Una voce poco fa: two versions. Such a little fox!

I hope you enjoy these three versions of Rossini’s charming cavaletta (an aria that introduces a character in an opera).

The text below comes from my 2009 book, “Operatic Italian” where I use Rosina’s cavaletta to illustrate the future tense

in Italian. The word “furba” (cunning, manipulative) comes to mind when listening to the music and I finish this post with

some comments on “furberia.”

5. How The Future Is Used Effectively In Una Voce Poco Fa (from “Operatic Italian”, by Robert Thomson, pp. 227-230)

Una voce poco fa in Il Barbiere di Siviglia shows the future tense used to full advantage. Rosina’s future tenses convey her determination to free herself from old Bartolo’s tyranny and choose a lover after her own heart: that good-looking young man (Lindoro) who sang under her balcony at the opening of the opera.

As Rosina says, she has two sides to her: one is obedient, docile and conventional. This is the side she reveals if she is treated well and it is the side that she shows Bartolo in order to keep him at bay; the other side of her is plotting, vengeful, even spiteful. This is the side which gives her the strength to plot a forbidden romance with ‘Lindoro’ as an escape from Bartolo. Below are the first twelve lines of this “cavatina”. Zingarelli defines “cavatina” as an “aria che un attore principale canta nel primo atto di un’opera”.

  1. Una voce poco fa   A voice a little while ago
  2.  Qui nel cor mi risuonò.  Here in my heart echoed.     – Dative of advantage: “mi risuonò”
  3. Il mio cor’ ferito è già   My heart wounded is already  (My heart is already wounded)
  4. E Lindoro fu che il piagò!    And Lindoro it was who it wounded! (who wounded it)
  5. Sì, Lindoro mio sarà. (future of essere) Yes, Lindoro mine will be.
  6. Lo giurai, la vincerò. (future of vincere) It I have sworn, I shall win. (lit. ‘conquer’).
  7. Repeat verses 5-6.
  8. Il tutor’ ricuserà; (fut. of ricusare) The guardian (Bartolo) will forbid (my marriage to Lindoro) 
  9. Io l’ingegno aguzzerò. (future of aguzzare)   I my genius will sharpen. (I will sharpen my ‘wits’.)
  10. Alla fin’ s’accheterà (fut. of acchetarsi) In the end he (Bartolo) will shut up.
  11. E contenta io resterò. (from restare). And content I will remain.
  12. Sì, Lindoro mio sarà. (from essere), ecc. Yes, Lindoro mine shall be. 

A Note on Furberia

“Furberia” is characteristic of many operatic characters. It can be translated as ‘shrewdness’ or ‘cunning’ and it carries a connotation of immorality (or at least of amorality). An old saying goes “Quando i furbi vanno in processione, il diavolo porta la croce.” (When the furbi walk in a procession, the devil carries the crucifix.). This ability to hide one’s true self until the time is right to act is an aspect of “furberia”. Machiavelli seems to have respected furberia and praises several of his characters for having wisely utilized it in their dealings with people. A notable example of a “furbo” is Liverotto da Fermo, a ruthless character who is one of the models of a successful despot in Machiavelli’s “Il Principe” (Chapter 8). Liverotto had spent his youth denied access to his native town, Fermo, which was controlled by his uncle. Feigning great family love and loyalty, Liverotto writes to his uncle for permission to visit. He would be content to be accompanied by a small armed escort. Granted permission, he enters, has his uncle put to death, and takes over the town. Furberia can be seen at work in many operatic characters: Figaro and Rosina have the techniques down pat. So do Basilio, Bartolo, Figaro, Scarpia, Minnie. The list is long. Oroveso, the High Druid Priest in Norma shows a kind of furberia when he advises the Druids to hide their hatred of the Romans (“Ma consiglio è il simular./Divoriamo in cor lo stegno/Tal che Roma estinto il creda!”/But good counsel is to dissimulate./ Let’s devour i.e., hide in our hearts scorn/So that Rome believes it to be extinct.”) Behind Rosina’s apparent conformity and docility is a will of iron! Whoever sings this cavantina should keep these points in mind: lots of feminine charm, yes, but also loads of determination (conveyed so well in those future tenses).

For more information on “Operatic Italian” visit my website: http://www.godwinbooks.com


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