Sing-Along Carmina Burana

Carmina Burana
An Earthy & Uplifting Fortuna Wheel

In 1935, German composer and teacher Carl Orff (1895-1982) was searching for texts suitable to his interest in “total theatre”. In southern Germany, he soon discovered a sequence of 13th Century poetry, principally in Latin but also in medieval French and German, which would suit his purpose.

He fashioned 24 of these poems into the text of Carmina Burana, and in 1937 its world premiere made his name. Nothing he would do again would have such impact.

Orff's music is startlingly direct. Its rhythms are urgent and dazzling. Its polyrhythms are complex, and its harmonies surprisingly tonal for the era in which it was composed. It is full of spectacular effect, lyric contour, and high contrast.

The text is earthy and uplifting, sarcastic and forgiving, always deeply human, and celebrates the seasons of nature and love. It is organized along the lines of a turning Fortuna Wheel. Its four inscriptions tell the story: Regno. Regnavi. Sum sine regno. Regnabo. “I am reigning. I have finished reigning. I am without reign. I shall reign.”

It is on the strength of such a simple idea that such powerful music has come to rest.

The work was originally conceived as a stage piece, with scenery, costumes and dancing accompanied by a very large orchestra. In 1956, Orff created the chamber version which City Opera Vancouver will present in October.

Carmina Burana means, in our terms, “Songs of Bavaria”.

GIVEN 26 October 2007. St Andrew's-Wesley United Church