, Catullus realizes that he behaves insanely, the chorus of friends appeals to his reason and urges Catullus to accept his fate: Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire (“Poor Catullus, stop being silly”, c. 8; CC, p. 66-68). After the song, Lesbia enters the stage together with Caelius from her house, and—maybe in order to apologize—addresses Catullus with a Catulle that is three bars long. Catullus reacts with only two harsh and short syllables, Lesbia, and rebuffs her (CC, p. 68). In the final scene, Catullus sums up his liaison with Lesbia, together with the choir he first sings: Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea es (“No girl can claim to have been loved as much as you, my Lesbia, have been loved by me”, c. 87; CC, p. 69), and then appends: Nunc est mens diducta tua, mea Lesbia, culpa, atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo (“Now my mind is torn because of you, my Lesbia, by its service to you, it ruined itself”, c. 75; CC, p.69-70)14. The conclusion that he can neither love her, even if she treated him well again, nor hate her, whatever she does to him (c. 75.3-4), stands at the end of the play within the play.

7This time, the old men do not get around to applauding. Instead, the postlude sets in immediately. The young people, who have not even watched the end of the play about Catullus (diu iam non curantes spectaculum, CC, p. 71), have not changed their mind and still sing: Eis aiona tui sum! (“I am yours forever”, CC, p. 71-76) like in the prelude. Finally, they even prepare a wedding ceremony: Accendite faces! Io! (“Light the torches, it’s time for wedding, hurrah!”, CC, p. 76).

Evaluation

8If someone asked me about my judgement of Orff’s Catulli Carmina I would probably quote Catullus himself: Odi et amo.

  • 15 See, e. g., Orff’s (virtually hagiographic) biographer Liess, Carl Orff, p. 36: “It is neither de (...)
  • 16 See Orff, Dok. IV, p. 92. Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 29, mainly points to the many diminutives (...)
  • 17 See J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London, 1982, p. 80-109.
  • 18 See Adams, Sexual Vocabulary, p. 9-79.
  • 19 See Adams, Sexual Vocabulary, p. 86.

9There are several reasons to disregard the cantata. Maybe the most important one is Orff’s way of using the Latin language. Although musicologists praise Orff for his ability to find subjects which are valid in all epochs and all places and to deliver these timeless truths in immortal languages15, it is easy to see that he did not really master the pronunciation and grammar of Latin. In the prelude of Catulli Carmina, which he claims to have written in the style of Plautus’s comedies16, he makes the young people sing tui sum (which could possibly mean something like “I am a part of you”, CC, p. 2-3, 6-9, 11-12) instead of tua sum or tuus sum respectively (“I am yours”). When the girls’ lingula (“little tongue”) is compared to a vipera (“serpent”) the girls playfully warn the boys: cave meam viperam, nisi te mordet (“Beware my serpent, if it does not bite you”, CC, p. 22) while the right construction would be cave meam viperam, ne te mordeat (“… so that it won’t bite you”). Furthermore he wrongly converts the masculine word fons (“fountain, well”) into a feminine noun by building the diminutive fonticula (CC, p. 31), which is meant to stand for “little vagina” but is not attested in ancient literature as such a metaphor at all17. The peni-peniculus (“little pee-penis”) which is longing for the fonticula is correspondingly compared to a pisciculus (“little fish”), which is not attested as a metaphor for “penis” in antiquity either18. However, in this case Orff can be said to have unintentionally drawn on Martial’s use of piscina (“fishpond”) as a comparison for a laxus cunnus (“loose vagina”, Martial, Epigrams 11.21.12)—but this would not be flattering for the young girls at all19.

  • 20 The right accentuation, in these cases, would be: proléctant, fortásse requíris, áqua, pérditum, (...)
  • 21 See, e. g., most recently, Müller, “Carmina Amoris”, p. 47.
  • 22 For the penultima rule see F. Crusius, Römische Metrik, eine Einführung, Munich, 1929, p. 2-8, a (...)
  • 23 Carl Orff (1977) in Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 181.
  • 24 See the response to Orff’s story about his first encounter with Catullus (n. 3 above) by W. Stroh(...)

