The question is on gelang as occurring in these lines from Beethoven's Fidelio.

Es ward ihr im Ernste schon bang;
wer weiß, ob es mir nicht gelang.
Wenn ich diese Tür heute
nicht schon zweihundertmal
aufgemacht habe, so will ich
nicht Jaquino heißen.
Zum Wetter, schon wieder!

Here Jaquino is soliloquizing on his unrequited love.

I am assuming that line 2 means something like:

Who knows whether I might not succeed.


  1. What is the standard way to say, 'Who knows whether I might not succeed?' Is it:

    wer weiß, ob es mir nicht gelingt, gelang, gelinge oder gelänge?

  2. If the standard way is not 'wer weiß, ob es mir nicht gelang,' how should I account for line 2? Does it mean something other than what I assumed it to? Is 'gelang' there to rhyme with 'bang' though not the standard thing to say?


Full libretto can be found at:




1 Answer 1

  1. If the sentence is to be interpreted as "Who knows whether I might not succeed?", it should read

    wer weiß, ob es mir nicht gelänge

("gelänge" instead of "gelingt" reflecting the uncertainty of "might"). The author would have taken some artistic licence to match "gelang" with "bang".

  1. A direct translation would be "Who knows if I didn't succeed?". Jaquino notices that Marzelline is anxious ("Es ward ihr im Ernste schon bang"). Maybe he wonders if he has succeeded at last in changing her mind, thus causing this noticable anxiety.

I can't tell you how to interpret the libretto, but I think both would be viable.

  • I really like the simple, elegant solution of "didn't succeed." In the opera Marzelline's "nein, nein, nein, nein" seemed so absolute that my mind just could not assign this degree of hope to Jaquino.
    – Catomic
    Sep 28, 2017 at 22:14
  • You're massively underestimating the capacity of obsessed lovers for unwarranted hope. Sep 29, 2017 at 6:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.