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Accessible arias: Voi che sapete

By Emma Beatty (Former Features Editor)

14 February 2011 at 11.38am | 1 Comment

Accessible arias: One of a new series of posts to bring you the words to some of opera's most famous solo pieces - arias, in their original language and in translation.

Voi che sapete

Act II of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro/Marriage of Figaro, Cherubino sings of the trials of first love

CONTEXT: Cherubino has an adolescent crush on the Countess – who happens to be his godmother but is nonetheless amused and touched by the attention. He has written her a love song which, with some embarrassment, he’s persuaded to sing while she listens. Susanna accompanies on a guitar. And it turns out to be the song of a young boy struggling to deal with powerful, unfamiliar, uncontrollable emotions.

Those of you who know what love is, he says, look into my heart and see what’s there – because I don’t understand my own feelings. Sometimes pleasurable, sometimes painful, they either burn like fire or freeze like ice. I long for something but I don’t know what it is, and the search gives me no peace. Day or night.

A formal song that seems to breaks off into spontaneous asides, Voi che sapete depicts the common enough business of post-pubescent confusion, but with a charm and poignancy peculiar to Mozart. In the hands of someone else, these words could easily be winsome. Here, they’re heartfelt, and affecting.

LISTEN: Rinat Shaham sings Voi che sapete from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro/Marriage of Figaro. From David McVicar's acclaimed production for The Royal Opera House.

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

Voi che sapete che cosa è amor,
donne, vedete s’io l’ho nel cor,
donne, vedete s’io l’ho nel cor!
Quello ch’io provo vi ridirò,
è per me nuovo, capir nol so.Sento un affetto pien di desir
ch’ora è diletto,
ch’ora è martir.

Gelo e poi sento l’alma avvampar,
e in un momento torno a gelar.

Ricerco un bene fuori di me,
non so chi ’l tiene,
non so cos’è.

Sospiro e gemo, senza voler,
palpito e tremor, senza saper.

Non trovo pace notte né dì,
ma pur mi piace languir così

Voi che sapete che cosa è amor,
donne, vedete s'io l'ho nel cor,
donne, vedete s'io l'ho nel cor,
donne, vedete s'io l'ho nel cor.

Ladies, you who know what love is,
look to see if it is in my heart,
look to see if it is in my heart!
Let me tell you how I feel,
it's so new to me; I don't understand it.I feel so full of desire
that sometimes it is a pleasure,
then it is agony.

I’m freezing cold, then on fire;
then in a moment freeze again

I seek something beautiful outside myself,
I don't know who has it,
I don't know what it is.

I sigh and I groan without control,
I quiver and tremble without control.

I cannot find any peace night or day,
and yet, I like this strange new pain!

You, ladies, who know what love is,
look to see if it is in my heart,
look to see if it is in my heart,
look to see if it is in my heart!

Composer: Mozart. libretto: Da Ponte. Discover more about 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)

14 February 2011 at 11.38am

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

This article has 1 comment

  1. Andrew Clem responded on 13 February 2011 at 9:43am Reply

    Shaham is such a bright star with musical personality to match, performing at the highest caliber all over the world. Why are we not hearing her perform at Covent Garden? This performance of "Voi che sapete" is so disarmingly pure, I look forward to hearing her again at the Garden (Please )

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