Sunday, April 10, 2011

Musica de Napoli

Punchinello - who scoffs at life, and Vesuvius

Down by the Naples waterfront, not far from the piazza de Plebiscito (home of Naples' civic buildings) is a district - and street - called Santa Lucia. Off the wide Via Santa Lucia are a tangle of narrow back streets, where you can still see fresh fish being sold by the side of the street and it is said that the life of 'old Naples' can be observed, especially in the evenings. Like I am going to wander around the back streets of Naples in the evenings! Instead, I can remember the song.

"Santa Lucia" is a traditional Neapolitan song, transcribed by Teodoro Cottrau (1827-1879) and published at Naples in 1849. Cottrau translated it from Napuletano into Italian during the first stage of the Risorgimento, the first Neapolitan song to be given Italian lyrics. Its transcriber, who is very often credited as its composer, was the son of the French-born Italian composer and collector of songs Guillaume Louis Cottrau (1797-1847).

The Neapolitan lyrics of "Santa Lucia" celebrate the picturesque waterfront district, Borgo Santa Lucia, in the Bay of Naples, in the invitation of a boatman to take a turn in his boat, the better to enjoy the cool of the evening. Performed here by Mario Lanza, an American tenor and movie star.


A different funicolare (on Capri)
Mt Vesuvius (1281m) looks down over Naples through the sea mist, benign now but famously erupting all over Pompeii and Herculaneum on 24th August 79 AD. It has blown a few times since then too, once in 1631 when it engulfed several towns again and killed about 3000 people; and last in March 1944. The Allied soldiers were stationed nearby at the time, and caught the action on film. This eruption also buried what had, until then, been a handy tourist attraction: a funicular up to the top of Vesuvius. The funicular is no more - buried, and not replaced. But there is always the song to remember it by. "Faniculi Funicula" was composed as a tie-in to promote the 1890 opening of the funicular railway to the top of Mount Vesuvius. The young hero of the lyrics complains about his girlfriend's volatile disposition. he takes the train to the top of the volcano, and its fiery terrain recalls his love's temperament. Smitten afresh, he descends and asks her to marry him. Its infectious tarantella was performed in the 1950s by Mario. 


Gambrinus was the patron saint of beer, apparently

I stopped to take a cup of coffee in Gambrinus’, at the top of the piazza del Plebiscito. Here the celebrities who frequent Naples gather, and over the years it has welcomed Oscar Wilde, amongst others. It is said that here one of the most famous Neapolitan songs was written in 1898, the lyrics by Giovanni Capurro and the melody by Eduardo di Capua: ‘O sole mio’. Gambrinus’ has a small brass plaque commemorating this. The song is usually sung ion the original Neapolitan. ‘O sole mio’ is the equivalent of the standard Italian ‘Il sole mio’, which translates a ‘My Sun”.

The glorious voice of Pavarotti, plus views of Naples


And for my last night in Napoli, my favourite song about Napoli....from Pink Martini, shown here with some nice looking locals.

Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples

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