1. Today in class, my friend Annaëlle sang “I Can Cook Too” from On the Town. Which goes like this, in case you don’t know it:
(I like the song, but I have some issues with the food/sex metaphor à la Comden and Green. I understand “my oven’s the hottest you’ll find,” but what exactly does “my fish can’t be be beat” mean?)
And then this happened.
CHRISTINE: Elle a vraiment l’air de adjlfhalfadlkgadl. *elle me regarde*
(She really has the air of [indistinct mumbling].)
(Why are you looking at me?)
MOI: Pardon? Je ne comprends pas.
(Sorry? I don’t understand. [why am I supposed to understand?])
[really, really indistinct mumbling, because everybody is talking at once]
MOI: C’est quoi?
(What in God’s name is going on?!)
SOPHIE: Katharine Hepburn.
And then we all laughed. It’s nice sometimes to know that it’s not you–and to share a joke in a foreign language.
2. Another woman in the class, Carole, is singing “Aldonza” from Man of La Mancha. It’s one of my favorite songs from the show, partly because I think it’s an example of perfect text-setting. (Though not when you aren’t a native English speaker…but let that pass.)
Anyway, Annaëlle, Brigitte and Clémentine asked me what the song was from, and I said Homme de la Mancha. (Paraphrasing this conversation, because the heat has wrenched it from my sweaty brain.)
ANNAELLE: C’est la version américaine?
(It’s the American version?)
MOI: Non, c’est l’originale.
(No, it’s the original. [What are you smoking?])
ANNAELLE: Mais l’originale est en français, c’est de Jacques Brel.
(But the original is in French, Jacques Brel wrote it.)
MOI:…non, c’est américaine. L’originale est en anglais.
(No, it’s American. The original is in English. [They can take our lives, but they’ll never take our musicals!])
And then Annaëlle looked it up on her phone, on French Wikipedia. Sorry, Wikipédia. Lo and behold, the entry says, and I quote, “L’Homme de la Mancha est une comédie musicale américaine.” Boo-yah. But we all learned something today. They learned that Jacques Brel didn’t write Man of La Mancha, and I learned that Jacques Brel DID write a French adaptation of it. Observe:
3. I’m singing a duet from Maurice Yvain’s operetta Yes! with Annaëlle, called the Duo des Numéros (the numbers duet), in which Marquita (her) describes her twenty-three lovers to Totte (me). Last week, Christine had us ride each other’s backs like horses, as though we were playing a children’s game. Today when she asked if we wanted to do it that way again, I said NON. Because I thought it was dumb. Christine tried to explain to me why it was a useful tool, and all of the different children’s games we could play, so I said, dryly, “Leapfrog?” The only person who understood me was Flora, the dance teacher and choreographer. She gave me a wink. Another perk: occasionally being able to be cheeky in English and get away with it because nobody else understands.
4. And then Christine said (and I’m too lazy to try to do the French right now, it is too darn hot!), “In this duet, she’s giving you a list of her lovers, but trying to seduce you at the same time.” I rolled my eyes, because man, I am tired of her sexing up everything. She and Flora kept saying, it’s in the text, it’s in the text! And I was just not buying. Je ne l’achète pas.
But voilà, it actually IS in the text. I speak really good French, and I can understand most written French…but double entendre and subtlety is going to go straight over my head. As Denzel Washington says in Philadelphia, explain it to me like I’m two years old.
And that was today. I’m going to get around to writing about my excellent audition on Tuesday, but I had to get all of these down because otherwise I was going to forget. It’s 80 degrees outside and I am melting. Oh, what a world.