How did the questionnaire respondents rate my translation?

Naturalness of language: On the whole, respondents rated my translation as more natural than either the source text or Ellis’ translation Only one German speaker rated the source text as more natural sounding than my translation and another three rated it equally. All but one respondent rated my translation more natural than Ellis’.This meets my aim of a more accessible text, although it could be argued that there is a consequent mismatch in style between the ST and translation.

Ease of understanding: whilst the new translation is still not an easy text, nobody rated it in the most difficult range and retrieval of pronoun reference was much easier than in either the source text or Ellis’ translation. Sentence length, too, was more easily manageable.

Across all these categories, academic readers found the text easier on the whole than those with a lower level of musical qualification. This would match my primary readership of 3rd year undergraduates and postgraduates. People also commented, though, that the new translation was more accessible across all readership categories. Again this matches my aim of increased accessibility to the text.

I also aimed to prioritise information retrieval over style. Many respondents felt they didn’t have time to summarise the passage, but of those who did, scores on information retrieval were generally quite high. Again, there was a correlation with academic ability, although the relatively small numbers here made it difficult to draw clear conclusions.

Generally readers liked having the German terms included in the text and preferred to have footnotes rather than in-text explanation.

As expected, I could not always match source text style and facilitate information retrieval. some respondents criticised inconsistency of style. I felt this was particularly true in more complex passages. It could be argued that Ellis translation is, in fact, a better match on style.




All but one respondent had a preference for my text, and even that was qualified dependent on the prospective use of the text. It was felt that Ellis translation may give a better feel for the complex syntax and vocabulary of Wagner.

I seem to be fairly much on target with my audience,  although I maybe would’ve liked to see a better response for undergraduates. However, I didn’t specify that I was aiming at final year students, so that may explain the result.


All in all, I feel that I was pretty much on target with my aims for the translation and so far have had some good feedback on it. Thanks again to all who have helped.

Questionnaire deadline

For those of you who took paper or email questionnaires, I set tomorrow (31st May) as the official deadline. However, the online questionnaire at

will remain online until 8th August and I will continue to check it.

Student replies have flooded in in the last couple of weeks – many thanks to friends and acquaintances at Manchester, Glasgow, Oxford and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who have filled in questionnaires themselves and cajoled others into doing so.

Also many thanks to the Wagner Societies of Scotland, Ireland and London. Your help and support is invaluable and you bring a broad range of skills, knowledge and experience to my work as well as sharing a deep love of the music of the man himself. London members, I know your help is yet to come after your July journal is published – it is still very much needed!

BUT (yes, there’s always a BUT!)


Any replies gratefully accepted!

Thesistools questionnaire site and Wagner CD offer

The thesistools questionnaire site at is working well and is nice and easy to use, so why not give it a go? Remember to look for two “submit” buttons.

Responses are coming in but I still really need to hear from the students and academics amongst you. You are my most important target group for this translation. You can even tell me if you didn’t get to the end of the extracts – that’s interesting in itself.

If you have an interest in  Wagner I am more than happy to send you the results from the dissertation if you leave me contact details. Alternatively, you may prefer to enter into a draw for a Wagner CD from Neeme Järvi and the  RSNO’s recent recordings of De Vlieger’s arrangements of the symphonic sections from Wagner’s operas. Just remember to leave your email address.

Questionnaire progress.

Many thanks to those people who have helped with the questionnaire so far.

I really need more replies from students though. If you think you can help, please click on and look for the link highlighted “here”.  Download the form to your computer, open it, click “sign” and “add text”. At the end click “done signing,” and save the file again. Do not go through the Echo-sign process, as you’ll need to register. Instead, email the signed version to me direct at

I can also email the questionnaire to you directly either as pdf or doc if you want to email me.

I look forward to some interesting answers!

First draft of translation completed!

I have now finished the first draft of Chapter VI, Part III of Opera and Drama and it has proved quite a challenge. My next stage (as well as revising it) will be to compare the Wagner, my translation and William Ashton Ellis. I am expecting key points of discussion to centre around how to translate Wagner’s terms (e.g. Ahnung,  Erinnerrung, Versmelodie, Tonsprache and Worttonsprache) and how far you should respect the terms used in a well-established translation such as WAE’s. Sentence structure has been an issue throughout and I will consider issues around balancing Wagner’s style of writing and stance towards both reader and material as opposed to improving ease of comprehension of the text. The relative knowledge/ease of access of WAE’s contemporaries and the modern reader with regard to 19th C philosophy and common metaphors and the implications for the modern translator is a further issue to consider. I am also interested in issues surrounding whether it is better to have a translation closer in time to the original text.

Translating Chapter VI Part iii

Opera and Drama, written in 1852,  plays a key role in understanding The Ring as it is here that Wagner lays out his theories for what he terms die einheitliche künstlerische Form (unified artistic form). I have chosen to translate Chapter VI in Part III. One of the reasons for this is that here Wagner explains how music and drama combine to give unity of expression, conveying the emotion of the dichterische Absicht (Poetic Intent) as well as its content. This is pretty much the crux of his argument. He also outlines the role of the orchestra in supporting and clarifying the action on stage through its use of motives that both recall [Erinnerung] and foreshadow [Ahnung] the dramatic action.

You’ll have noticed my inclusion of the German terms! This gives a clue to why I chose this chapter from a translator’s perspective. Wagner’s terms are just one of the linguistic challenges I’m facing. More on this another day.


A key part of my MA is the questionnaires, which will help me compare translations of Opera and Drama and assess their readability and accessibility. I’ve spent a lot of time working on these today. Why not have a look under the tabs above? If you feel like answering the questions, you can copy and paste it into Word, then email it back to me.

Why translate Wagner?

I was looking at a friend’s Open University book on music and was astonished to discover that there was no modern translation of Wagner’s “Oper und Drama.” This gave me an idea for my dissertation that would combine my academic backgrounds in music and translation, which is also, naturally, the area that I specialise in when translating.

After a bit of research, I discovered that, indeed, the most commonly used translation of  “Oper und Drama” is by William Ashton Ellis and dates from 1893. Edwin Evans also translated it in 1913, and this has only just been re-released as a print-on-demand book.

The fact that the OU had commissioned a new translation of sections of the book seemed to illustrate a demand for a more modern translation.