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So after you beat the main game and the finale movie starts to run, Chell's upward elevator-ing is abruptly halted by a quartet of turrets. Rather than shoot at you, they start to... sing?

What are the turrets singing about? Is it Latin? (And even if it isn't, what are the translated lyrics?)

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7  
God I must buy this game :) –  DrFish Apr 21 '11 at 10:14
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@Bora don't spoil yourself man. –  badp Apr 21 '11 at 11:15
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I saw this on Reddit this morning and decided that it was relevant enough to add to this question. reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/hb574/… –  Dave McClelland May 14 '11 at 13:35
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Relevant –  jmfsg Jun 10 '11 at 14:02
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Confirmed here that the song is Italian: "He asked me to make up some words. So I did so in my bad Italian." –  Keaanu Jul 20 '11 at 18:57
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7 Answers 7

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Ellen McLain explained a bit about the creation of the Turret Opera at Anime Midwest 2011:

(watch from 1:00 to 4:55)

Video transcription starting from 3:30 up to 4:55...

When we were in the studio, I did all of the recording in a lot of different syllables. You know... Doo-doo-doo, va-va-va, la-la-la... You know, different consonants and different vowel combinations. And then Mike said: "Well, can you just make up some words?" And I said: "Sure!" So I made up words in my very bad high-school Italian, because I studied Italian when I was in the high school. And I have to say that Mike and I have decided that we are not going to divulge exactly what I said, because we love all the creativity. On the Internet, the translations are close or not so close, but none of them have been absolutely correct. But it was, because Mike Morasky told me in the recording session, he said: "This is the goodbye. This is the goodbye to the player. So, hence, this is the goodbye to Chell." So I started making up words in Italian.

Maybe we will never know for sure what are the the correct, "official" lyrics, but we know they are Italian (or something that resembles Italian), and also that some unofficial translations got pretty close.


EDIT: I just noticed that Keaanu had posted a comment linking to Ellen McLain answering questions from Reddit:

5.Q) “What is the story behind the Turret opera song? Was this something you wanted to do with your opera background?”

5.A) The composer, Mike Morasky was the driving force behind the Turret Opera. He wrote all the music. He requested that I use my legit voice (operatic sound) on some of the takes. He chose the takes to use. He asked me to make up some words. So I did so in my bad Italian.

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It's an aria in Italian. However, even being an Italian myself, I'm having a very hard time transcribing it. Words I'm unsure about are in italic

Cara, bel, cara mia, Dear, beautiful, my dear,
bella bambina, beautiful girl,
oh Chell, oh Chell,
que lastima, what a shame,
que lastima, what a shame,
deh! Cara mia, well, My dear,
addio. farewell.

Mia bambina, My girl,
cara, dear,
perchè non passi why don't you stay
lontana, deh away
sì lontana yes, away
da scienza? from science?

Cara, cara Dear, dear,
mia bambina, my girl,
ah mia bel, my beautiful,
ah mia cara, my dear,
la mia cara, my dear,
la mia bamina, my girl,
oh cara, my dear,
cara mia… my dear…

Notes on my bad transcription and translation:

  • "que lastima" is the transcription I can make the best sense of, based on Dave McClelland suggestion. However, it is probably incorrect, since the rest of the song is in Italian. I still like this the best.
  • "bambina" actually means "pre-adolescent girl"; I'm not aware of an English equivalent.

Alternative readings of those lines of first stanza most people seem to disagree on:

oh ciel, oh sky,
che la stima, which holds her in esteem,
che la stima, which holds her in esteem,


oh ciel, oh sky,
[per]chè la stima, for it holds her in esteem,
[per]chè la stima, for it holds her in esteem,


oh ciel, oh sky,
[per]chè la stimo, for I hold her in esteem,
[per]che la stimo, for I hold her in esteem,

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bambina = little girl. –  DrFish Apr 21 '11 at 10:15
    
@Bora That's a periphrasis, not quite the same thing :) –  badp Apr 21 '11 at 10:18
    
@fail oh Chell que lastima --> oh 'l ciel che la stima –  systempuntoout Apr 21 '11 at 10:23
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@systempuntoout Dunno, "Chell" is the name of the protagonist. –  badp Apr 21 '11 at 10:25
    
Well, Italian and Spanish are quite similar. –  Raven Dreamer Apr 21 '11 at 15:17
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Here is another interpretation which looks quite correct to me, it really feels like a song...

