In September last year a very good friend of Surrey Opera passed away suddenly. We have performed many operas with her translations and a few years ago Amanda Holden was our special guest at the President’s Lunch. Her first translation was, ironically, Don Giovanni for ENO in 1985. Now we are using her latest translation of Don Giovanni, known as The Opera North translation, for our current production, which we dedicate to her memory.
Here are extracts from two obituaries at the time:
Walking along the outskirts of the Mauerpark in Berlin with her son Joe one evening, Amanda Holden stopped suddenly, entranced by the sound of a nightingale. She insisted on staying until it had finished its song, noting the exact phrasing of its call. That, she said, was how music should sound.
Most opera lovers put the music first and the words second. Holden believed both were integral to a great performance. A limp or plodding translation could undermine an entire production; a deft and witty libretto could lift it to new heights. As a consummate musician herself, she understood the importance of dialogue that not only conveyed the tone of an opera, but could also be properly sung. She delighted in words that were accessible.
Amanda translated operas from many different languages and was widely praised for her acute sense of style, for her adroit rhyming, and for her profound musicality, which always directed her precise linguistic choices. She was a real expert in this peculiarly nuanced branch of translation, where the translator must not only capture the style and sense of the original but must also fit the result perfectly to the given rhythm of the music, also being sensitive to the way that the choice of vowel acutely influences the ability to sing a particular passage freely and expressively.
Extremely generous with her time, she was willing to spend many hours discussing a project with the director and conductor and was alert to the way in which she could best serve the intentions of a particular performance. She was open and tolerant of all shades of interpretation, but at the same time would rigorously defend the integrity of the original. Her skill was to find solutions that assisted a desired interpretation without damaging the original, and she brought great flair to this process.
David Pountney: The Guardian