gdelgiblueeyes: johnheartpaul (Default)
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On the forum, I have recently been debating about the lyrics to "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Most of my readers will recognize this as a song by Bonnie Tyler; my theater friends will recall it was recycled by its composer, Jim Steinman, as the Act Two opening of Tanz der Vampire in 1997. Steinman himself basically acceded that he slotted the song into Tanz because the lyrics were "about love's place in dark" and that they read to him "like vampire lyrics," and that his overriding motivation for adding it to the show was "Who's ever going to know? It's Vienna!" (Source.)

Because it was added to the show so haphazardly, and remains similar in many places to the original lyric, I argue that it can't really be used to make points about the characterization of Sarah, the show's heroine. In my opinion, it's kind of a shoddy deal that the character development of the heroine of a major musical is based on the lyrics to a pop song from the Eighties, even a Grammy-winning one. To me, it feels kind of pointless to try to draw meaning in terms of character development from said lyrics when one realizes the same meaning would have been there no matter what character sang it in any show. Needless to say, people have disagreed with me on this point.


One thing that people disagree about in particular is just how similar the lyric is to the English original. First, let's look very briefly at the writing process for Tanz. In the early stages of development, Steinman submitted five songs of his that were already completed to be included in the show's score, and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was one. (Source; see in particular the "750 AM 7/16/06" and "2:19PM, July 11" entries.) My guess is the lyrics didn't change much in the initial draft, as the Steve Barton/Elaine Caswell demo suggests, at points falling much closer to the pop lyric than any version in the show's history, be it English or German.

Next, let's look at how Michael Kunze, the show's co-librettist, translated the songs into German, or indeed translates any songs, as he is a frequent German adaptor of musicals who strives to remain as accurate to the original libretti as possible. He sends his lyricists a table on a page with three columns containing the original English lyrics, the German lyrics, and the German lyrics translated back into English to show you how closely he adhered to the original. Occasionally for poetic or language purposes the exact wording may be different, but roughly the same meaning is arrived at.


By somewhat replicating the above process, I aim to prove just how close to the Bonnie Tyler original the lyrics are in large part, and if I can prove that it is largely similar, then I argue it is not worth considering "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the equation when doing character analysis on the role of Sarah. (Please note ahead of time that I will be analyzing the song as it appears in the 1997 Viennese version, which has more points for comparison as it is longer.)


Leaving aside the vampires' intro verse, which does not occur in any pop version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (except for the instrumental occurrence in the Jim Steinman remix of Westlife's cover), we get to the meat of the song:

Sei bereit!
Sarah: Manchmal in der Nacht fühl ich mich einsam und traurig
Doch ich weiss nicht, was mir fehlt
Ancestors: Be prepared!
Sarah: Sometimes in the night I feel so lonely and sad
But I don't know what's wrong with me
Rory Dodd: Turn around!
Bonnie Tyler: Every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you're never coming 'round

There are three parts to the direct analysis of this portion: the "Sei bereit," the "Manchmal," and the "Doch." First... "sei bereit." In direct translation, "sei bereit" means "be prepared," or "be on your guard." That's essentially what "turn around" is saying in the English version. Pay attention. "Turn around." So I'm chalking that up as one direct hit. (Having already disposed of this, the line re-occurs several times in any version of the song, so I'm going to ignore that line further down the page since I already discussed this point.)

Then the "Manchmal" section, which is pretty straightforward when you compare the "Direct-to-English" and "Pop Single" columns. "Sometimes in the night I feel so lonely and sad..." "Sometimes" is a direct equivalent to "Every now and then." Both do not suggest a constant feeling of loneliness, but rather occasional. (As above, having already disposed of this, the line re-occurs several times in any version of the song, so I'm going to ignore that line further down the page since I already discussed this point.)

Leaving aside the minimizing qualifier of "a little bit" in the pop single, which relates more to Steinman's lyrical style of cramming as many words into a verse as he can, we arrive at the same feeling. The chanteuse singing "Total Eclipse" is lonely, just as the Sarah of "Totale Finsternis" is lonely.

Now we arrive at the "Doch..." section, the only major difference so far in the analysis. Where Sarah doesn't know what's wrong with her, Bonnie knows exactly what's wrong with her; namely, the unnamed "you" that occurs later in the song does not see her enough for her liking. This is a minor difference, and in Steinman's English version heard in demo form above, he renders this section as "...lonely, but I don't know what I miss," indicating that the singer in question doesn't know what's wrong with her, what she's missing. This is a distinct change (and made by Steinman, so I can't just blame it on Dr. Kunze making the material conform), and I bow to that point.