Italian:

Cara bella, cara mia bella!
Mia bambina, o ciel! [pun: Chell = It. "Ciel" = Sky"]
Ché la stimo...
Ché la stimo.
O cara mia, addio!

La mia bambina cara,
perché non passi lontana?
Sì, lontana da Scïenza, [personified]
cara, cara mia bambina?
Ah, mia bella!
Ah, mia cara!
Ah, mia cara!
Ah, mia bambina!
O cara, cara mia...

English:

Dear beautiful, my beautiful darling!
My child, oh Chell! [pun: "oh heavens!"]
For I hold her in esteem...
For I hold her in esteem.
Farewell to my dear!

My dear girl,
why do you not walk away?
Yes, away from Science,
my dear, my dear girl?
Ah, my beautiful!
Ah, my dear!
Ah, my dear!
Ah, my child!
Oh dear, my dear...

Remarks:

  • Attempts have been made by the author to translate non-literal but still with the same meaning.
  • bambina is a female child, in English you can drop this as it's clear from context.
  • Ciel seems to be used in a fun context, but in English only Chell would fit.
  • "Ché lástima" is "Ché la stimo" here, which turns into a better "for I hold her in esteem".

Spoiler:

Imho, this song amongst other research around a portrait most likely reveals the parents of Chell.

I think this is true, because else they wouldn't use "bambina" nor let you search for the portrait.
Chell's project makes this even more convincing...

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Why "chè la stimo"? Why masculine? The only masculine characters in Portal 2 are Cave and Wheatley. (Italian has no neuter.) –  badp Apr 24 '11 at 18:50
    
@failbadp: ché and la aren't really masculine... o_O –  Tom Wijsman Apr 24 '11 at 20:01
    
...oh. Right. Verb, not noun. :) –  badp Apr 25 '11 at 7:10
    
@fail, this would have been a perfect opportunity for a Wheatley-impersonation. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 1 '11 at 10:35
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Here's a youtube video of the song you're referring to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg67XggeraM&t=88

Around 2:15 I distinctly hear the soloist say Que lastima which I know is Spanish for "that's too bad." The rest of the song, though, sounds like a Latin or Italian aria, so my guess would be that it is Italian or Latin with Que lastima meaning something in those languages as well (I would assume).

I'm not a huge language buff, so this is the best information I can offer. Hopefully the video can help someone who is more language-minded identify the language and hopefully lyrics

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I thought it was entirely in Italian, but your reading of "que lastima" is the best sense I can make of those two lines. In Italian it sounds like "che la stima" ("that the esteem"), which makes zero grammatical sense. –  badp Apr 21 '11 at 9:05
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I poked around and seem to have found another transcription lyrics, courtesy of someone from Youtube named Fulgrim88.

Cara bel, cara mia bella.
Mia bambina, a tra che la stima che la stima.
A cara mia, addio!
Mia bambina cara, perche non passi
lontana si lontana da scienza?
Cara cara mia bambina. A mia bel.
A mia cara. A mia cara. A mia bambina.
A cara, cari a mi! 

Assuming these are the actual lyrics, if Badp wants to present his own translation based on the above, I will accept that answer, given how he's already done the legwork.

(My dear, beautiful darling, my child that i admire.)

(To my dear, farewell! My dear girl, why not walk far away from science?)

(My dear, dear girl. To my lovely. To my dear. To my dear. To my child, My dear, dear to me!)

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@FailBadp -- do these help? –  Raven Dreamer Apr 23 '11 at 21:45
    
Not sure. Also, remember at-replies only work if the recipient as worked (posted/edited/commented) on the answer; this is why I took 2 days to see your comment :( –  badp Apr 26 '11 at 15:19
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My dear beautiful girl

Who is esteemed among those who are esteemed

Oh, my beloved, goodbye

My dear girl

Why not walk away?

Yes... away from science

My dear beloved daughter

Amen to that

To call you dear

To call you beloved

My girl

A loved one

Dear to me

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Portal 2 Turret Opera Lyrics, by an Italian mothertongue professional translator: http://www.indies4indies.com/?page_id=773

Here's the lines that everybody disagrees on according to this transcription:

Mia bambina, o ciel!
Ché la stimo!
Ché la stimo!

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protected by jmfsg May 2 '11 at 20:17

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