Va, pensiero

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Melody and first verse of "Va, pensiero" Va, pensiero.jpg
Melody and first verse of "Va, pensiero"

"Va, pensiero" (Italian:  [ˈva penˈsjɛːro] ), also known as the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves", is a chorus from the opera Nabucco (1842) by Giuseppe Verdi. It recollects the period of Babylonian captivity after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem in c. 500 BCE.

<i>Nabucco</i> opera written by Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer

Nabucco is an Italian-language opera in four acts composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera. The libretto is based on biblical books of Jeremiah and Daniel and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornu, although Antonio Cortese's ballet adaptation of the play, given at La Scala in 1836, was a more important source for Solera than the play itself. Under its original name of Nabucodonosor, the opera was first performed at La Scala in Milan on 9 March 1842.

Giuseppe Verdi 19th-century Italian opera composer

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.

The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylonia. After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem, resulting in tribute being paid by King Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year, which led to another siege in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year, culminating with the death of Jehoiakim and the exile of King Jeconiah, his court and many others; Jeconiah's successor Zedekiah and others were exiled in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year; a later deportation occurred in Nebuchadnezzar's twenty-third year. The dates, numbers of deportations, and numbers of deportees given in the biblical accounts vary. These deportations are dated to 597 BCE for the first, with others dated at 587/586 BCE, and 582/581 BCE respectively.

Contents

The libretto is by Temistocle Solera, inspired by Psalm 137. The opera with its powerful chorus established Verdi as a major composer in 19th-century Italy. The full incipit is "Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate", meaning "Go, thought, on golden wings".

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Temistocle Solera Italian opera librettist

Temistocle Solera was an Italian opera composer and librettist.

Psalm 137 Psalm

Psalm 137 is the 137th psalm of the Book of Psalms, and as such it is included in the Hebrew Bible. In English it is generally known as "By the rivers of Babylon", which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version. It is Psalm 136 in the slightly different numbering system of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate versions of the Bible. Its Latin title is "Super flumina Babylonis".

Role in Italian political history

Some scholars have thought that the chorus was intended to be an anthem for Italian patriots, who were seeking to unify their country and free it from foreign control in the years up to 1861 (the chorus's theme of exiles singing about their homeland, and its lines like O mia patria, si bella e perduta / "O my country, so beautiful, and lost" was thought to have resonated with many Italians). [1] Some modern scholars have rejected this idea, failing to see connections between Verdi's 1840s and 1850s operas and Italian nationalism, with the exception of some of the sentiments expressed in his 1843 opera, I Lombardi . [2]

Italian unification political and social movement that consolidated different Italian states into a single state

Italian unification, also known as the Risorgimento, was the political and social movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. The process began in 1815 with the Congress of Vienna and was completed in 1871 when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

Italian nationalism

Italian nationalism asserts that the Italians are a nation with a single identity and seeks to promote the cultural unity of Italy as a country, in a definition of Italianness claiming descent from the Latins who originally dwelt in Latium and came to dominate the Italian peninsula and much of Europe. Italian nationalism has also historically adhered to imperialist theories. The romantic version of such views is known as Italian patriotism, while their integral version is known as Italian fascism.

Other recent research has discussed several of Verdi's works from the 1840s (including Giovanna d'Arco and Attila ) emphasising their ostensible political meaning. [3] Work by Philip Gossett on choruses of the 1840s also suggests that recent revisionist approaches to Verdi and the Risorgimento may have gone too far in their thorough dismissal of the political significance of "Va, pensiero". [4]

<i>Giovanna dArco</i> dramma lirico in a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Giovanna d'Arco is an operatic dramma lirico with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, who had prepared the libretti for Nabucco and I Lombardi. It is Verdi's seventh opera.

Attila 5th-century ruler of the Hunnic Empire

Attila, frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, in Central and Eastern Europe.

Philip Gossett American musicologist

Philip Gossett was an American musicologist and historian, and Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor of Music at the University of Chicago. His lifelong interest in 19th-century Italian opera began with listening to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts in his youth. Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, a major work on the subject, won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society as best book on music of 2006.

