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Translating Western Musical Lyrics: Adaptation for a Popular Arts Entertainment

Author/Editor: Stella Lanxing Sorby

Year of publication: 2011

Place of Publication & Publisher: Translation Quarterly 翻譯季刊 (Hong Kong : The Hong Kong Translation Society), 61(2011): 40-67

Publisher URL: http://www.hkts.org.hk/cgi-bin/pub.pl

ISBN/ISSN: ISSN 1027-8559

Publication blurb:

Since Les Miserables appeared at the Shanghai Grand Theatre in 2002, Chinese audiences have been fascinated by the opportunity to share and enjoy this globally popular art form–Western musicals. The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Mamma Mia!, The Lion King and others have been enthusiastically received in several Chinese cities. However, behind these successes,problems caused by differences between languages and cultures have also surfaced. Hence, it has opened up a challenging area for research into the translation of Western musicals.It is only relatively recently that Western musicals havestarted to enter the Chinese entertainment market and, therefore,the translation work is still at its initial, experimental stage. Evenin the West, where musicals are well established and developed,“[t]he topic of translation and music has remained on the periphery of translation studies”(Susam-Sarajeva 2008: 190). Using methods informed by descriptive translation studies, this paper bases its case studies on some of the Western musicals which have already been performed in China. It investigates strategies whichhave been employed by the translators and how they have taken into consideration both consumer reception and performer requirements to situate the translation into the target culture inorder to achieve their skopos. It focuses on the dual aspects of content and form: namely the balance between accuracy for transmission of storyline on the one hand and questions of singability and staging on the other. This paper also intends to identify how translators negotiate between the translation norms and the audience reception. The observations may serve as reference points for future analysis and comparison with translation practice, as well as with the changing patterns and trends of such practices in different periods of time. 

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