My edition entitled 26 Italian Songs and Arias was translated about 10 years ago into Japanese and a few years later into Korean. So there’s no misunderstanding: The songs remain in Italian, naturally; only the commentaries and translations are translated into the Asian language.
Our good friend, Dan Shen, formerly an operatic soprano in Beijing and now a happily married Italian citizen, saw my book and wanted to make it available for singers in her homeland. On her own initiative, with no concern for financial profit, Dan translated 26 Italian Songs and Arias into Chinese and then undertook to find a publisher in China. That was not easy, but eventually Shanghai Music Publishing House licensed the book from Alfred Publishing Co. and brought out a beautiful Chinese edition in early 2010. So far, so good.
In December, Dan and her husband, Luigi Marzola, went to Shanghai for a visit. On the day before Christmas I received an excited Skype call from both of them. They had gone into a bookstore to see Dan’s and my book for sale, and right beside it was another Chinese edition of Italian songs, copied directly from the Alfred edition.
Piracy in Shanghai! Dan sent me a bookseller’s website (shown below), where I could easily verify the theft. The book cover shows a picture of a bewigged violinist, but the contents are all vocal music. At that time there were also two pages of music displayed, of which one was my arrangement of an aria by Scarlatti, photocopied from the Alfred edition. The other page, also photocopied, came from Patricia Adkins Chiti’s Italian Art Songs of the Romantic Era (also from Alfred).
The publisher is East China Normal University (“normal” in the old sense of teacher preparation). The “editor” is Ms. Cao Jin (Cao is pronounced “tsow”). The book came out in 2009, before Dan’s translation was on the market, and Ms. Cao had no idea that a legitimate Chinese edition was on the way or that anyone from Europe or the U.S. would ever have any reason to pay attention to what she was doing. Of course, someone at ECNU should have thought about getting a license from Alfred. Ms. Cao probably told them that the music is old and in public domain. That’s partly true, but it overlooks that I created the keyboard parts from the bass parts that were typical of the Baroque style. My edition is quite distinct from others and definitely under copyright.
This all amuses me greatly. I doubt if the financial loss amounts to much. And I’m surprised and delighted to learn that my research, once considered esoteric and of interest to few, has become a commercial entity worthy of being pirated!. In the meantime, Alfred’s legal people are going to deal with it, probably in concert with Shanghai Music PH. We’ll see.