In my blog post at the end of July about staging The Story of Gitanjali in Brussels during the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada, I had mentioned my idea to have each poem presented in a different language. I am very pleased that, thanks to a very talented and international group of performers, this idea has been transformed into a reality. So this is how we will be presenting The Story of Gitanjali during Sunday’s premiere.
As you will see from the cast profiles on the web page for The Story of Gitanjali, in addition to our singers and musicians from Santiniketan, India, we have a full complement of 13 languages for the 13 poems in the show: Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish & Swedish. In case you don’t understand all of these languages, there will be English and French supertitles on a screen above the stage.
Although we had originally planned to relay the show live, we realised over the summer that this would have added an extra layer of complexity to the show. In addition, it was going to be difficult to provide subtitles in several languages during such a live relay.
So the show will be filmed by a team which specialises in ‘in-the-moment’ filming. It will then be edited in the days after the premiere. The resulting video will be made available soon afterwards with subtitles in different languages. This will allow those who are not able to join us in Brussels on Sunday to catch up with the show later.
Our thanks to Cayetana and Enrique Nicanor for having already prepared the French and Spanish subtitles. Together with English, these will be the first languages in which the show will be published.
The process of putting together the show over the summer has been an enriching experience for both Kaberi and myself. Particularly through the personal experiences of the performers in the show, we have been thrilled to discover the high esteem for Tagore and his poetry all over Europe. You will see some of these personal experiences in their biographies on the web page of The Story of Gitanjali.
The translations of the Gitanjali poems in all these languages came from a variety of sources. Each time I came across an online version of the Gitanjali in a language I hadn’t found it in before, I added the link to my original blog post .
As I mentioned in my previous post, the quest for a Dutch translation led me to Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya and Dr Victor van Bijlert. So now Sunday’s show will begin with a new, Dutch version of the poem from Tagore’s Bengali original (in Gitymalya) by Dr Victor van Bijlert. We are very pleased that both he and Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya will be attending the premiere.
For some translations, our performers have had to do their own research or translation. Josef, who will be reading the Czech poem, persuaded a friend in the Czech Republic to find a suitable translation of the Gitanjali in the archives of the Czech National Library. Similarly Sofie obtained a Swedish translation of the Gitanjali from the archive of her library in Malmo.
Although Adriana found an Italian translation of the Gitanjali in a bookshop, she was unhappy with it and refined it with reference to the English, French and Bengali versions. In the same way, Olga has revised the Greek translation.
An added complication is that Tagore’s English poems were not direct translations of his Bengali originals. Some of the translations into other European languages were based on the English versions while others were based on the French version by André Gide.
So, in bringing this show together, we have learned a lot about Tagore’s European exposure. Many thanks to our excellent team for sharing their enthusiasm for Tagore with us and for giving us this unique opportunity to see Tagore through European eyes.