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Translating western musicals into Chinese: Adapting to the reception

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Through researching the development and influence of the history and heritage of Chinese opera for over 800 years, this article aims to investigate Chinese opera goers' expectations from and perceptions of the libretti translations of western musicals and what translation strategies might be adopted for Chinese audiences' reception. In light of that tradition, this article argues that, unlike many western opera goers who would put more emphasis on the music and the singing, for Chinese audiences, the poetic and rhyming lyrics in opera are just as important. This theatrical tradition may influence the Chinese translation of western musicals. Using descriptive translation study methods, this article bases its case studies on cover versions of some western musicals that have already been performed in China, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, and discusses the aspects including singability, creativity and intercultural adaptations.

Keywords: audience reception; creativity; intercultural adaptation; lyrics translation; musicals; singability

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jafp.3.2.185_1

Affiliations: University of Portsmouth.

Publication date: September 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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