10Apart from grammatical and semantic oddities, Orff makes many metrical mistakes. First, he seems to think that the letter i in another vowel’s vicinity is generally spoken as a semivowel, be it in cases like Les-bi͡a (passim) or fu͡it (CC, p.48); the same happens sometimes to words with e followed by a vowel like me͡a (e. g., CC, p. 55). While such synizeses can be excused by their (far more rare) use in ancient texts, there are also some very serious mistakes which are able to provoke disgust in austere classicists. So he accentuates prólectant (p. 21), fórtasse réquiris (p. 54, p. 64), aquá (p. 60), perdítum (p. 66), fúlsere (p. 66), óbdura/óbdurat (p. 67-68), mórdebis (p. 68), réperta (p. 69)20. Musicologists usually say that Orff’s neglect of the ancient metrics is due to his favorization of the natural word accent21, but in these instances this is simply not the case: these pronunciations are against the penultima rule and thus severely wrong and inexcusable22. Now, if not before, it should become clear that Orff’s statement that he has just written down what Catullus had already composed23 is but an hubristic claim of having an infallible intuition concerning the sound of Latin24.

  • 25 See J. H. Gaisser, Catullus, Oxford, 2009, p. 201-203, on 17th and 18th century narratives and T. (...)
  • 26 See H. Krasser, “Catull”, in P. von Möllendorff, A. Simonis, and L. Simonis (eds.), Historische G (...)
  • 27 See J. Ingleheart, “Et mea sunt populo saltata poemata saepe (Tristia 2.519): Ovid and the Pantom (...)
  • 28 See C. Panayotakis, “Virgil on the Popular Stage”, in Hall and Wyles (eds.), New Directions, 2008 (...)
  • 29 Orff’s play was, as an aside, already compared to pantomime by O. Weinreich, Catull, Liebesgedich (...)
  • 30 On the overlaps between the two genres, see T. P. Wiseman, “‘Mime’ and ‘Pantomime’: Some Problema (...)
  • 31 See, e. g., T. Rösch, “Orff, Carl”, in L. Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. (...)
  • 32 See T. P. Wiseman, “Popular Memory”, in K. Galinsky (ed.), Memoria Romana: Memory in Rome and Rom (...)

11In fact, it is something else that Orff had a great instinct for: imagining poems on stage. Although biographical readings of the libellus have since long been common among creative recipients of Catullus’s poetry up to Orff’s own time25, he was the most successful among those few who made theatrical plays of it26. Transformations of poetry to theatre performances are already attested in antiquity: From Ovid’s complaint that he has heard of unauthorized stagings of his poems (Ovid, Tristia 2.519-520; 5.7.25-28) we learn that the original genre did not matter much to pantomime directors27. Vergil’s poetry, too, was successfully adapted for the stage (Suetonius, Life of Vergil 26; Tacitus, Dialogue on Orators 13.2; Servius, Commentary on Vergil’s Eclogues 6.11)28. In classical pantomime performances the narrative was sung by a choir from offstage with the accompaniment of orchestral music while one silent dancer on the stage slipped into all the different roles. With the single difference that Orff makes several dancers appear on stage, the idea is mainly the same29. However, the personas he adds, young lovers and severe old men, are stock characters from a related genre, the mime; the narrative, which focusses on an intergenerational conflict and betrayed love, is also a typical theme of the classical mimus30. Hence, Orff can be said to have revived and thus continued the ancient tradition of popular dance theatre creating his own kind of ludi scaenici31. Finally, the most important parallel is, that Orff considers the theatre the right place for instruction of the public and formation of their collective memory—this is exactly what public theatre was in Roman society32. For this purpose, Orff seeked to involve all of the spectators’ senses to reach their interest. The best way for Orff to fulfill this goal was musical theatre.

  • 33 See Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 129-130.
  • 34 See Schaefer-Franke, “Quid ad nos?”, p. 47.
  • 35 Therefore, it is not surprising that Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 30-31, seeks to evaluate in wh (...)

