Carl Orff (1895- )

Prepared by Andrew Cottle

[working draft : 1 March 1989]

Web Transcription by Gary Duzan

Carl Orff's style, characterized by a systematic stripping down of essentials taken to its logical extreme, relies entirely on the power of rhythm and word; a rhythm which not only gives the music its pulse, but also frequently contributes to its formal structure. Rhythmic and melodic cells are repeated rather than developed. A suggestion of folk strength has made for effective theater.

Catulli Carmina (1942) is the second of a set of three 'scenic cantatas.' The first of the Trionfi was Carmina Burana (1937). The last was Trionfo di Afrodite (1952).

The texts for Catulli Carmina are by Catullus (84-55 BC). Catullus was in love with a beautiful, married patrician named Clodia. Wishing that she be aware of his love, which he could not openly declare, he communicated it to her in the form of subtle poems in which he referred to her as 'Lesbia.' Encouraged by Clodia, he was finally emboldened to declare himself to her and then enjoyed the happiness of requited love which reaches its climax, in Orff's setting, with the exclamation 'Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus' (My dearest Lesbia, let us live and love), at which point the chorus counts their kisses. But this joy is parelleled by the melancholy of Catullus's grief when Lesbia betrays him.

In the 'Praelusio' the greybeards try to explain to infatuated youths and girls, with the help of Catullus's bitter experiences, that the madness of love leads to nothing; but in the final 'Exodium' they conclude that their warnings have been of no avail; once again the youths and girls are inflamed by mutual passion.

Text - Catullus (and Orff?)

Young girls: Eis aiona! Forever!
Tui sum! I am yours!
O mea vita, You are my life,
Eis aiona! Forever!
Young fellows: Tu mihi cara, You are dear to me,
mi cara amicula, you are my dearly beloved,
corculum es! You are my heart's delight!
Girls: Dic mi te me arare! Tell me you love me!
Fellows: O tue oculi, O your eyes,
ocelli lucidi, your shining orbs,
fulgurant, they sparkle,
efferunt me velut specula. they reflect me like a mirror.
Girls: Specula, specula, tu mihi specula? Mirror, mirror, are you my mirror?
Fellows: O tua blandula, O charming,
blanda, alluring,
blandicula, and kindly-speaking,
tua labella. are your lips.
Girls: Cave, Beware,
cavete! beware everybody!
Fellows: Ad ludum polectant. They entice us to the sport.
Girls: Cave, Beware,
cavete! beware everybody!
Fellows: O tua lingula usque perniciter vibrans ut vipera. O your tongue ever swiftly it darts like a serpent.
Girls: Cavete, Beware everybody,
cave meam viperam, beware of my serpent,
nisi te mordet. lest it bite thee.
Fellows: Morde me! Bite me!
Girls: Basia me! Kiss me!
Together: Ah! Ah!
Fellows: O tuae mammulae. O your little breasts.
Girls: Mammulae. Little breasts.
Fellows: Dulciter turgidae, gemina poma! Sweetly swolen, twin apples!
Together: Ah! Ah!
Fellows: Mea manus est cupida, My hands are longing,
O vos papillae horridulae! (O you savage, pointed nipples)
illas prensare. to grasp them.
Girls: Suave, It is delightful,
suave lenire. delightful to soothe them.
Fellows: Illas prensare, vehementer prensare. (No) to grasp them, to grasp them firmly.
Together: Ha! Ha!
Girls: O tua mentula. O your penis.
Fellows: Mentula. Penis.
Girls: Cupide saliens. Longing (rising) eagerly.
Fellows: Penipeniculus. Little penis.
Girls: Velus pisciculus. Like a little fish.
Fellows: Is qui desiderat tuam fonticulam. It longs for your little fountain.
Together: Ah! Ah!
Girls: Mea manus est cupida. My hand is longing.
Coda, Penis,
codicula, your little penis,
avida! is eager!
Mea manus est cupida illam captare. My hand longs to capture it.
Fellows: Petulanti manicula! Naughty little hands!
Girls: Illam captare. To capture it.
Fellows: Tu es Venus, You are Venus,
Venus es! Venus thou art!
Girls: O me felicem. How happy I am.
Fellows: In te habitant omnia gaudia, In you dwells all joy,
omnes dulcedeines, all bliss,
omnes voluptas. all passion.
In te, In you,
in tuo ingente amplexu in your embrace
tota est mihi vita. lives the whole of my life.
Girls: O me felicem!! How happy I am!!
Together: Eis aiona! Forever!
Old men: Eis aiona! Forever (huh)!
(Snappishly) O res ridicula! How absurd!
Immensa stultitia. That is utterly rediculous.
Nihil durare potest tempore perpetuo. Nothing can endure throughout time everlastingly.
Cum bene Sol nituit, redditur Oceano. Once the sun has shone brightly, it sets in the Ocean.
Decrescit Phoebe, quam modo plena fuit, The moon wanes, how full it was a short while ago,
Venerum feritas saepe fit aura levia. Love's tempest often becomes a gentle breeze.
Tempus amoris cubiculum non est... The time for love is not in the bedroom...
Sublata lucerna Because the lamp has been taken away
nulla est fides, there is no trust,
perfida omnia sunt. everything is treacherous.
O vos brutos, O, you are dolts,
vos studidos, you are stupid,
vos stolidos! you are so dull!
One old man: Lanternari, tene scalam! Lantern-bearer, hold the ladder!
Old men: Audite ac videte! Listen and see!
Catulli carmina. Catullus' poems
Together: Audiamus!! We listen!!