O sole mio

About this work

No song more immediately conjures up images of Italy than O Sole Mio. It is so well-known that it is often assumed to be an Italian folk song. It was in fact composed by Eduardo Di Capua, who was on a world tour with his father, the bravura violinist Giaccobe Di Capua. Eduardo, therefore, was separated from his beloved and feeling quite depressed over the fact. He said that one morning as he was sitting in a gloomy room in Odessa, he felt a fresh morning breeze blowing through the curtains. It pushed them apart, revealing the fabulous luminosity of the sun sparkling off the Black Sea waters. He related the burst of fresh air and sunlight to the sight of his beloved and was moved to compose the tune. The song was given words by a Neapolitan, Giovanni Capurro. (Emmanuel Mazzuchi is also credited as co-composer of the song.) The first section of the song describes the coming of the sun, like serene air amidst a storm. The chorus calls the beloved "My sun" and implores her to open her window in the night so she can light it up like the sun. The song was premiered in Naples and soon was taken up by the great tenor Enrico Caruso, who made it a worldwide hit. Unfortunately, Di Capua did not earn any royalties on the song, for he had sold it outright to a publisher, and died a poor man.

A 1910 American English version of the song, one of many versions, titled "My Heart is Thine!", with words credited to Frank Sheridan and Capuro, begins, "The day is dying and the west winds sighing..." and the words to the chorus start "So open thy lattice, sweetheart of mine." A better English version was published in New York as "O sole mio" in 1923 with words by J. Macklyn Meskill. Its opening line is "Without the sunshine, there could be no flowers," and the chorus is "Sunshine and you dear, a world of bliss." The most popular version, titled "It's Now or Never", sold 20 million records as sung by Elvis Presley. The song has remained popular, inspiring paintings, providing the names of Italian restaurants, and even having a sandwich named after it (a triple decker toasted Italian bread sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella slices, basil, and olive oil and a couple of anchovies).