Character Development: 1
Pop Single: 2

Sarah: ...hab ich phantastische Träume.
Aber wenn ich aufwach, quält mich die Angst
...lieg ich im Dunkeln und warte
Doch worauf ich warte ist mir nicht klar
...spür ich die unwiderstehliche Versuchung
Einer dunklen Gefahr

Sarah: ...I have fantastic dreams.
But when I wake up, fear torments me.
...I lie in the dark and wait.
But what I'm waiting for isn't clear to me.
...I feel the irresistible temptation
Of a dark danger.

Bonnie Tyler: ...I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears
...I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by
...I get a little bit terrified
And then I see the look in your eyes

"A" (fantastic dreams) is clearly different. Aside from the aforementioned "Sometimes..." / "Every now and then" equivalency, there is little the same about this section. Sarah is clearly having some odd dreams and then waking up afraid, while Bonnie Tyler is just tired of being depressed. In a more jocular mood, I would argue one has to be tired to fall asleep and have "phantastiche Träume," but that's another story entirely. As before, we must consider Steinman's English lyric in the Tanz demo as well, and at this point in the demo, his singer "...get[s] a little bit desperate, and wonder[s] what it is [she] desire[s]." In a roundabout fashion, again, one could argue that when Sarah has these fantastic dreams, but wakes up afraid, she might wonder why she desires this so much, and just how desperate she is to desire such things, but this lyric has no direct equivalent to the German. Dr. Kunze may well have been trying to verbalize this in a manner understood by the German language, but that's a matter of interpretation as opposed to actual fact. This is a distinct change, and I can't determine whose work it is firmly rooted in, but nevertheless I bow to that point.

Character Development: 2
Pop Single: 2

"B" (lie in the dark) is clearly different. One could make an argument that one could discern the irresistible temptation of a dark danger by the look in someone's eye, but that's a finer point of debate and a matter of interpretation. However, as before, we must consider Steinman's English lyric in the Tanz demo as well, and at this point in the demo, the Bonnie Tyler version of the lyrics is heard with no change whatsoever. As Steinman wrote this to be the same, and it's different in the German, I chalk that up to a distinct change for character development by Dr. Kunze. I don't exactly know how to score this one, but since the German version is considered standard by fans of the show, I will reluctantly surrender a point.

Character Development: 3
Pop Single: 2

Ahnen: Sei bereit Sternkind
Sarah: Ich hör eine Stimme die mich ruft
Ahnen: Sei bereit Sternkind
Sarah: Ich spür eine Sehnsucht die mich sucht…
Ancestors: Be prepared, Star Child...
Sarah: I hear a voice calling me.
Ancestors: Be prepared, Star Child...
Sarah: I feel a longing searching for me...

Rory Dodd: Turn around, bright eyes!
Bonnie Tyler: Every now and then I fall apart
Rory Dodd: Turn around, bright eyes!
Bonnie Tyler: Every now and then I fall apart...

(Note: Here I skipped ahead in the lyrics because I was initially planning to go with the "cut" version. The point is still made regardless, as the lyrics similarly refer to Sarah hearing a voice rather than falling apart, even in the Steinman demo, which only switches to "...fall apart" the second time round.)

First off, "Be prepared" vs. "Turn around" has been covered before. We now come to the issue of "Star child" vs. "Bright eyes." Some people have tried to pawn this off as "star-struck-child," but I think (and this is just my opinion) this is covering up for embarrassment at the fact that Steinman's use of dated slang carried over so thoroughly into this lyric. "Star child..." "Bright eyes..." Do I need to draw a diagram here? Dr. Kunze is clearly struggling with adapting this particular turn of phrase into German. That's a point for the pop single.

On the other hand, the German fans clearly get a point here, too; though it can be argued that Sarah is in fact falling apart, and that at this point in Steinman's demo (allowing for subsequent cuts to the score) he certainly seems to have her falling apart (no change from the Bonnie Tyler lyrics), Dr. Kunze verbalizes this differently, and we're not discussing finer points of interpretation (at least I think we're not...), we're discussing exactly how close the lyrics are.

Character Interpretation: 4
Pop Single: 3

Sarah: ...fühl ich die Macht eines Zaubers
Der mich unsichtbar berührt
...bin ich so hilflos und wünsch mir
Es käm einer, der mich führt und beschützt
...kann ich es nicht mehr erwarten
Ich will endlich eine Frau sein und frei
...möcht ich Verbot'nes erleben
Und die Folgen sind mir ganz einerlei
Sarah: ...I feel the power of a magic
Which is invisible to me.
...I am so helpless and I wish
Someone would come to lead and protect me.
...I can't wait any longer,
I want to finally be a woman and free.
...I want to experience the forbidden
And consequences do not matter to me.

