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Musings by Leah Jorgensen

Archive for January, 2011

O Mio Babbino Caro


Banner from the opera Gianni Schicchi

One of my favorite movies of my girlhood was A Room with a View, a beautifully produced Merchant-Ivory film based on the classic by E.M Forrester, one of my favorite authors.

Being a romantic girl, I loved the gorgeous cinematography of Florence and the Italian countryside.  The most romantic kiss in film history, as far as I’m concerned, is passionately and aesthetically presented in this film.


Julian Sands as George Emerson and Helena
Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch

What also struck me was the opening credits that included an ephemeral, graceful opera song, which is one of Puccini’s sweetest arias, O Mio Babbino Caro


Clip from the Merchant-Ivory film A Room with a View

I remembered hearing that song in our kitchen – as my Italian grandmother used to love to play opera records when she’d visit, just as the preparation of a meal would commence.  Usually my mother would play the likes of Mario Lanza, Sergio Franchi, the Great Caruso, and, most especially, Luciano Pavarotti.  Later, when my mother added a compact disk player to her kitchen, we developed a vast collection of opera CDs, many of which were compilations.  I loved it whenever O Mio Babbino Caro came on.  I soon began to sing along.  When my grandmother would praise my performance, I felt like I was on to something.  It made her happy when I sang opera.  So, it made me happy.

My grandmother has since passed on, but, I still get very sentimental about that song.  And, it still makes me really happy when I sing it.

As it came to be, O Mio Babbino Caro has a certain travel history with me.  I have belted out that very song on a number of occasions walking at night under the stars in different cities around the world.  And, often under the influence of some very good wines.

I have “performed” O Mio Babbino Caro in the following places: 

  • In the kitchen at my parents house in Fairfax, Virginia
  • On campus at Sweet Briar College
  • On campus at Hampden-Sydney College, after midnight
  • In the streets of Washington, DC after midnight
  • In the streets of Atlanta, GA after midnight
  • On the walking bridge in Chattanooga, TN under the stars
  • In the streets of New York City at 2:30 a.m.
  • In the streets of Boston at midnight
  • In the streets of Roma, Italia at midnight
  • In the streets of Paris, France at midnight
  • In the streets of San Francisco at 2:00 a.m.
  • In the streets of L. A. (Sunset Blvd – I think), at 2:00 a.m.
  • On the boardwalk in South Beach, Miami just after midnight
  • On a cruise ship, on the deck looking at the stars somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean
  • In the streets of Seattle, WA  just after midnight
  • In the streets of Portland, OR just after midnight
  • In the streets of Ashland, OR
  • On the gondola coming down the mountain restaurant in Telluride, CO (after dinner, stars were out)
  • At the Painted Lady in McMinnville, OR (the restaurant was empty – we were the last guests!)

I think I should start video documenting my travelling performances.  It’s like a travelling gnome thing for me – where’s Leah going to sing O Mio Babbino Caro next?

The song originates from Giacomo Puccini’s comedic opera, Gianni Schicchi, based on an incident mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and was first performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on December 14, 1918.

The work is the third and final part of Puccini’s Il trittico—three one-act operas with contrasting themes, written to be presented together. Although it continues to be performed with one or both of the other trittico operas, Gianni Schicchi is now more frequently staged either alone or with short operas by other composers.

O Mio Babbino Caro Italian Lyrics
O mio babbino caro,
mi piace, è bello bello,
vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!
Si, si, ci voglio andare!
E se l’amassi indarno,
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio
ma per buttarmi in Arno!
Mi struggo e mi tormento,
O Dio! Vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!

O Mio Bambino Caro English Translation
Oh my dear father,
I like him, he is very handsome.
I want to go to Porta Rossa
to buy the ring!
Yes, yes, I want to go there!
And if my love were in vain,
I would go to Ponte Vecchio
and throw myself in the Arno!
I am pining and I am tormented,
Oh God! I would want to die!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!

The song has been made internationally famous by opera and pop-opera singers including Maria Callas, Rene Fleming, and Sarah Brightman.

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