12As Orff felt that it is not really the content of the love poems that he considered necessary to be delivered to the public but that he rather wanted to recommend Catullus’s poetry in general to them, he emphasized the importance of the poet by announcing him not only in his own play’s title but also by the title of the play within the play (CC, p. 51-52: Audite ac videte: ‘Catulli Carmina’). Catullus thus becomes not only the librettist of his own life’s story but also a paradigmatic example by which old men teach the youth33. In order to confuse his critics about his own intention, he makes the sad Catullan love story be told by old, and therefore presumably wise, men. Although the young people cannot get convinced of the old men’s message, Orff himself in this way manages to escape the allegation of praising Eros too fervently, even before it can be raised against him as it happened with Carmina Burana before. Every listener can pick his side of the two-fold message34. Orff, the historical person, on the one hand can surely be considered to have been on the young people’s side, Orff, the composer of Catulli Carmina, on the other hand can also be interpreted to support the severe men’s side who stage the play that is entitled exactly like his own one. By making himself a teacher of Catulli Carmina like the old men in his play and providing the textbook for the play himself, Orff deliberately undergoes the very fate he put on Catullus. Again, the story proves to be timeless35.

  • 36 See Orff, “Erinnerung”, p. 65-69; the Werfel songs for piano and voice (1919–1921), which are not (...)
  • 37 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 9-10, and M. H. Kater, Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits, New (...)
  • 38 See E. Levi, Music in the Third Reich, London, 1994, p. 71-74; H. Maier, “Carl Orff in seiner Zei (...)
  • 39 Carl Orff, Die Kluge, scene 7 (cited after Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dok. V, 1979, p. 162-167): “ (...)
  • 40 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 32-33, and Kater, Composers, p. 120-122.
  • 41 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 32: “Hier ist festzuhalten, daß diese Musik nach 1933 eine logische F (...)
  • 42 See G. Abraham, The Concise Oxford History of Music, London, 1979, p. 840: “The only kind of mod (...)

13In order to fully understand this clever strategy to please both conservative adults and people young at heart, we have to embed the work in its historical context. Since Orff has composed some songs with lyrics by the Jew Franz Werfel in 1919–1921 and 1930 (Werkbuch I) and others by the Marxist Bert Brecht in 1930–1931 (Werkbuch II), Orff was, from the beginning of his public career, quite suspicious to the Nazis36. And their perception of him did not really change when he managed to perform Carmina Burana in 1937: The Latin erotic texts of this cantata were declared to be pornographic and a case of decay of German values by them37. They started to appreciate his music more when he responded to the regime’s call to compose music for Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1938 to replace Mendelssohn’s “Jewish” music which they wanted not to be played any more38. Although he still implemented some critical lines about Fides being dead, Iustitia in need, and Tyrannis holding the sceptre in his opera Die Kluge (1943)39, he was recorded in the “Gottbegnadeten list” of artists who were considered important for the propagation of Nazi culture in 1944. It was mainly his hypnotic rhythms accompanied by simple, straight melodies which were regarded useful for rhythmic education of the youth40. But these rhythms, however, were an expression of his individual character which was not formed by the Nazis at all, he already used them in the pieces that were not appreciated by the regime yet. Hence, his musical development was not affected by Nazi ideology41. It was just his luck that his genuine element of modernism, strict and pithy rhythms with catchy melodies which are repeated in a monotonous and therefore hypnotic way, fitted the regime’s taste42. And as this musical style which pervades Catulli Carmina is without any doubt truly thrilling, it does not really matter any more that it has actually little to do with Catullus’s poems.