On 27 January 1981 the journalist and creative writer Giorgio Soavi  [ it ] proposed replacing Italy's national anthem with "Va, pensiero" in a letter published by Indro Montanelli in his daily newspaper Il Giornale . The proposal was widely discussed for some time and then abandoned until 2009, when Senator Umberto Bossi took it up again, [5] but to no effect. However, Bossi's political party, Lega Nord/Padania, has adopted "Va, pensiero" as its official hymn and the chorus is now sung at all party meetings. [6]

Il Canto degli Italiani the national anthem of Italy

"Il Canto degli Italiani" is the national anthem of Italy. It is best known among Italians as the "Inno di Mameli", after the author of the lyrics, or "Fratelli d'Italia", from its opening line. The words were written in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli. Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades. Nevertheless, after the Italian Unification in 1861, the adopted national anthem was the "Marcia Reale", the official hymn of the House of Savoy composed in 1831 by order of King Charles Albert of Sardinia. After the Second World War, Italy became a republic, and on 12 October 1946, "Il Canto degli Italiani" was provisionally chosen as the country's new national anthem. It was made official on 4 December 2017 de jure.

Indro Montanelli Italian journalist

Indro Alessandro Raffaello Schizogene MontanelliKnight Grand Cross OMRI was an Italian journalist and historian. Generally considered one of the greatest Italian journalists of the 20th century, he was among the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the previous 50 years named by the International Press Institute in 2000. He distinguished himself for his original approach to writing history in books such as History of the Greeks and History of Rome.

<i>Il Giornale</i> Italian newspaper

il Giornale is an Italian language daily newspaper published in Milan, Italy.

In 2011, after playing "Va, pensiero" at a performance of Nabucco at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome, conductor Riccardo Muti made a short speech protesting cuts in Italy's arts budget, then asked the audience to sing along in support of culture and patriotism. [7]

Teatro dellOpera di Roma theater

The Teatro dell'Opera di Roma is an opera house in Rome, Italy. Originally opened in November 1880 as the 2,212 seat Costanzi Theatre, it has undergone several changes of name as well modifications and improvements. The present house seats 1,600.

Riccardo Muti Italian conductor

Riccardo Muti, is an Italian conductor. He holds two music directorships: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini. Previously he held posts at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Muti has been a prolific recording artist and has received dozens of honours, titles, awards and prizes. He is particularly associated with the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Initial reception

Verdi composed Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had all just died of various illnesses. Despite a purported vow to abstain from opera-writing, he had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and the director forced the libretto into his hands. Returning home, Verdi happened to open the libretto at "Va, pensiero" and seeing the phrase, he heard the words singing. At first rehearsal "the stagehands shouted their approval, then beat on the floor and the sets with their tools to create an even noisier demonstration". [8] As he was subsequently to note, Verdi felt that "this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star". [9]

Upon Verdi's death, along his funeral's cortege in the streets of Milan, bystanders started spontaneous choruses of "Va, pensiero". A month later, when he was reinterred alongside his wife at the Casa di Riposo, a young Arturo Toscanini conducted a choir of eight hundred in the famous hymn.

Text

Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate;
va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l'aure dolci del suolo natal!

Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate...
O, mia patria, sì bella e perduta!
O, membranza, sì cara e fatal!

Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!

O simile di Sòlima [10] ai fati
traggi un suono di crudo lamento,
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù. [11]

Go, thought, on wings of gold;
go settle upon the slopes and the hills,
where, soft and mild, the sweet airs
of our native land smell fragrant!

Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion's toppled towers...
Oh, my country, so beautiful and lost!
Oh, remembrance, so dear and so fatal!

Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
why dost thou hang mute upon the willow?
Rekindle our bosom's memories,
and speak to us of times gone by!

Either, akin to the fate of Jerusalem,
give forth a sound of crude lamentation,
or let the Lord inspire you a harmony of voices
which may instill virtue to suffering.

See also

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References

Notes

  1. Paul Halsall, "Modern History Sourcebook: Music and Nationalism", Aug 1997, revised July 1998 on fordham.edu Retrieved 23 December 2009
  2. Roger Parker, "Verdi and Milan", lecture which discusses Nabucco, given at Gresham College, London, 14 May 2007: see below
  3. Francesco Izzo, "Verdi, the Virgin, and the Censor: The Politics of the Cult of Mary in I Lombardi alla prima Crociata and Giovanna d’Arco", Journal of the American Musicological Society, 60 (2007): pp. 557–597.
  4. Gossett, pp. 339–387
  5. "Senator wants to change Italy's national anthem – to opera". Christian Science Monitor. 24 August 2009.
  6. "National Anthem"; see also Va' pensiero Padania
  7. "Riccardo Muti conducts audience during Rome performance". Chicago Sun Times. 12 March 2011.
  8. Phillips-Matz, p. 116, noting a later statement by the composer
  9. Verdi, "An Autobiographical Sketch" (1879), in Werfel & Stefan, p. 92
  10. Ἱεροσόλυμα (Hierosólyma > Jerosòlima > Sòlima) was the ancient Greek designation of Jerusalem. See Ἱεροσόλυμα (Strong 2414)
  11. "courage" as in some uses of Latin virtus

Cited sources

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