You may never have heard Carl Orff’s CARMINA BURANA in full, but we’re betting you have heard it’s opening , O Fortuna. Perhaps you weren’t even aware of its title or did not realize its origin. It has been used as a soundtrack in popular culture steadily – just to name a few of the more recent instances in which you may have heard it – on television 2016, in the second-season episode of “Scream Queens”; in movies, 2009, in the Disney live-action film “G-Force”; 2018, in TV advertisement, an Applebee’s commercial for riblets and chicken tenders; 2013–2016, in sports broadcasts, used in the Drivers’ Introduction at the Daytona 500. That’s quite a range of genres! But the exciting, driving rhythms and powerful aurals of O Fortuna certainly lends itself to attention-getting!
The text of O Fortuna (which could also be translated as Oh, Fate) sets the tone for the entire cantata of Carmina Burana, bemoaning as it does the tricks and traps of Fortune/Fate, and of life under its influence, particularly as the sections of the work that follow explore the highs and lows of pursuit of the earthly delights!
O Fortune, changeable as the moon, ever waxing and waning. Hateful life first oppresses 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 in 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 house without delay, pluck the vibrating strings; Since Fate strikes down the strong man, everybody weep with me!