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Notes

1 See, e. g., the numerous school editions of Catullus, from which R. Nickel, Leben, Lieben, Leiden: Catulls Lesbia-Gedichte mit Begleittexten, 2nd ed., Bamberg, 1997, p. 34-41, H.-J. Glücklich, Catull, Gedichte, 4th ed., Göttingen, 1999, p. 15-17, and F. Maier, Catull, An Lesbia: Ein Liebesdichter mit europäischer Ausstrahlung, 2nd ed., Bamberg, 2009, p. 48-52, also treat Carl Orff’s Catulli Carmina. On Catullus in anglophone Latin courses see R. Ancona and J. P. Hallett, “Catullus in the Secondary School Curriculum”, in M.B.Skinner (ed.), A Companion to Catullus, Oxford, 2007, p. 481-502, and D.H.Garrison, “Catullus in the College Classroom”, in Skinner (ed.), Companion, 2007, p.503-519. See also R. Schaefer-Franke, “Quid ad nos? – Musik als Interpretationshilfe: Eine Unterrichtsreihe zu Carl Orffs Catulli carmina mit dem Schwerpunkt auf carmen 85”, Der Altsprachliche Unterricht 52/2 (2009), p. 46-51, who provides an idea on how to develop a lesson unit about Catulli Carmina.

2 C. Orff, “Erinnerung”, in Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation I: Frühzeit, Tutzing, 1975 [= Dok. I], p. 7-69, esp. p. 35, p. 38.

3 C. Orff, Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation IV: Trionfi, Tutzing, 1979 [= Dok. IV], p. 7.

4 Probably the bilingual edition by T. Heyse and W. Schöne, Catullus, Carmina / Das Buch Catulls aus Verona, Munich, 1925; see Orff, Dok. IV, p. 187.

5 The original versions, C. Orff, Catulli Carmina I: Sieben Chorsätze a capella (Mainz, 1931), and C. Orff, Catulli Carmina II: Drei Chorsätze a cappella (Mainz, 1932), are no longer in print. They belong to the early works about which Orff said to his publisher in 1937 that they be pulped; see A. Liess, Carl Orff [orig. German: Carl Orff: Idee und Werk (Zurich, 1955)], tr. A. and H. Parkin, London, 1966, p. 27, and Orff, Dok. IV, p. 66. However, they have been reprinted and are now available in his autobiography, Orff, Dok. IV, p. 9-26, p. 28-37. An illuminating comparison between the 1931 and the 1943 version of Odi et amo (c. 85) is offered by F. M. Maier, “Latein als Bühnensprache in Carl Orffs Catulli Carmina”, in Jahrbuch des Staatlichen Instituts für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz 2015, Mainz, 2017, p. 273-288, esp. p. 284-288.

6 See Orff, Dok. IV, p. 144. Other notable performances are listed by W. Thomas, “Carl Orff”, in C. Dahlhaus and S. Döhring (eds.), Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters: Oper, Operette, Musical, Ballett, Band 4: Werke, Massine–Piccinni, Munich, 1991, p. 581-605, esp. p. 595, and J. Schindlbeck, “Catulli Carmina”, in R. Schochow (ed.), Carl Orff. Ein Führer zu den Bühnenwerken / A Guide to the Stage Works, Mainz, 2015, p. 42-47, esp. p. 45-47.

7 Quotations from Orff’s text and descriptions of his music are cited according to the page numbers of the musical score, C. Orff, Catulli Carmina, Ludi scaenici (for two solo voices, chorus, and orchestra) [Mainz, 11955, 21983], 3rd ed., London, 1990; the libretto by C. Orff, E. Stemplinger, and R. Bach, Catulli Carmina: Ludi scaenici / Die Lieder des Catull: Szenisches Spiel, Mainz, 1944, unfortunately, is penetrated with typographical errors (e. g., Ascendite faces instead of Accendite faces [p. 24]). The most valuable essays on Orff’s Catulli Carmina to which my own interpretation owes much are those by W. Thomas, “Latein und Lateinisches im Musiktheater Carl Orffs”, Der Altsprachliche Unterricht 23/5 (1980), p. 29-52, esp. p. 35-40, p. 43-48, W. Thomas, Das Rad der Fortuna: Ausgewählte Aufsätze zu Werk und Wirkung Carl Orffs, Mainz, 1990, p. 53-87, F. Strunz, “Catulli Carmina. Zur Interpretation der ludi scaenici Carl Orffs”, Der Altsprachliche Unterricht 33/4 (1990), p. 25-40, and U. Müller, “Carmina Amoris. Carl Orffs Trionfi: Carmina Burana, Catulli Carmina, Trionfo di Afrodite. Konzeption und literarische Vorlagen”, in T. Rösch (ed.), Text, Musik, Szene – Das Musiktheater von Carl Orff (Symposium Orff-Zentrum München 2007), Mainz, 2015, p. 35-53, esp. p. 45-48. Despite its very promising title, the essay by S. Kunze, Die Antike in der Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Thyssen-Vorträge: Auseinandersetzungen mit der Antike, ed. H. Flashar, Vol. 6), Bamberg, 1987, does not deal with Catulli Carmina at all.

