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Accessible arias: Se vuol ballare

By Emma Beatty (Former Features Editor)

15 February 2011 at 2.06pm | 1 Comment

Accessible arias: Footage of  famous arias, with subtitles in the original language and translation.

Se vuol ballare

Act I of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Figaro determines to outwit the scurrilous Count.

CONTEXT: Frustrated marriage is a standard storyline in comic opera. Two people try to come together in a relationship but find it difficult – because of interruption or, perhaps, because they're not yet ready for each other. And that's the situation at the start of The Marriage of Figaro where two servants, Figaro and Susanna, are preparing for what looks like a problematic wedding. The initial problem is that their master, Count Almaviva, has designs of his own on Susanna. Figaro has just found out. And the short Act I cavatina Se vuol ballare is his angry response.

Sung alone onstage, but as though addressing Almaviva, its message is: play games with me and I'll outsmart you. You, dear little Count (note the diminutive Contino), may feel like dancing, but I'll call the tune. With cunning, stealth and mockery, I'll confound your plots.

A seriously threatening if sardonic outburst, this is Figaro's opening aria and it establishes the battle of wits between servant and master that drives the whole opera - making it not just an elegantly crafted comedy but a social document of 18th-century class conflict.

LISTEN: Erwin Schrott sings Se vuol ballare in David McVicar's acclaimed Royal Opera House production of The Marriage of Figaro. Excerpt from a BBC recording.

LYRICS: In the original Italian, as sung on stage, and in their English translation.

Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,
Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,Il chitarrino le suonerò.
Il chitarrino le suonerò.
Si, le suonerò, si, le suonerò.

Se vuol venire nella mia scuola,
La capriola insegnerò.

Se vuol venire nella mia scuola,
La capriola insegnerò.
Si, insegnerò. Si, insegnerò. Si, insegnerò

Saprò, saprò, saprò, saprò, saprò...
Ma, piano, piano, piano, piano, piano:
meglio ogni arcano,
Dissimulando, scoprir potrò.

L’arte schermendo, l’arte adoprando,
Di qua pugnendo, di là scherzando,
Tutte le macchine rovescerò, rovescerò.

L’arte schermendo, l’arte adoprando,
Di qua pugnendo, di là scherzando,
Tutte le macchine rovescerò.
Tutte le macchine rovescerò.
Tutte le macchine rovescerò.
Rovescerò, rovescerò.

Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,
Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,

Il chitarrino le suonerò.
Il chitarrino le suonerò.
Si, le suonerò.
Si, le suonerò.

If you want to dance, my little count,
If you want to dance, my little count,I'll play the guitar.
I'll play the guitar.
Yes, I'll play it, yes, I'll play it.

If you want to go to my school,
I'll teach you how to somersault.

If you want to go to my school,
I'll teach you how to somersault.
Yes, I can teach you. (repeat)

I'll find out, I'll find out... (repeat)
But, gently, gently does it:
bettet to find things out,
By acting dumb, I'll find it all out.

I'll use all the arts of combat,
Striking you just so, just my little joke,
All your schemes I'll discover.

I'll use all the arts of combat,
Striking you just so, just my little joke,
All your schemes I'll discover.
All your schemes I'll discover.
All your schemes I'll discover.
I will find out, will find out.

If you want to dance,  my little count,
If you want to dance,  my little count,

I'll play the guitar.
I'll play the guitar.
Yes, I'll play it.
Yes, I'll play it.

Composer: Mozart. Libretto: Da Ponte. Discover more about The Marriage of Figaro/ Le nozze di Figaro:  synopsis, characters, context text, full details of current production.

Credits: Intro text: Michael White, score by Ricordi, as sung on stage, translations: Emma Beatty/Michele Bona

By Emma Beatty (Former Features Editor)

15 February 2011 at 2.06pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Accessible Arias, David Mcvicar, erwin schrott, figaro, Le nozze di Figaro, lyrics, mozart, Production, The Royal Opera

This article has 1 comment

  1. I would have translated "rovescerò" as "I shall defeat" - it seems clear from the context that Figaro is not only going to "discover" but also frustrate any of the Count's schemes

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