Tuesday, May 26, 2009

As a public service to the Broadway-attending contingent among my Gentile Readers...

...I hereby provide the Russian bits of the song "To Life!" which is surely one of the few tri-lingual songs ever to make it big on Broadway. ("L'chaim!" is Hebrew for "To life!" and "Za vásha zdoróvya!" is Russian for "To your health!" The third language is, you know, English.) I just discovered that every site I could find that purports to have the lyrics simply leaves the Russian bits out. What's up with that? Anyway, fortunately it's pretty simple Russian (unless I'm subconsciously editing it into something that makes sense to me, like the little boy quoting the 23rd Psalm as a warning that his Sunday School teacher was going to be stalking him for the foreseeable future: "Surely good Miss Murphy will follow me all the days of my life...")

Anyway, what the Russian sings to Tevye and Lazar Wolf is:

Za vásha zdoróvya! [To your health!]
Heaven bless you both! Na zd'róvya! [Your health!]
May you have good health
And may we live together in peace!
May you both be favored with the future of your choice!
May you live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice!


Just thought y'all would like to know.

Oh, and playing this track in the car with Sean gave me an opportunity to enhance his vocabulary with the term "left-handed compliment," which he hadn't heard before. You'll find few better examples than:

We'll lift our glass and sip a drop of schnapps
In honor of the great good luck that favors you
We know that when good fortune favors two such men
It stands to reason we deserve it too!


[UPDATE: What was I thinking? That's not a left-handed compliment...because there's no apparent compliment in it. It's just an insult that's subtle enough to probably sneak by a guy who's already on his fifth shot of vodka. So I'd say that qualifies as a Teaching Fail. Oh, well.]

Anywhere, here are the complete lyrics:

To life, to life, l'chaim!
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life!
[Tevye] Here's to the father I tried to be
[Lazar Wolf] Here's to my bride-to-be
Drink l'chaim, to life, to life, l'chaim!
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life!
Life has a way of confusing us,
Blessing and bruising us,
Drink l'chaim, to life!
God would like us to be joyful
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
How much more can we be joyful
When there's really something to be joyful for?
To life, to life, l'chaim!
[Tevye] To Tzeitel, my daughter... [Lazar Wolf] My wife!
It gives you something to think about,
Something to drink about,
Drink l'chaim, to life!

[some spoken dialogue, then]

To Lazar Wolf! To Tevye!
To Tzeitel, your daughter... [Lazar Wolf] my wife!
May all your futures be pleasant ones,
Not like our present ones,
Drink l'chaim, to life, to life, l'chaim!
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life!
It takes a wedding to make us say,
"Let's live another day,"
Drink l'chaim, to life!

We'll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps
In honor of the great good luck that favors you,
We know that when good fortune favors two such men
It stands to reason, we deserve it too!
To us and our good fortune!
Be happy, be healthy, long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,
Here's to whatever comes,
Drink l'chaim, to life!

[Russian] Aaiiiiii...
Za vásha zdoróvya! [To your health!]
Heaven bless you both! Na zd'róvya! [Your health!]
May you have good health
And may we live together in peace!
May you both be favored with the future of your choice!
May you live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice!

[Russians, first half solo descant over second half chorus]
Za vásha zdoróvya! [To your health!]
Heaven bless you both! Na zd'róvya! [Your health!]
May you have good health
And may we live together in peace!
May you both be favored with the future of your choice!
May you live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice!

We'll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps
In honor of the great good luck that favors you,
We know that when good fortune favors two such men
It stands to reason, we deserve it too!
To us and our good fortune!
Be happy, be healthy, long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,
Here's to whatever comes,
Drink l'chaim, to life!
[Tevye] To life!


P.S. Yes, the pun in the title was deliberate.

3 Comments:

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Kris with a K said...

As a huge fan of Fiddler, I appreciate the translation! I knew the pronunciation, but never the English of those words.

Did you know that Fiddler is coming to Bass concert hall March 2010, and WILL HAVE TOPOL playing Tevya! I understand it's his last tour. I'll be there, for sure!

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Ken Pierce said...

[grinning] I'm leading a contingent of seven friends and family members to the Hobby Theatre this Sunday night to see that very production.

I have always been privately amused whenever Topol performs "L'chaim!", which performance requires him to go back and forth between yelling, "L'chaim!" and "To Tevya!" Why?

Why, because Topol's full name is Chaim Topol, that's why.

Makes for an awfully narcissistic number, don't you think? "L'Chaim! [To me!]" "To Tevya! [To me again!]" "L'Chaim! [To me, to me, to me, to me, woo-hoo!]"

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Eileen Willie said...

Left-handed compliment one scene later from Russian to Tevye.... "You're an honest decent person... even though you are a Jew." And then again from Tevye back to him "You are a good man... if I may say so it's too bad you're not a Jew..."

 

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