8 On Orff’s odd grammar see below, p. 17-18. Translations are my own; for an English translation of the whole prelude see A. Cottle, “The Chorister’s Companion: ‘Praelusio’ to Catulli Carmina by Carl Orff. Working draft, 1 March 1989, web transcription by G.Duzan”, http://www.duzan.org/gary/catulli_carmina.html (last modified 29 Dec. 2002, accessed 16 Jan. 2020). My translations from Catullus’s poems are influenced by F. W. Cornish, The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Cambridge, 1904.

9 Due to their erotic tone, large parts of the prelude (CC, p. 23-35) have been left out in the original libretto; see Orff, Stemplinger, and Bach, Die Lieder des Catull, p. 11: “Die Jünglinge und Mädchen rufen sich, werbend und verheißend, immer kühnere Liebkosungen zu”.

10 See Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 63, and Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 32.

11 See Liess, Carl Orff, p. 103; W. Thomas, “Conclusio”, in Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation VIII: Theatrum mundi, Tutzing, 1983, p. 345-351, esp. p. 348; Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 77-78; Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 35.

12 Orff, Dok. IV, p. 92, himself said that the Italian words have grown out of the music by themselves: “Die frei hinzugefügten Worte ‘dormi ancora’ sind in ihrer Klanglichkeit ganz der Musik entwachsen”; Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 78 n. 38, explains that the words might still have been present in Orff’s mind from Claudio Monteverdi’s Il ritorni d’Ulisse in patria (I 7), which he planned to rework between 1926 and 1929.

13 The interpretation that the bass soloist singing the final dormi ancora might be Caelius himself has—as far as I see—not been put forth before. Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 78, and Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 35, make references to the bass voice, but they do not take into account that Orff splitted the bass group at this point and explicitly gave the Dormi ancora to soloists (CC, p. 62). As an explanation as to why it is not a single soloist but more than one (“Soli”) it could be referred to the other men who echoed quam mihi to Catullus’s Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle quam mihi before (CC, p. 58, see above).

14 C. 87 and c. 75 are also linked together in Heyse’s translation which Orff was probably using (Heyse and Schöne, Catullus, p. 76).

15 See, e. g., Orff’s (virtually hagiographic) biographer Liess, Carl Orff, p. 36: “It is neither dead historical scholarship nor snobbery if Orff […] uses Latin and Greek as well as Middle High German, Old French and Bavarian dialect in his work. In the use of old languages, Orff’s immediate relationship with all periods finds expression. Humanism here is a reference to permanent values and, through them, an immediate relationship with the present”, ibid., p. 84: “For Stravinsky, Latin is a means to objectivity, but Orff considers it not as a dead language but as the immediate and vital expression of living experience”, or his friend Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 206: “So gewinnt die zeit- und raumbezogene Idee des Spiels gegenwärtige und künftige, also wahre Aktualität. In Orffs Musiktheater bewähren die Sprachen der Antike ihre maieutische Kraft, indem sie die transhistorische Geltung des Überzeitlichen freisetzen.”

