Tag Archives: classical

song of the week 27: o fortuna

O Fortuna” by Carl Orff

  • Genre: Classical
  • First Performance Date: June 1937
  • From: “Carmina Burana

From Wikipedia:

“O Fortuna” is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem which is part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana, written early in the 13th century. It is a complaint about Fortuna, the inexorable fate that rules both gods and mortals in Roman and Greek mythology.

In 1935–36, “O Fortuna” was set to music by German composer Carl Orff as a part of “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi”, the opening and closing movement of his cantata Carmina Burana. It was first staged by the Frankfurt Opera on 8 June 1937. It opens at a slow pace with thumping drums and choir that drops quickly into a whisper, building slowly in a steady crescendo of drums and short string and horn notes peaking on one last long powerful note and ending abruptly.

“O Fortuna” has been used in numerous films and TV commercials. In my head I had it firmly associated with Damien from the film series “The Omen” but it seems that it was never actually used in that film! I’d love to know how that has become some firmly planted in my mind?

Lyrics

Latin

O Fortuna
Velut luna
Statu variabilis
Semper crescis
Aut decrescis;
Vita detestabilis
Nunc obdurat
Et tunc curat
Ludo mentis aciem,
Egestatem,
Potestatem
Dissolvit ut glaciem.
Sors immanis
Et inanis,
Rota tu volubilis
Status malus,
Vana salus
Semper dissolubilis,
Obumbrata
Et velata
Michi quoque niteris;
Nunc per ludum
Dorsum nudum
Fero tui sceleris.
Sors salutis
Et virtutis
Michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
Sine mora
Corde pulsum tangite;
Quod per sortem
Sternit fortem,
Mecum omnes plangite!

English

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing,
ever waning,
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
poverty
and power
it melts them like ice
fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy
fate is against me
in health
and virtue,
driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.
so at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com