Song Lyric Sunday: Culture – ‘Vesti La Giubba’

A complete change of pace this week for Song Lyric Sunday, as Jim has chose the themes of Musical and Opera.

As a general rule, I can’t get to grips with musicals, apart from the odd so-called ‘jukebox’ type. The one about Tina Turner was pretty good.

When it comes to opera, I do have a soft spot for Wagner, but there it’s much more about telling the story with the music rather than the singing. Consequently, my ‘likes’ in the opera genre tend to be individual arias rather than the entire opus. For example, I doubt I could sit through ‘Turandot’, but I’m always amenable to a rousing version of ‘Nessun Dorma’.

And there’s this: ‘Vesti La Giubba’ – usually translated as ‘On With The Motley’ ‘motley’ originally being the old word for a clown’s make-up – from Paganini’s short opera ‘I Pagliacci. You could say that this was the original ‘Tears Of A Clown’.

Like most things, it sounds better in Italian:

Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,
non so più quel che dico,
e quel che faccio!
Eppur è d’uopo, sforzati!
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom?
Tu se’ Pagliaccio!
Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.
E se Arlecchin t’invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto
in una smorfia il singhiozzo e ‘l dolor, Ah!
Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

Certainly better than this rather stilted English version:

I declaim! While taken with delirium,
I do not know what I am saying,
or what I am doing!
Yet it is necessary, I must force myself!
Bah! Are you not a man?
Thou art Pagliacci (clown)!

Put on your costume and apply make up to your face.
The people pay, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin invites away Colombina
laugh, Pagliaccio (clown), and everyone will applaud!
Turn the spasms and tears into jokes,
The tears and pain into grimaces, Ah!

Laugh, Pagliaccio (clown),
your love is broken!
Laugh of the pain, that poisons your heart!

Now listen to Pavarotti let rip.

Song Lyric Sunday 6 September 2020

5 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: Culture – ‘Vesti La Giubba’

  1. I totally agree with your view on opera. I love a night out, but I have found some performances painful to sit through. I am only there for one or two great arias, but the rest of the score is hard to endure.
    That’s why I picked The Merry Widow to recommend today…is a lighthearted opera, with a romcom setting and beautiful costumes.

    You picked a really stunning piece – it gives me goose pimples hearing his voice at it’s best.

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