16 See Orff, Dok. IV, p. 92. Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 29, mainly points to the many diminutives in Orff’s text. Indeed, Orff uses some words that he may have derived from Plautus: corculum (CC, p. 16-19; Pl., Casina 361, Mostellaria 986), prolectare (CC, p. 21; Pl., Bacchides 567), papillae horridulae (CC, p. 27; Pl., Pseudolus 68); on the other side, Orff has the very rare mammulae (CC, p. 23-24) while Plautus says mammicula (Pseudolus 1261); Orff’s adjectives blandula and blandicula (CC, p. 18-19) were also very rare and, according to the lexicographer Festus (Glossaria Latina IV, ed. W.-M. Lindsay, Paris, 1930, p. 135), surrogated by blandicella. Other words used by Orff, such as mordere (CC, p. 22) as a metaphor for “kissing” or amicula (CC, p. 15-18), are drawn on Catullus (carmen 30.2: cui labella mordebis; c. 30.2: dulcis amiculus). Orff’s most striking borrowings are from Pompeian graffiti; see J. Leonhardt, “Sprachbehandlung und antike Poesie bei Carl Orff”, in J. Leonhardt, S. Leopold, and M. Meier, Wege, Umwege und Abwege: Antike und Oper in der 1. Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart, 2011, p.67-97, esp. p. 93-94. When Orff talks about having written the prelude in “Plautine style” he might have had in mind the conflict between the young people in love and the old men trying to prevent their affairs. However, this is but a stock narrative and does not call for in-depth occupation with Plautus, as the claim to have imitated his style is intended to suggest; see Leonhardt, “Sprachbehandlung”, p. 92: “Orff selbst (und alle Interpreten sind ihm bisher darin gefolgt) hat angegeben, er habe diesen Text in ‘plautinischem Stil’ geschrieben. Dies ist aber eine Selbstmystifikation, welche die Genese des Textes verschleiert.”

17 See J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London, 1982, p. 80-109.

18 See Adams, Sexual Vocabulary, p. 9-79.

19 See Adams, Sexual Vocabulary, p. 86.

20 The right accentuation, in these cases, would be: proléctant, fortásse requíris, áqua, pérditum, fulsére, obdúra/obdúrat, mordébis, repérta. Although Catullus (c. 5.10) measures the future perfect fēcĕrī́mŭs, Orff’s fēcĕ́rĭmŭs (CC, p. 56) is also possible. Furthermore, Orff’s intended accentuation of unicum (CC, p. 63) is not clear; in performances and recordings it is usually stressed unícum to rhyme with amicum, but the correct accentuation is únicum.

21 See, e. g., most recently, Müller, “Carmina Amoris”, p. 47.

22 For the penultima rule see F. Crusius, Römische Metrik, eine Einführung, Munich, 1929, p. 2-8, a metrical handbook that Orff could have known, and which at least his classicist friend Eduard Stemplinger should have recommended to him. As the errors appear quite clustered in Miser Catulle (c. 8; CC, p. 66-68), J. Novák, Musica poetica Latina: De versibus Latinis modulandis [ca. 1973], ed. W. Stroh, Munich, 2001, p. 19-20, calls him a “murderer of choliambs” (“occisor choliamborum” [p. 20]); Stroh (in Novák, Musica poetica, p. 60) adds that Orff leaves nothing behind from the Latin language but the bare letters (“nihil praeter ipsas litteras, quod Latinum esset, reliquit”). This may be a bit exaggerated. However, on Orff’s actual deficiencies concerning Latin pronunciation and metrics which are revealed in a recitational etude from the final volume of his Schulwerk that was probably meant to offer an example for Latin verse recitation, see M. Stachon, “Das elegische Distichon in Carl Orffs Sprechstück Copa Syrisca”, Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 74 (2017), p. 103-112. See also Leonhardt, “Sprachbehandlung”, p. 84: “Dafür fasst er offenbar die Silben der Wörter gewissermaßen als einzelne Instrumentalklänge auf. Der Sinn des Wortes ist hierbei völlig unerheblich.”

23 Carl Orff (1977) in Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 181.

24 See the response to Orff’s story about his first encounter with Catullus (n. 3 above) by W. Stroh, “Carl Orff und die Antike: ‘Er war da völlig brutal’”, in Programm Symphonieorchester des BR, Gasteig, 30./31. Januar 2003: Carl Orff, Catulli carmina, Trionfo di Afrodite, Munich, 2003, p. 14-18, best available online at http://stroh.userweb.mwn.de/interviews/carlorff.html [accessed 16 Jan. 2020]): “Orff sagte, das berühmte Epigramm ‘Odi et amo’ habe ihn angesprungen wie ‘vorgeformte Musik’. Aber das war seine Musik, nicht die von Catull!” In view of this ample evidence, Liess’s contention that it is not a sign of Orff’s snobbery to use an ancient language (cited above in n. 15) must be contradicted.

