Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews           
Texts & Audio to some Neapolitan Songs.
             "finished" -- for now!                 
Click on the song title.

1. Funiculì Funiculà              2. Marechiare           3. Maria, Marì!  (Oj, Marì! )
4. Anema e core                  5. 'O Sole Mio          6. Torna a Surriento
7. 'O Surdato 'Nnamurato     8. Te Voglio Bene Assaje!       9. Santa Lucia  

Article on the Neapolitan language, itself: here.
Article about the Neapolitan Song, here.
On that page, above, see the second item, on the work of Antonio Grande.
1. Funiculì Funiculà          (the story of this song is at this entry)
text:   G. Turco - music: L. Denza  composed 1880  -
For audio click or tap on the audio scroll bar below - perf. by Roberto Murolo

ABOUT THE SONG: (From the "At this entry" link, directly above.  Please read it! ) "Everyone has had the experience of being obsessed with a melody, most likely a little jingle that somehow slipped down behind the sofa cushions of your mind once upon a time. ... Suddenly you have no control over your brain. A zombie tune-smith is throwing the switches of your limbic system, rerouting the same melody over and over and over. ... High on list of songs you'll need an exorcist to get rid of is one of the national anthems of Naples. Unlike many Neapolitan songs that dwell on unrequited love or warm evenings spent trying to find the requited kind, Funiculì Funiculà is a snappy happy little march about going up the side of a volcano. Almost everyone knows the melody and at least some version of the lyrics, many of which were written by sniggering boy–scouts and are, therefore, quite unrepeatable around high class folks like yourselves."  A suitable English translation for this joyous piece of nonsense is:

Yesterday afternoon, Nanninè, I went up to... / You know where I went, oh yes you do, oh yes you do.../
up there where your ungrateful heart /can't get at me, oh no it can't, oh,no it cant..../
Where the fire burns but if you run away / it will let you in peace /
And it doesn't chase after you, it doesn't destroy you / except if you look at it/
 So, let's go, let's go, let's go to the top/ let's go, let's go, let's go to the top/
funiculì funiculà,
funiculì, funiculà / right up to the top, Funiculì Funiclà.
Aissera, Nanninè, me ne sagliette

tu saie addò, tu saie addò,
Addò to core ‘ngrato chiu dispiette
farme nun po’, farme nun po'
Addò lo fuoco coce, ma si fuje
te lassa stà, te lassa stà,
e nun te corre appriesso, nun te struje
sulo a guradà, sulo a guardà,
Jammo, jammo, ‘ncoppa jammo, ja...
Jammo, jammo, 'ncoppa jammo,  ja---
Funiculì, Funiculà,  Funiculì, Funicula...
'ncoppa jammo, ja - Funiculì, Funiculà.

Se n’è sagliuta, oie Nè, se n’e sagliuta,
La capa già, la capa già,
E' ghiuta, po’ e tornata, e po’ e venuta. . .
Sta sempe cca! Sta sempre cca!
La capa vota attourna , vota attuorno,
Attuorno a te, attuorno a te,
Llo core canta sempe no taluomo.
Sposammo, oie Nè!
Jammo, jammo, ‘ncoppa jammo, ja... etc
Funiculi , Funicula!


to top of page        to music portal


2. Marechiare
text: Salvatore Di Giacomo - music: F.P. Tosti          (1885)               

For audio, click or tap on the audio scroll below- perf. by R. Murolo

oil painting, Where Unhappiness Ends
(the meaning of the word "Posillipo")
 by Selene Salvi

ABOUT THE SONG: The author of the lyrics is Salvatore di Giacomo, one of the best-known writers of Neapolitan poetry and certainly one of the greatest scholars of its history. The music is by Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846–1916) the best-known Italian composer of light-hearted salon music in the 19th century.  Marechiare is the dialect form of Marechiaro. It is a stretch of coastline in the Posillipo quarter of Naples that runs up from the Mergellina harbor towards Nisida and is held to be one of the most scenic. The first verse makes reference to a "window" (fenesta), still in existence, in a building along the coast that has a particularly good view of the coast looking back to Mt. Vesuvius all the way to the Sorrentine peninsula in the distance. That view is said to have been the inspiration for the song. A suitable prose translation in English of the first stanza is this:

When the moon looks down and shines on Marechiaro / Even the fish make love! /
The waves of the sea kick up / and change color just from joy /
When the moon looks down and shines on Marechiaro/
But at Marechechiare there's a window / that I softly tap on with my heart /
There's a fragrant carnation in a vase / the sea below softly murmurs/
at Marechiare there's a window /

Quanno sponta la luna a Marechiare
pure li pisce nce fanno l’ammore,
se revotano ll’onne de lu mare
pe la priezza cagneno culore,
quanto sponta la luna a Marechiare.
A Marechiare nce sta ‘na fenesta,
la passione mia nce tuzzulea,
nu carafano addora int ‘a, ‘na testa,
passa l'aqua pe’ sotto, e murmurea:
a Marechiare nce sta ‘na fenesta.
 

Chi dice che li stelle so’ lucente
nun sape st’uocchie ca tu tiene nfronte,
sti doie stelle li saccio io sulamente,
dint’a lu core ne tengo li pônte.
Chi dice ca li stelle so’ lucente?. . .
Scetate, Caruli, ca l’aria e doce;
quanno maie tanto tiempo aggio aspettato?
P’accumpagnà li suone cu la voce
stasera ‘na chitarra aggio portato.
Scetate, Carulì, ca l’aria è doce!.


to top of page       to music portal



3. Maria, Marì!  (Oj, Marì! )             Also see this item

For audio click or tap on the audio scroll bar below - perf. Roberto Murolo

text:  Vincenzo Russo  -  music: Eduardo Di Capua       (1899)

ABOUT THE SONG:  We enter here upon the baffling Neapolitan-Yiddish crossover department! Although the published title is Maria, Marì, the song is generally called Oj, Marì!  The title in the image has Maria! Marie! because it's German sheet music. Now, to the Yiddish crossover. Italian-American singers are required to sing it wrong (!) in order not to cause giggles since the Neapolitan oy sounds exactly like the Yiddish expression of despair, oy (as in Oy, vey.) If you sing Oj, Marì! to a bunch of people (say, in New York) who are familiar with Yiddish, they'll start laughing and saying things like "Oy, Mary. So why don't you marry a nice Jewish boy?" Thus, singers such as Dean Martin had to sing, Uè, Marì! That expression, (sounds like English way) is, indeed, Neapolitan, but it means "HEY!" whereas the original oj (sounds like O-E) is the vocative O! in Neapolitan —the vocative case, as in when you invoke the Lord or even the one you love, as in O Lord!  and, in this case, O Mary!  [It is NOT "Oh, howya doin', God.] But instead of saying O Mary!, with Uè, Marì! you're saying "Hey! Mary! or even worse, something like "Yo! Mary!" It gets even more confusing since Yo is dyslexic Yiddish for Oy. A prose translation in English is:

Open the window / So I can see Marì
I am standing out here/ Yearning to see her
I have no peace of mind / The night becomes day
I wait out here/ hoping she'll talk to me
[refrain]
O Marì, O Marì / how much sleep have I lost over you!
Let me sleep / in your arms.
O Marì, O Marì, /how much sleep have I lost over you!
Just let me sleep / O Marì, O Marì!


Aràpete fenesta,
famm’affaccià a Maria,
ca stongo mmiez’ ‘a via
speruto p’ ‘a vedè.

Nun trove n’ora ‘e pace;
‘a nott’ ‘a faccio juorno
sempe pe sta ccà attuorno,
speranno ‘e ce parlà!

Oj, Marì, oj, Mari!
quanta suonno ca perdo pe’ te!
Famm’ addurmi
abbracciato nu poco cu te!

