Site present – how to read this site (literally)
Web design has never really been this site's forte, but nonetheless I'm going to leave the (non-)design as it is, for three
reasons: one, because I'm unable to create a better design myself; two, because I cannot pay anyone who is able to do so; and
three, because I want to preserve this fantastic site from the internet's early days just the way it is, as a website museum, if
A living museum, though, since I'll continue to add new content – not just new pages on tenors that have so far been missing from the site, but also additional information or recordings on tenor pages that already exist. Here, the problem was how to offset the new content against the old one. The solution is simple, and perfectly congruent with the site's, ahem, modest design:
Whatever was published under Mr. Nouvion's ownership (even if it was written by myself, since I had already been a contributor for many years) is typeset in Times New Roman.
Whatever has been, or will be published under my ownership is typeset in Georgia. Not pretty, but effective, I think.
Opera titles are always given in the libretto's original language; if that language is likely to be unknown to most readers, the title may be translated into English. English is the site's main language, but the ability to read Italian, German and French (and, occasionally, Spanish or Dutch) is expected (Google Translate is your friend if you fail to meet that expectation).
Aria and song titles are given in the original language, as far as the sound index is concerned; but in the recorded language on the individual singer's page.
Capitalization in names follows the rules of the respective language; so it's De Negri, but de Trévi, it's D'Alessio, but d'Albert, and so forth.
Transliterating Cyrillic script is of course always a thorny problem. Transliteration means to render one letter (or a fixed combination of letters) as one – and always the same – letter or letter combination. The alternative would be transcription, which means to achieve with standard alphabet what science achieves with phonetic script: a notation of sounds, independent from how the word is written in the original language. That's what Russian does when dealing with names and words from Latin alphabet languages: Jan Peerce is written in Russian, in Cyrillic letters of course, "Dzhan Pirs", and Villebois, a Russian composer of French descent, becomes "Vilboa" in Russian (and that's how you find his name sometimes in re-transliteration from Russian-Cyrillic script).
However, in Western languages, we use transliteration, not transcription. Of course, also transliteration is not unrelated to pronunciation, and you wouldn't render an "a" sound as "x". Nevertheless, it can serve as a pronunciation guideline only for languages with plain pronunciation, where a letter is always pronounced precisely the same way, no matter in which context, no exceptions, no nonsense. If one had to transliterate Hungarian, Italian or Turkish, the result would be transcription at the same time.
Unfortunately, a great many languages pronounce their letters in quite different ways in different words and contexts. Just think of how many sounds can be denoted by one English letter, for instance by "a": think how it's pronounced in "angel", "large", "shadow" and "ball" – four completely different sounds, one letter. If you have to transliterate such a language, you try to capture only the basic sound of a letter (for instance the English "ah" sound that you hear in "large"), without explaining its variations in different words and contexts.
And unfortunately again, Russian (which is of course the most important language written in Cyrillic script) is not one of those no-nonsense languages like Italian; it's not as bad as English re pronunciation (not to speak of French, where orthography and pronunciation can seem totally unrelated at times), but still bad enough, and even with the clues given by transliteration, you'll still pronounce most Russian words irrecognizably wrong without knowledge of that (incredibly difficult) language.
In different Western languages, there are pretty different systems of transliterating Cyrillic script, and they all have their shortcomings. (There is also the scientific transliteration standard, which is no doubt superior to all others, but lacking in readability and hence not considered here.) For example, German has no means of differentiating, in orthography, between voiced and unvoiced sounds, and so German transliteration from Cyrillic renders both "ж" (zh) and "ш" (sh) as "sch", as well as both "з" (z) and "с" (s) as "s" – an outrageous solution.
I basically use the English transliteration, which is certainly the most descriptive. But it, too, violates the rule
"one Cyrillic letter – one Latin letter" in two instances:
So as to solve problem b), it's necessary to understand that Russian has two letters each for a, e, o and u: a (Cyrillic а) and
ja (Cyrillic я), o (Cyrillic о) and jo (Cyrillic ё), u (Cyrillic у) and ju (Cyrillic ю), no problems so far;
but it has also a letter for the eh sound (Cyrillic э), and one for the je sound (Cyrillic е). Of course, the obvious
solution would be to transliterate the same way as for the other vowels: Latin je for Cyrillic е and Latin e for Cyrillic
э. The problem is just that Russian-Cyrillic е is incomparably more frequent than (rare!) э, and
if we'd put the "obvious" solution into practice, it would result in transliterations that were hardly if at all readable:
Jevgjenij Onjegin, Anna Njetrjebko... tough on the eyes, no? So what I'm going to do is transliterate э, following an old
Soviet transliteration standard, as "eh", and Russian е simply as "e". This results in some pretty weird transliterations, too;
but I for one prefer "Rafaehl" or "Ehduard" over "Njetrjebko", hands down, particularly since э is so rarely encountered.
Exceptions from all these rules are made where singers transliterated their own names in a different way (thinking of Hvorostovsky,
who would be Khvorostovskij in my system), except where – which goes only for very few names – they used different
transliterations for every country where they sang: Chaliapine, Chaliapin, Schaljapin... becomes, strictly sticking to the system,
Shaljapin on this site.