25 See J. H. Gaisser, Catullus, Oxford, 2009, p. 201-203, on 17th and 18th century narratives and T. P. Wiseman, Catullus and his World: A Reappraisal, Cambridge 1985, p. 233-245, on modern novels about Catullus.

26 See H. Krasser, “Catull”, in P. von Möllendorff, A. Simonis, and L. Simonis (eds.), Historische Gestalten der Antike: Rezeption in Literatur, Kunst und Musik (Der Neue Pauly Supplemente 8), Stuttgart, 2013, p. 267-275, esp. p. 275, on other dramatic adaptations of Catullus’s life and works.

27 See J. Ingleheart, “Et mea sunt populo saltata poemata saepe (Tristia 2.519): Ovid and the Pantomime”, in E. Hall and R. Wyles (eds.), New Directions in Ancient Pantomime, Oxford, 2008, p. 198-217.

28 See C. Panayotakis, “Virgil on the Popular Stage”, in Hall and Wyles (eds.), New Directions, 2008, p. 185-197.

29 Orff’s play was, as an aside, already compared to pantomime by O. Weinreich, Catull, Liebesgedichte und sonstige Dichtungen, Hamburg, 1960, p. 145, G. Wille, Musica Romana: Die Bedeutung der Musik im Leben der Römer, Amsterdam, 1967, p. 224; and G. Wille, “Alte und neue Musik zu Catull”, in O. Weinreich, Catull: Sämtliche Gedichte, 2nd ed., Zurich, 1969, p. 77-93, esp. p. 88 [≈ 3rd ed., Munich, 1974, p. 228-241, esp. p.237].

30 On the overlaps between the two genres, see T. P. Wiseman, “‘Mime’ and ‘Pantomime’: Some Problematic Texts”, in Hall and Wyles (eds.), New Directions, 2008, p. 146-153, and Ingleheart, “Et mea sunt populo saltata poemata saepe”, p. 200-201.

31 See, e. g., T. Rösch, “Orff, Carl”, in L. Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, begründet von F. Blume; zweite, neubearbeitete Ausgabe. Personenteil 12: Mer–Pai, Kassel, 2004, col. 1397-1409, esp. 1404: “Als entscheidende historische Leistung Orffs gilt die Schaffung eines eigenständigen Musiktheaters. Die enge Verbindung von Sprache, Musik, Bewegung und Darstellung, vorgegeben aus der Antike und teilweise wiedergefunden in der frühen Oper des Barock, wird unter neue szenische Gesetzlichkeiten gestellt.” On the influence of ancient pantomime on modern ballet see E. Hall, “Ancient Pantomime and the Rise of Ballet”, in Hall and Wyles (eds.), New Directions, 2008, p. 363-377.

32 See T. P. Wiseman, “Popular Memory”, in K. Galinsky (ed.), Memoria Romana: Memory in Rome and Rome in Memory, Ann Arbor, 2014, p. 43-62, esp. p. 57: “The great majority of Romans did not read books; they learned what they needed to know at the ludi scaenici and the other festivals of their gods.”

33 See Thomas, Rad der Fortuna, p. 129-130.

34 See Schaefer-Franke, “Quid ad nos?”, p. 47.

35 Therefore, it is not surprising that Strunz, “Catulli Carmina”, p. 30-31, seeks to evaluate in which epoch the play should be imagined to take place.

36 See Orff, “Erinnerung”, p. 65-69; the Werfel songs for piano and voice (1919–1921), which are not in press any more, are reprinted in Orff, Dok. I, p. 288–327. On the Nazis’ perception of Orff see M. H. Kater, “Carl Orff im Dritten Reich”, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 43 (1995), p. 1–35, esp. p. 9, and M. H. Kater, The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, New York, 1997, p. 191.

