Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Big Lee

Pronouncing Ballet Names

68 posts in this topic

Today I was very surprised when I heard someone pronounce Diaghilev. I have always heard it pronounced with a hard G as in dug or rug, di-AH-ge-lev, and these people have always seemed knowledgeable to me. The person I heard today, who also seemed knowledgeable, pronounced it with a soft G like a j, di-AH-je-lev. Have I been saying it wrong for years, or was I right, or are multiple pronunciations of this name OK?

Share this post


Link to post

Hmm. I don't think I've heard that one before. :shrug: I have heard the "Dia" slurred into a single, soft-G syllable: "DJA-ghi-lev." It's probably closer to the Russian pronunciation, but it sounds a bit odd to me when it comes out of an American mouth.

In a more contemporary vein, I understand that ABT's young, Brazilian star is Marcelo GO-mehsh. :pinch:

Share this post


Link to post

I've always heard both, and just when I'm convinced it's one, I'll hear someone who knows what he or she is doing say the other. :pinch: Is this because one is a Russian pronunciation and one a French? Or one is Anglicized or Americanized? I can't say.

But at any rate, neither pronunciation would prove an embarrassment :)

Share this post


Link to post

Whew. I was thinking if I was wrong, I'd have said the name wrong probably more than a thousand times. I must admit, I kind of like the sound of it with the soft g.

Share this post


Link to post

Although I've never seen it spelled in Cyrillic, I've assumed that the "gh" is a standin for the Cyrillic "X" sound, the "ch" as found in Scottish "loch" or German "ach", so right or wrong, I generally slide right through an "ach-laut", as dee-ACH-ih-leff. As Alexandra says, the people I talk to about Diaghilev will know who I mean.

Share this post


Link to post

as i reacall at one (or more) Defilé performances i saw, Sylvie Guillem was announced as SIL-vee ghee-LEM. i had always surmised otherwise i.e. w/ a silent "L"

oh well.

meanwhile yes, Marcello Gomes has been 'properly' pronounced for me by ABT officials as mar-SELL-o goh-MESS i.e. NOT MarCHELLo GO-mez.

it's funny about Diaghilev but i keep hearing the Russians i know pronounce the G portion as a hard G, even tho' as mel points out that 'ch' letter is normally a CH (as in loch) sound. maybe this is one of those many exceptions to so-called rules of language.

lest we forget there was that time when some English spellings ended the transliteration Sergei D's name in FF, not V, i.e. Diaghileff.

Share this post


Link to post

On my tape of "The Children of Theatre Street", narrator Grace Kelly says Balanchine's name like - bAl (rhyming with "pal") - on (as in the word "on") - shEEn (as in Martin.. haha, I had to add that in). I heard somewhere, though it's probably inaccurate, that Balanchine hacked off the '-vadze' and added the '-chine' onto his last name to make it more French-y sounding for the Ballet Russes. Why, I have no idea, I'm just a child. :)

Share this post


Link to post

Miss Muriel Stuart, who was a soloist with Pavlova's company, and author of the essential book, The Classic Ballet, said it BAL-onh-sheen, as well. She ought to have known something, as she was a teacher at his School of American Ballet from the days when it was back downtown on Madision Avenue, in Isadora Duncan's former studio.

Share this post


Link to post

alexandra danilova is on various sound bites pronouncing mr. b's name the way mel has spelt out miss stuart's prononciation.

as, perhaps, mr. b. liked all things american i don't suppose it bothered him a bit that there was a euorpean and an american way of saying his name, as rechristined by diaghilev(ff) etc.

meanwhile when the powers-that-be at NYCB and SAB have been heard in individual cases to say: Lincoln KIR - styne as opposed to KIR- steen, then i think it's a case of real ignorance and lack of concern for accuracy.

(this in no way, btw, means to loop back to: you say sere-NAHD; i say SERE-nade)

Share this post


Link to post

French words involve NO accented syllables; all syllables must have the same strength. Therefore, the great choreographer is pronounced:

pet i pah

Share this post


Link to post

estelle: in melvyn bragg's interview documentary with sylvie, a few years back, it was made clear that the 'll' is NOT silent. i do however, find it rather hard to pronounce, that way!

Share this post


Link to post

I've always wanted to know how to pronouce balletomanes. And does the pronunciation change with plural or singular?

Share this post


Link to post

I say BAL-lett-o-mains, but then I say BAL-lay, too. In the dictionary, bal-LETT-o-mains is the preferred American pronunciation.