Oj, Marì, oj, Mari!
Quanta suonno ca perdo pe’ te!
Famm’addurmi
Oj’ Mari! Oj’ Mari!



to top of page        to music portal




4. Anema e core  music: Salve D'Esposito ;   lyrics: Tito Manlio   (1951)

For audio click or tap on the audio scroll bar below
ABOUT THE SONG:  Soul and Heart. The translated title in English has usually been With all my Soul and Heart (probably to avoid confusion with the similarly titled Heart and Soul). It comes very late in the history of the traditional Neapolitan Song, the most famous of which are around the turn of 19th to 20th century. When it was played, even though it was in Neapolitan dialect, it was regarded more as a dance tune. It is, in fact, a straight 4/4 foxtrot, more typical of American popular music of the 1940s and 50s. In any event, it is claimed to be the most widely recorded "Neapolitan song" abroad -- a claim that is hard to substantiate -- but is has been translated into almost all European languages. So, in spite of what Neapolitan purists may think, this foxtrot, this dance tune,  is "Neapolitan music" to everyone else. It was also used to plug a 1952 film of that name,  released in English as My heart sings. The plot of the film has nothing to do with the  lyrics of the song, and the image on the right is not a film poster, but apparently one of a series of "film music scores." You open that cover and see the sheet music to the song. Note that one of the Italian actors has the unlikely name of Dorian Gray. I don't know what that means. (He had a solid B-film career, though, since his appearance never changed!) A suitable English prose translation of the first verse is: 
 
We lose sleep and peace of mind and /Never ask ourselves, Why?
Lips that don't like kisses / those are not our lips, oh my!
Yet, I call you / and you don't answer just to spite me
Let's hold each other just like this / with all our soul and heart
Let's not leave each other / Not for an hour
My desire for you frightens me / to be with you always and not to die.
Why say bitter words to one another / when a single breath of goodness is what we need?
If you yearn for this love we have / Let's hold each other like this with all our soul and heart.
 
Nuje ca perdimmo 'a pace e 'o suonno,     
nun ce dicimmo maje pecché?
Vocche ca vase nun ne vonno,
nun só' sti vvocche oje né'!
Pure, te chiammo e nun rispunne
pe' fá dispietto a me
Tenímmoce accussí anema e core!
nun ce lassammo cchiù, manco pe' n'ora
stu desiderio 'e te mme fa paura
Campá cu te,
sempe cu te,
pe' nun murí
Che ce dicimmo a fá parole amare,
si 'o bbene po' campá cu nu respiro?
Si smanie pure tu pe' chist'ammore,
tenímmoce accussí anema e core!  
to top of page          to music portal



5. 'O Sole Mio
text:  Capurro - music: Di Capu & Mazzucchi (1898) (also see this entry)
 For audio click or tap on audio scroll bar below, perf. by Roberto Murolo

ABOUT THE SONG: The ridiculously complicated story of this song is at the link directly above, marked "see this entry."  A suitable prose translation of the first verse plus the refrain is:

How beautiful it is to have a sunny day, / The air is calm after the storm! /
The fresh air -- like a festival.../ How beautiful it is to have a sunny day.
refrain: Another sun / lovelier than ever, O my! / You are my sun, / My sun is on your brow!


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, oi ne’,
‘o sole mio
sta nfronte a te!

‘o sole, ‘o sole mio
sta nfronte a te!
sta nfronte a te!



to top of page        to music portal


6. Torna a Surriento
text: G.B. De Curtis - Music:  E. De Curtis  (1904)             

For audio click or tap on the audio scroll below, perf. R. Murolo

ABOUT THE SONG: From my comment on a period postcard here, "...They used to say that Come Back to Sorrento was written as a favor to the mayor of Sorrento on the occasion of a visit to the town in 1902 by the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Zanardelli. Then the mayor could tell the P.M., 'Here. I had this written especially for you.' As it turns out, the De Curtis brothers wrote the song eight years earlier and deposited a copy with the Italian Society of Authors and Editors. It didn't have much success, so they dusted it off later and gave it to the mayor. Sorry to ruin a good story. There is more information on the De Curtis brothers song-writing team at the 'period postcard' link., above.
A suitable English prose translation of the first 4 stanzas is:

See how beautiful the sea is, / it brings out such emotions,
As do you with those who are close, / you stun them into dreams.