37 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 9-10, and M. H. Kater, Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits, New York, 2000, p. 123.

38 See E. Levi, Music in the Third Reich, London, 1994, p. 71-74; H. Maier, “Carl Orff in seiner Zeit” [orig. Rede beim Festakt zum 100. Geburtstag von Carl Orff am 7. Juli 1995 im Münchner Prinzregenttheater (Mainz, 1995)], reprinted in H. Maier, Cäcilia: Essays zur Musik, Frankfurt, 2005, p. 130-144, esp. p. 138; Kater, Composers, p. 125-126. However, Carl Orff himself, in his memories about the production history (“Musik zum Sommernachtstraum: Ein Bericht”, Shakespeare-Jahrbuch 100 (1964), p. 117-134 [reprinted in Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dokumentation V: Märchenstücke, Tutzing, 1979 (= Dok. V), p. 219-233]), does not mention any political circumstances at all; on the contrary, he stresses that he was occupied with his incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1917 until 1962. However, modern scholars for some reason prefer to stay silent about the piece; see, e. g., Thomas, “Carl Orff”, or Rösch (ed.), Text, Musik, Szene, who do not devote a chapter to it.

39 Carl Orff, Die Kluge, scene 7 (cited after Carl Orff und sein Werk, Dok. V, 1979, p. 162-167): “Fides ist geschlagen tot. Justitia lebt in großer Not. […] Veritas ist gen Himmel flogen. Treu und Ehr sind übers Meer gezogen. Betteln geht die Frömmigkeit. Tyrannis führt das Scepter weit. […] Tugend ist des Lands vertrieben. Untreu und Bosheit sind verblieben”; see on that Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 13; on the other hand, Maier, “Carl Orff in seiner Zeit”, p. 138-139, and U. Drüner and G. Günther, Musik und “Drittes Reich”: Fallbeispiele 1910 bis 1960 zu Herkunft, Höhepunkt und Nachwirkungen des Nationalsozialismus in der Musik, Vienna, 2012, p. 194, are more sceptical about Orff’s alleged resistance in this piece.

40 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 32-33, and Kater, Composers, p. 120-122.

41 See Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 32: “Hier ist festzuhalten, daß diese Musik nach 1933 eine logische Fortsetzung seines Schaffens vor Hitlers Machtantritt gewesen ist. Daraus muß gefolgert werden, daß er auch unter anderen staatlichen Umständen, etwa in einer demokratisch-republikanischen Ordnung, nicht anders komponiert hätte, als es zwischen 1933 und 1945 der Fall gewesen ist.” Hence, there was actually never any need to respond to the findings by Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 26-29, in such a resolute way as O. Rathkolb, “Carl Orff und die Bernauerin. Zeithistorischer Rahmen zur Entstehungsgeschichte 1942–1947”, in K. Bergmann (ed.), Die Bernauerin: Ein bairisches Stück von Carl Orff, Vienna, 1997, p. 15-25, esp. p. 20-22, did. The best account of Orff’s living and composing before, during, and after the Nazi era can still be seen in Kater, Composers, p. 111-143.

42 See G. Abraham, The Concise Oxford History of Music, London, 1979, p. 840: “The only kind of modernism acceptable in the Third Reich was the rhythmically hypnotic, totally diatonic neo-primitivism of Orff’s scenic cantatas Carmina Burana (1937) and Catulli Carmina (1943) and his opera Die Kluge (The clever woman) (1943)”; see also Levi, Music in the Third Reich, p. 118; Kater, “Carl Orff”, p. 35 n. 207; Kater, Twisted Muse, p. 192.

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Markus Stachon, « Odious and Yet Lovely: Carl Orff’s Scenic Cantata Catulli Carmina »Anabases [En ligne], 31 | 2020, mis en ligne le 27 juin 2022, consulté le 23 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/anabases/10348 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/anabases.10348

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Markus Stachon

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Am Hof 1e, 53113 Bonn (Germany)
markus.stachon@gmail.com

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