Accessible arias: Voi che sapete
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,
Ricerco un bene fuori di me,
Sospiro e gemo, senza voler,
Non trovo pace notte né dì,
Voi che sapete che cosa è amor,
|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;
I seek something beautiful outside myself,
I sigh and I groan without control,
I cannot find any peace night or day,
You, ladies, who know what love is,
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