Look at this garden, smell these orange blossoms, /
there is no perfume as fine, / as the one that goes to your heart.

And you say: "I’m leaving, farewell." / You’re walking away from my heart,
and from this land of love. / Do you have the heart not to return?

But don’t leave me, / spare me this torment,/
come back to Sorrento, / and bring me to life!

Vide ‘o mare quant’e bello!
Spira tantu sentimento,
Comme tu a chi tiene mente,
Ca scetato ‘o faie sunnà.

Guarda, gua’ chistu ciardino;
Siente, sie’ sti sciure arance:
Nu profumo accussì fino
Dinto ‘o core se ne va...

E tu dice: "I’ parto, addio!".
T’alluntane da stu core...
Da la terra de l’ammore. . .
Tiene ‘o core ‘e nun turnà?

Ma nun me lassà,
Nun darme stu turmiento!
Torna a Surriento,
Famme campà!


to top of page        to music portal


7. 'O Surdato 'Nnamurato     text: Aniello Califano - music: Enrico Cannio  

For audio click or tap on the audio scroll below- perf. by Massimo Ranieri
ABOUT THE SONG: Words and music are from 1915, the year of Italy's entry into WWI. The title means A Soldier in Love and describes the sadness of a soldier at the front during World War I pining for the woman he loves. The song was iconic for Italy in WWI in the same way as Over There was for U.S. troops in the same war, or, in WWII, Lili Marlene for the Germans and We'll Meet Again for the British. There are many wartime songs that capture the moment. This one does. It has had significant recorded versions, among which are Mario Lanza in 1958 and Anna Magnani's performance in the film La sciantosa (1971). A suitable English prose translation of the first verse and refrain is:

You are far from my heart / I fly to you in my thoughts / I ask for nothing else/ than to have you always by my side / Be as sure of your love / as I am of mine. /  - refrain - You are my life / heart of my heart / You are my first love / and you will be my last.
Staje luntana da stu core   
e a te volo cu ‘o penziero:   

niente voglio e niente spero
ca
tenerte sempe affianco a me

Si’ sicura ‘e chist’ ammore
comm’ i’ so’ sicuro è te...

Oje vita, oje vita mia,
oje core ‘e chistu core,
si’ stata ‘o primm’ ammore:
‘o primmo e ll’ultimo sarraje pe’ me!
 

Quanta notte nun te veco.
nun te sento int’ a sti brccia,
nun te vase chesta faccia, .
nun t’astregno forte mbraccia a me?
Ma scettànome ‘a sti suonne,
mme faje chiagnere pe’ te.. . .

refrain: Oje vita, ...

to top of page        to music portal


8. Te Voglio Bene Assaje!         (1835)   text: R. Sacco - music: G. Donizetti     (see this entry)

 For audio click or tap on the audio scroll below. Perf. R. Murolo
ABOUT THE SONG:  (I encourage you to read "see this entry," above.) This is what started it all. Music historians claim that this is where folk music turned into the "composed Neapolitan song," (the local version of Tin Pan Alley!) the popular canzone napoletana, that conjures up "Italy" in the minds of millions the world over. That commercial genre dates back to the first Festival of Piedigrotta, held in 1835 and more or less regularly until shortly after WW II. Each year, an official song of the festival was chosen and the winning song from that very first year, Te voglio bene assaje, is still popular. It's about love, as you might imagine, but the real passion in the Neapolitan Song is generally reserved for celebrating the city, the sun and the sea — or lamenting life's greatest tragedy: not death, but, rather, being far from home.

