About this work
This song is probably O sole mio's and Funiculi, funicula's main competition for the distinction of being the best-known Italian song outside of Italy. It has been a favorite of opera and popular Italian singers and their audiences ever since its premiere, and at least some of its popularity is due to the contemporary development of the phonograph.
DeCurtis' brother, Giambattista, wrote the lyrics in the traditional Neapolitan dialect. As in many of these songs, the beauty of nature, especially the sea, is closely linked with love. The song opens, "See how beautiful the sea is, stirring so many feelings, like the way thinking of you makes me dream. Look at the gardens, feel the breezes, and the scents which go straight to the heart." The lover then pleads, "And you say, 'I'm going, goodbye, ' you're leaving my heart, this land of love, taking my heart and not returning? But don't leave me, don't cause me such torment, return to Surriento, bring me back to life!"
The opening of the song is very gentle and lyrical, with the instruments in the orchestra evoking the breezes the lover sings about. The pleas to return to Surriento ("torna a Surriento") are more dramatic, and one particularly effective moment is the repeat of "but don't leave me" ("ma nun me lassa"), which is to be sung quite softly, adding variety and a note of wistful longing as well as the more directly sung yearnings of the previous verses.
Curated by Chanda VanderHart, Pianist and Musicologist