O Mio Babbino Caro

O Mio Babbino Caro

My Italian professor in college used to teach us Italian songs to help us remember vocabulary and grammar. They were a lot more fun than flash cards.

One of my favorite songs I learned is “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi. It’s a short, yet beautiful song about a Florentine girl’s agonizing love. In the song, the girl tells her babbino (daddy) she wants to go to Porta Rossa (Red Door), a popular spot on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), to buy an engagement ring. If her love is in vain, she’ll still go to the Ponte Vecchio, but to throw herself in the river.

A bit dramatic, but that is the beauty of Italian. It would be hard to convey such drama and passion in a song in English, but it sounds natural in Italian.

Below is a clip of the song with it’s Italian lyrics. The translation follows.

O mio babbino caro                                      O my dear daddy

Mi piace è bello, bello                                   I like him, he’s handsome, handsome

Vo’andare in Porta Rossa                            I want to go to Porta Rossa

A comprarar l’anello                                     To buy the ring

Sì, sì, ci voglio andare                                   Yes, yes, I want to go there

E se l’amassi indarno                                    And if I love him in vain

Andrei sul Ponte Vecchio                             I’ll go to the Ponte Vecchio

Ma per buttarmi in Arno                              But to throw myself in the Arno

Mi struggo e mi tormento                            I am anguished and tormented

O Dio, vorrei morir                                         O God, I’d like to die

Babbo, pietà, pietà                                         Daddy, pity, pity

Babbo, pietà, pietà                                         Daddy, pity, pity

Some vocab and grammar points from the song. Dad is expressed in many ways in Italian. “Padre” means father, and “papà” means dad, not to be confused by “papa” which means pope. However, in the Florentine dialect, “babbo” also means dad or daddy. To add make a word more endearing, you add “ino” or “ina” to it, depending on the gender. So, “babbo” becomes “babbino.” You do the same thing to shrink something. For example, “naso” means nose. To describe a small nose, you could say “nasino,” instead of “piccolo naso.” “Topolino” is what Italians call “Mickey Mouse,” which is derived from “topo” meaning mouse.

Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s most famous bridge. It rests over the Arno River. “Fiume” means river in Italian. Another popular fiume is the Tiber or “Tivere” in Rome.

Il Ponte Vecchio
Il Ponte Vecchio

To learn more about Gianni Schicchi, check out this fun post from Opera North Blog: https://www.operanorth.co.uk/blogs/gianni-schicchi-five-fascinating-facts .

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