Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lucio Dalla has died

Lucio Dalla, one of the most famous and important Italian singers and songwriters of the last several decades, has died today of a heart attack, just short of his 69th birthday.

Here is his most famous song, Caruso, a tribute to an even more important and famous Italian singer. This version is with Pavarotti, who came from the same Northern Italian region as Dalla, Emilia (of which Bologna is the capital). Lyrics, my translation and some notes follow.

Qui dove il mare luccica
e tira forte il vento
su una vecchia terrazza vicina al golfo di Surriento
un uomo abbraccia una ragazza
dopo che aveva pianto
poi si schiarisce la voce e ricomincia il canto:

Te voglio bene assai
ma tanto tanto bene sai
è una catena ormai
che scioglie il sangue dint'e vene sai...

Vide le luci in mezzo al mare
pensò alle notti là in America
ma erano solo le lampare
e la bianca scia d'un'elica
sentì il dolore nella musica
si alzò dal pianoforte
ma quando vide la luna uscire da una nuvola
gli sembrò più dolce anche la morte.
Guardò negli occhi la ragazza
quegli occhi verdi come il mare
poi all'improvviso uscì una lacrima
e lui credette d'affogare.

Te voglio bene assai
ma tanto tanto bene sai
è una catena ormai
che scioglie il sangue dint'e vene sai...

La potenza della lirica
dove ogni dramma è un falso
che con un po' di trucco e con la mimica
puoi diventare un altro
Ma due occhi che ti guardano
così vicini e veri
ti fanno scordare le parole
confondono i pensieri.

Così diventò tutto piccolo
anche le notti là in America
ti volti e vedi la tua vita
come la scia d'un'elica.

Ah si, è la vita che finisce
ma lui non ci pensò poi tanto
anzi si sentiva già felice
e ricominciò il suo canto:

Te voglio bene assai
ma tanto tanto bene sai
è una catena ormai
che scioglie il sangue dint'e vene sai...
Te voglio bene assai
ma tanto tanto bene sai
è una catena ormai
che scioglie il sangue dint'e vene sai...

Here where the sea glimmers
and the wind is strong
on an old terrace overlooking the gulf of Surriento
a man embraces a girl
after crying
then clears his voice and continues to sing:

I love you very much,
so very very much, you know,
it has become a chain
that melts the blood in my veins, you know.

He saw the lights in the midst of the sea
he thought of the nights there in America
but they were only the fishing boats
and the white wake of a propeller
he felt the sorrow in the music
he rose from the piano
but when he saw the moon come out from behind a cloud
even death seemed sweeter to him.
He looked into the girl's eyes
those eyes green like the sea
suddenly a tear appeared
and he thought he was drowning.

I love you very much ...

The power of opera
where every drama is a fraud
where with a bit of make-up and mimicry
you can become someone else
But two eyes that are watching you
so close and so real
make you forget the words
and confuse your thoughts.

So everything became small
even the nights there in America
you turn around and see your life
as the wake of a propeller.

Ah yes, it's life that is ending
but he didn't think of that so much after all
but felt happy already
and continued to sing:

I love you very much you know...


Now, what the hell is going on here? OK. There are parts in Italian and parts in Neapolitan dialect (Caruso was from Naples). The parts in Neapolitan are the word "Surriento" (instead of "Sorrento") and the refrain beginning "Te voglio bene...." The parts in Italian are a narration of Caruso's last days in Naples, the parts in Neapolitan are Caruso singing a version of Dicitencello vuie, a fabulous classic of the Neapolitan repertoire. Here are the original words:

A' voglio bbene,
A' voglio bbene assaie,
Dicitencello, vuie
Ca nun m' 'a scordo maie!
E''na passiona
Cchiù forte 'e 'na catena,
Ca me turmente ll'anema
E nun me fa campá

Touchingly, Caruso mixes up the words, as Dalla himself says, because he is very sick and about to die. Just as he confuses his glorious past in America with his present in Naples. There is some ambiguity about the identity of the girl with green eyes. His daughter by American Dorothy Caruso? Or a young woman he met there who he was giving voice lessons to? Is the singing just a lesson or is it directed to her?

Ambiguity is part of this fine song, as when you cannot tell if the person crying is Caruso, the girl, or both. Knowing the tenor's personality and singing style (the "Caruso sob"), it may well be the famous singer.

An outstanding tribute by Lucio and Luciano to Enrico.