Bonnie Tyler: ...I get a little bit restless
And I dream of something wild
...I get a little bit helpless
And I'm lying like a child in your arms
...I get a little bit angry
And I know I've got to get out and cry
...I get a little bit terrified
But then I see the look in your eyes

If this were a debate about interpretation, one could easily say that everything is exactly the same. Feeling the power of a magic one can't see might happen when one is a little bit restless and dreaming of something wild... then there's the imagery of one being helpless and needing protection, longing to be held in someone's arms like a child... even the "...a little bit angry" verse could fit the inability to wait any longer, and freedom allows one the opportunity to get out and just cry, shout it to the world... and one may be a little afraid of experiencing the forbidden, but the consequences don't matter once she looks into his eyes. Unfortunately for me, this is not a debate about interpretation, though as you can see, I would certainly have a field day if it were.

In Steinman's demo, the first two lines are the same as the Tyler verse, but the line about "...a little bit curious what it's like to be a woman and free" is in, and the last line is "...a little bit terrified, but then I see you coming for me," which changes that particular point completely from what is present in the German (and incidentally adds a little more to the predatory metaphor discussed in the thread this is derived from, but I digress). I highly suspect Steinman just slung this line in to get a rhyme, which is not unusual in his work. It has nothing to do with wanting to experience anything (indeed, she's terrified) and there definitely will be consequences; whether or not she cares about them is immaterial, because it clearly sounds like he's about to deliver them.

In the finer points of how the lyric matches up, I'm gonna take the "helpless" part and give that a point, and a point toward "I know I've got to get out" vs. "I can't wait any longer," while conceding that the wanting to be a free young woman is a change made by Steinman and not Dr. Kunze, and ergo distinctly made for character development.

Character Interpretation: 7
Pop Single: 5

Krolock: Sich verliern heisst sich befrein
Du wirst dich in mir erkennen
Was du erträumst wird Wahrheit sein
Nichts und niemand kann uns trennen
Tauch mit mir in die Dunkelheit ein!
Zwischen Abgrund und Schein
Verbrennen wir die Zweifel und vergessen die Zeit
Ich hüll dich ein in meinen Schatten und trag dich weit

Du bist das Wunder das mit der Wirklichkeit versöhnt

Sarah: Mein Herz ist Dynamit das einen Funken ersehnt

Both: Ich bin zum Leben erwacht!
Die Ewigkeit beginnt heut Nacht!
Die Ewigkeit beginnt heut Nacht!
Krolock: To lose oneself is to free oneself,
You will recognize yourself in me.
What you dream of will become reality
Nothing and nobody can separate us.
Dive with me in the darkness!
Between the abyss and the light,
We'll burn doubts and forget time,
I'll wrap you in my shadow and carry you far.

You are the miracle that is reconciled with reality

Sarah: My heart is dynamite and it's giving off sparks

Both: I/you have awoken to life!
Forever's gonna start tonight!
Forever's gonna start tonight!

Bonnie Tyler: And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
'Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time

I don't know what to do, and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight!
Forever's gonna start tonight

Okay, we can clearly see the points of correlation and diversion, so I'm going to run through them in list format:

1. Krolock's verse is almost entirely different except for the "shadow" motif.
2. Whether it's Sarah's heart or the two of them, they are most definitely like a powder keg giving off sparks.
3. Forever is definitely starting tonight.
4. It goes without saying if you listen to the Steinman demo alongside this entry that he leaves the Bonnie Tyler lyrics as is completely, and Dr. Kunze has clearly made some changes.

In a debate about what the lyrics accomplish, one could argue Krolock would still be saying the same thing, just in a lighter tone; he needs her, she needs him, could it be any more obvious? (Excuse me... sorry, had to go get Avril Lavigne out of my head. Where were we? Ah, yes...) But we're talking about exact similarity, so I can't delve into interpretation. (Or the argument of what's lighter/more recognizable for American audiences vs. what's darker for European, which is really a pointless exercise in generalization no matter how one slices it.)

As there are three points of similarity with the pop single, three points will go to that team. If you want to argue, you'll note I granted the German version three points as well based on what was different, and no, the "heart' doesn't count because the imagery of "giving off sparks" is the same and the main thrust of the lyric, so...

