La Canzone Napoletana – quarta puntata

‘A sirena (1897) (lyrics: Salvatore Di Giacomo & music: Vincenzo Valente)


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„‘A sirena“ was published in 1897 by Casa Ricordi and presented at the Piedigrotta festival where it became an instant sucess.

Although Pasquale Amato´s recorded legacy of Neapolitan songs consists (as far as I know) only of this one, „Á sirena“ and another one, „Chiarastella“, I just had to include this recording. Born in Naples in 1878, he studied at San Pietro a Majella. Although he spent the second half of his career mostly in the Unites States and also died there in 1964 he would always remain very attached to his home town. As with Caruso´s recording which is to follow, both versions are just a little too full voiced for my taste, but, alas, can you blame both singers for just pouring out these beautiful and opulent voices? – And how can you not resist them?



Quanno ‘a luna, affacciánnose ‘a cielo,
passa e luce e, ‘int’a ll’acqua se ‘mmira
e ce stenne, d’argiento, nu velo,
mentre ‘o viento d’ ‘a sera suspira.
Quanno io sento, pe’ st’aria addurosa,
comm’ ‘a voce d’ ‘a terra luntana,
lenta lenta, suná na campana,
‘ntenneruto, mme metto a vucá.

Tutte mme diceno:
“Pe’ sotto Pròceta,
si passe, scánzate,
ca c’è pericolo.
Ce sta na femmena
ca ‘ncanta ll’uommene.
S’ ‘e cchiamma e, a ll’úrdemo,
po’ ‘e ffa murí”.Ah! Voca, vo’.
Ma na Santa tengo io,
ca mme prutegge e mme scanza p’ ‘a via.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Voca voca! ‘A ‘i’ ccá Pròceta nera,
sott’ ‘o cielo sereno e stellato,
‘a vi’ ccá, ‘mmiez’a st’aria d’ ‘a sera,
tale e quale a nu monte affatato.
‘A vi’ ccá, che silenzio, che pace.
Ll’ora è chesta d”a bella sirena
scenne, sciulia, s’abbía ‘ncopp’ ‘a rena
e nu segno, cu ‘a mano, mme fa.

Na voce amábbele
tremma pe’ ll’aria:
“Scánzate, scánzate,
ca staje ‘npericolo.
Chest’è na femmena
ca, sotto Pròceta,
‘ncantáte, ll’uommene,
fa rummané”.Ah! Voca, vo’.

Ma na Santa tengo io,
ca mme prutegge e mme scanza p’ ‘a via.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Voca voca, ‘a sirena mm’aspetta,
mme fa segno e, cantanno, mme dice:
“Piscató’, vuó’ cagná ‘sta varchetta
cu nu regno e na vita felice?”.
Voca fore. ‘Sta voce ‘a cunosco.
Chi mme chiamma se chiamma Isabella.
Prucetana, si’ ‘nfama e si’ bella,
e mme stive facenno murí.

Na voce amábbele
tremma pe’ ll’aria,
ma è tutt’inutile,
nun mme pò vencere.
Saccio a ‘sta femmena
ca, sotto Pròceta,
‘ncantate, ll’uommene,
fa rummané.Ah! Voca, vo’.
Ma na santa tengo io,
ca mme prutegge e mme scanza p’ ‘a via.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
– – – – –

When the moon is shining and casts a silvery veil on everything,

when the night winds are sighing,

when I hear through the perfumed air,

like a sound from far away,

a churchbell ringing,

then I am taking my boat out to the sea.

Everybody tells me:

„When you are passing Procida: beware!

There is danger, there is a woman,

who bewitches every man.

She calls them to come to her and them makes them die.

Ah, let´s row, let´s row on!

But I have a Saint who will protect me and keep me going: Santa Lucia.

Row on, the siren is waiting for me.

She sings to me: „Fisherman, wouldn´t you like to trade this boat in

for a kingdom and a life full of happiness?“

I know this voice! This is Isabella calling me.

You beautiful and mean girl from Procida –and you made me die once.

A sweet voice is trembling through the air.

But invain – it cannot overpower me.

I know this woman who near Procida makes the bewitched men stay with her.

Ah, let´s row on!

But I have a Saint who will…


O sole mio (1898) (lyrics: Giovanni Capurro & music: Eduardo di Capua)


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Supposedly the song of songs. Other singers have recorded „O sole mio“ – even earlier than Caruso (and Elvis Presley with different lyrics much later…) – yet, it is this recording made in 1916 which has made this song world-famous over centuries to come.

Giovanni Capurro (1859 – 1920) wrote it in 1898 and had it set to music by Eduardo Di Capua. In the same year it was presented at the Piedigrotta Festival, were it won only second place. Within no time „Napule bello“, the song which won the first price, was forgotten and „O sole mio“ became famous all around the world. It remains one of the most popular songs ever as a little story might well illustrate: the opening of the Olympic Games in Belgium in 1920. Just as the Italian athletes were marching in and the orchestra was supposed to play the „Marcia Reale“ – but the sheet music was missing. What to do!? After a moment of dispair the „maestro di banda“ attacks „O sole mio“ – and the whole stadium joins in singing along. Se non è vero, …

This recording by Caruso made in 1916 might not be the most refined or restrained one – but I find it irresistable for the sheer splendour of this voice paired with the simplicity of the melody. Golden lava, vocal abundance, red-hot intensity – the outpouring of this glorious voice is really impressive. And although you can hear him breathing heavily and he is not exactly „whispering“, he is not shouting either and has some beautifuzl mezze voci. Yes – „Glorious“ is probably the most fitting description.




Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole,
n’aria serena doppo na tempesta!
Pe’ ll’aria fresca pare già na festa…
Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole.

Ma n’atu sole
cchiù bello, oje ne’.
O sole mio
sta ‘nfronte a te!
O sole
O sole mio
sta ‘nfronte a te!
sta ‘nfronte a te!

Quanno fa notte e ‘o sole se ne scenne,
me vene quase ‘na malincunia;
sotto ‘a fenesta toia restarria
quanno fa notte e ‘o sole se ne scenne.

Ma n’atu sole…

– – – – – – –

What a wonderful thing a sunny day is,
the serene air after a thunderstorm!
In the fresh air it seems really like a feast.
What a wonderful thing a sunny day is.

But another sun,
even more beautiful,
My very own sun
shines in your face!
The sun, my own sun
It’s in your face!
It’s in your face!

When night comes and the sun is going down
then I start feeling blue;
Then I am staying below your window

When night comes and the sun has gone down.

But another sun…

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