Just think of the fun we could have had if Marius or Lucien Petipa had married a Spanish girl and they had a daughter Pepita! :grinning:

Share this post


Link to post
French words involve NO accented syllables; all syllables must have the same strength.  Therefore, the great choreographer is pronounced:

pet i pah

Are you quite sure about that, citibob? My French-speaking friends from both Canada and France have told me otherwise, though perhaps I am misunderstanding. Perhaps Estelle could clarify...?

Share this post


Link to post

As an American from Mississippi with a grandmother from New Orleans who spoke Creole French and said "soignee" with a STRONG stress on the second syllable, who won a prize for my French studies at Ole Miss where I learned that my grandmother's French was extremely provincial, and who then studied English in England at Oxford, and had my pronunciation sniffed at by New Yorkers and Brits and everything in between, i had some time to think about how hte two countries differ in pronouncing French --

and hte issue seems to be that French is a language that does NOT have significant stress-accents, whereas English does (both versions) -- and so ANGLICIZING means deciding where to put the stresses in words that didn't have them originally....

on different sides of hte Atlantic, English speakers apply stresses to syllables that basically SHOULDN"T have them, while ignoring the syllables created by terminal "e's" (Jean is a one-syllable word, Jeanne has two syllables, and -- well, by this rule, Estelle should have three -- but perhaps she will correct me)....

In England, Englishness is understood to inhere in the sacred right of hte first syllable to get the stress -- as in ENGland; so French words are allowed to retain their Frenchness by having the second syllable accented -- so Desiree in England is pronounced with a strong stress on hte middle syllable ("Des-- EAR--ay"), in the US with accents on the first and third ("DEZ-uh-RAY"), and in France with equal stress on all three syllables....

but words that hte ENglish REALLY want to appropriate are taken in like CARriage and GARage and VENison and PULlet and BALlet, which all get the stress where it goes in a true ENGlish word, on hte first syllable

In different parts of the United States, the same rule is applied variously -- In the port cities, the British way seems to be prevailing. But inland, even in Oakland I've heard people speak of the JofFREY BaLLET -- the full, exotic, outlandish glamor of a non-ENglish word would be lost if the stress fell on hte first syllable.....

French also doesn't aspirate plosives-- "Petipa" would NOT have aspirated p's -- no explosive puff of breath on either one, so it would sound almost like "Betiba......"

Share this post


Link to post

However, we have received "Petipa" through a Russian filter, where strongly accented syllables and aspirated plosives are quite the usual thing. One general rule of Russian pronunciation of names is that if the name ends with a vowel, the accent is not on the last syllable, neither is it on the penultimate, but instead, on the paenepenult, the NEXT to the next to the last syllable. Except when it isn't, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
French words involve NO accented syllables; all syllables must have the same strength.  Therefore, the great choreographer is pronounced:

pet i pah

Are you quite sure about that, citibob? My French-speaking friends from both Canada and France have told me otherwise, though perhaps I am misunderstanding. Perhaps Estelle could clarify...?

Well Hans, after some further thinking it is quite a complicated thing... I think that in French there are no strong stress-accents (it's far less strong than in English), and for example in French dictionaries there is nothing about stressed syllables when the phonetic pronunciation of the word is written, and I don't remember being told anything about it in class. But I think there is a small stress, following the rules I had given in another post (and as it is a rule which applies for all words with no exceptions, that's perhaps why nothing was said about it in class), and for example I remember it was quite striking when I attended Spanish classes, and some people were likely to pronounce Spanish words as it they were French (and so stressed the wrong syllable in most of the words ending with a vowel) and it really sounded weird! And perhaps also the accentuation of words is a bit stronger when it's in the context of a sentence than for isolated words (and for example it has an importance in classical poetry, for example in an alexandrine it sounds really bad if the 6th syllable is on a syllable or word which isn't accented normally).

Also there are quite a lot of differences between regional accents (I was quite aware of it, as my parents both were from another region than the one where I grew up, and so as a kid there were a lot of words that I didn't pronounce the same way as my schoolmates- and even now my own accent depends quite a lot on where I am and who I'm talking with :wub:) but not that much in the accentuation, I would say one difference might be the pronunciation of "e muets" which can vary, in Paris they're almost not pronounced (my name would sound like "Estel"), while in some southern regions they are more pronounced but the accent is on the penultimate syllable (Es-TEL-le).

Paul, about the number of syllables... my name does have three syllables, but the last one would be less strong that the others, if it makes sense. Err, I'm afraid this thread is getting transformed a bit too much in a French linguistics thread :o

And Mel, you're right that Marius Petipa's name was known through a Russian filter, and so the Russian pronunciation probably was the most important... (But what about Lucien Petipa? ;) )

Share this post


Link to post
(But what about Lucien Petipa? ;) )

I'll have to ask him the next time I see him.

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0