Character Development: 10
Pop Single: 8

Sarah: Ich hab mich gesehnt danach mein Herz zu verlieren
Jetzt verlier ich fast den Verstand
Totale Finsternis—ein Meer von Gefühl und kein Land

Einmal, dachte ich, bricht Liebe den Bann
Jetzt zerbricht sie gleich meine Welt
Totale Finsternis—ich falle und nichts was mich hält…

Sarah: I set out to lose my heart
Now I'm almost losing my mind.
Total eclipse, a sea of emotion and not land.

Once I believed in the bright spell of love
Now it's shattering my world.
Total eclipse, I'm falling, and nothing can hold me.

Bonnie Tyler: Once upon a time, I was falling in love
Now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart

Once upon a time, there was light in my life
Now there's only love in the dark
There's nothing I can say, a total eclipse of the heart

Your first question is, am I going to score for both of them using the imagery of a total eclipse? You bet your ass I am. I scored every single point of similarity above, and I'm not going differently here. Secondly, do you even care at this point that Steinman left the lyrics exactly the same in the demo? Probably not, but I'm telling you anyway. Let's look at the finer points of similarity, however, as there is one that cannot escape the reader's notice.

"Falling apart" vs. "shattering"... same imagery there. If one "believe[s] in the bright spell of love," it can be argued they're falling in love themselves. They're falling and nothing can hold them? Seems to me like they're saying there's nothing they can do. You know exactly what I'm arguing here, but I'll say it anyway: Dr. Kunze clearly was conveying the same exact message as one verse of the pop single outright, and even adding a bit from the verse he pretty much didn't use, with the contrast of light and dark, a bright spell and the shattering of one's world. Aside from matters of interpretation about the other verse (and on a side note, I rather like Dr. Kunze's idea of likening Sarah's emotions to what a total eclipse of the moon does to tides, leaving her adrift at sea with no land in sight), this is pretty clear.

So for the total eclipse, the wholesale borrow of a verse, and the use of a motif from an unused verse, three points, and one for the different verse.

Character Development: 11
Pop Single: 11

Sarah: ...denk ich ich sollte lieber fliehn vor Dir solang ich es noch kann
Doch rufst Du dann nach mir bin ich bereit, dir blind zu folgen, selbst zur Hölle würd ich fahren mit Dir
...gäb ich mein Leben her für einen Augenblick in dem ich Dir ganz gehör
...möcht ich so sein, wie Du mich haben willst und wenn ich mich selber zerstör
Sarah: ...I think I should flee from you while I still can.
But when you call to me I am ready to follow you blindly, I would go to Hell itself with you.
...I would give my life for a moment when I completely belonged to you.
...I want to be how you want me to be even if it means destroying myself.

Bonnie Tyler: ...I know you'll never be the boy you always wanted to be
...I know you'll always be the only boy who wanted me the way that I am
...I know there's no one in the universe as magical and wondrous as you
...I know there's nothing any better, there's nothing that I just wouldn't do

As there are repeats after this point of the same stuff, and a verse by Krolock that does not appear in any pop single version, we have reached the end of our comparison, so this is it: the moment of truth. In the Steinman demo, he changes the first two lines of the Bonnie Tyler verse above to lines that roughly approximate the meaning of the German lyric and leaves the last two lines unchanged. This is a distinct change (and made by Steinman, so I can't just blame it on Dr. Kunze making the material conform), and I bow to that point.

If this were a debate about interpretation, again, I could make an argument about the last two lines, especially the very last one (which carries over to the point of Sarah's line that there's absolutely nothing she wouldn't do for this vampire), but I can't. The German version is the standard we're holding ourselves to, and the German version is different.

I will give the "Pop Single" side one point for "...nothing that I just wouldn't do," but the rest goes to the German version.

Character Development: 14
Pop Single: 12


Well, you might have assumed by my points system that whichever one had the most would win, but to quote the immortal Gershwin lyric, "that ain't necessarily so." While there are enough points of divergence to suggest not leaving the lyric out of the equation completely, there are also nearly enough points of comparison to the pop single to suggest that it shouldn't be held so highly when analyzing the character either. At the end of the day, it's hard to escape the fact that, for better or worse, this is that song, so to speak, which is a problem anyone encounters when slotting a preassembled song into a theater score. Because of the sheer amount of similarities, one runs the risk of transposing the pop song lyrics onto the character as what they're really feeling, when it may be something else again, suggested either by the script, the actor's portrayal, elements of staging, etc.

It seems wishy-washy to take the weak "third way out," but there's really no other way to go here. My suggestion? Those who don't think the song counts are justified; those who think the song counts are equally justified. Everybody has a right to their opinion, and it's their prerogative to agree or disagree with each other's opinion. But when you agree or disagree, remember to do it respectfully.


gdelgiblueeyes: johnheartpaul (Default)

September 2011


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