    (The delightful waltz-time melody to Te voglio bene assaje is usually attributed to Gaetano Donizetti, but do-gooder revisionist music historians (whom we love dearly!) say he couldn't have had the time for that since this is the same Donizetti who figured prominently in Italian operatic music in those years and whose operas are still played. But the story says he was a musician and did what most musicians do
try to make some money from his talent! "They're offering PRIZE MONEY?! Sign me up!"  (There is, in fact, a plaque on the house where Donizetti lived in Naples that proudly says, "He wrote Te voglio bene assaje." But the publisher of the sheet music on the right wasn't so sure: "Ancient Neapolitan Song." "Transcription by A. Longo.") I like the "Sign me up!" version. Not only did the song win the contest, it swept the peninsula, producing countless imitations and caricature versions, including one that says (sung to the real melody!) "I'm getting out of this damned town because all they do is sing that damned song" and including one meant as a sacred song to be sung in church! A suitable English prose translation of the beginning is this: (Yes, this is what took an entire people by storm!)

Why do you treat me like a cat / whenever you see me?
Nennè, what did I ever do to you/ That you won't even give me a second glance?
I love you so much / And you know that I still love you.
I love you so much / And you never think of me.

Pecchè quanno me vide
te 'ngrife comm'a gatto!
Nennè che t'aggio fatto
ca non mme può vede!
Io t'aggio amato tanto
si t'amo tu lo sai
Io te voglio bene assaie
E tu non pienze a me!

Io te voglio bene assaie
E tu non pienze a me!

La notte tutte dormeno,
E io che buo’ durmi!
Penzanno a Nenna mia
Mme sent’ascevolì!
Li quarte d’ore sonano
A uno, a doje, a tre....
Io te voglio bene assaie
E tu non pienze a me!

Io te voglio bene assaie
E tu non pienze a me!


    
to top of page       to music portal




9. Santa Lucia  (source uncertain - pub. 1849) (see this entry

For audio, click or tap on the audio scroll below. Perf. R.Murolo

ABOUT THE SONG: The entire complicated history of this song is at the "see this entry" link, above. Please read it. Readers may know that Santa Lucia is the name of a popular Neapolitan song about the area of that name in Naples. In older literature, the quarter used to be referred to as "a small fishing village outside of Naples." Indeed, even in recent material by people who have never been there, it has been called "a town near Naples." Nothing of the sort; it is precisely the area across from the famous Egg Castle of Naples. That area, however, is not what it used to be; the original fishing port of Santa Lucia was filled in and built over with fashionable hotels around 1900 as part of the urban renewal of the city known as the Risanamento. The song, Santa Lucia,  is a delicate barcarole that sings of the charm of the area and is one of the three most popular Neapolitan songs in terms of worldwide recognition. The other two are certainly 'O sole mio and Funiculì Funiculà, both of well-established authorship. Santa Lucia is a bit uncertain. Some sources credit Teodoro Cottrau (1827–1879) as having composed the melody and written the lyrics; others say that he took an existing and anonymous traditional melody and wrote lyrics to it in Neapolitan, publishing it at Naples in 1849. He later translated the lyrics into Italian, making it the first Neapolitan song to be widely known in Italy. (This was before the great wave of national and international fame of the genre, which started in the 1880s with Funiculì Funiculà.) A suitable prose translation of the first verse is: 

How the clear moon sparkles! / the sea is laughing, the air is calm
Everyone out in the open air / Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Everyone out in the open air / Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
Comme se frícceca la luna chiena!
lo mare ride, ll'aria è serena.
Vuie che facite mmiezo a la via
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
vuie che facite mmiezo a la via
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Stu viento frisco fa risciatare:
chi vo' spassarse jenno pe mmare?
Vuje che facite mmiezo a la via?
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia

La tènna è posta pe fa' 'na cena;
e quanno stace la panza chiena
non c'è la mínema melanconia.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
     to top of page        to music portal

© 2002 to 2018