Learning “Questa o quella”

I started working on this song a few weeks ago. It’s an aria from Verdi‘s Rigoletto. This opera itself has a rather interesting background (assuming we can trust wikipedia). Verdi was commissioned to compose the opera with the understanding of both him and his sponsor Piave that they risked censorship by the Austrian government. The Austrians controlled much of Northern Italy at the time and the opera was intended to be performed in Venice. The reason for this censorship was the libretto’s portrayal of the primary figure, a French king, as both an immoral figure and a womanizer. Such things were not looked upon well by the Austrian government of the 1850s. At one point Verdi was even forced to move out of Venice to avoid trouble during composition. In the end Verdi was forced to change a few names and a bit of the story around to assuage the censors, but it was able to premier.

In addition to this aria the Duke of Mantua (the renamed king’s character) also performs “La Donna e Mobile“, which is probably one of the most well know tenor arias of all time. (I’ll learn that one eventually.)

“Questa o quella,” which translates to “this woman or that” begins the show. The Duke sings at a ball in his palace, exhorting the pleasures of women, and off the show starts with a bang. We soon discover that the Duke is currently pursuing two women and comedy and tragedy ensues, as it so often does when women are involved.

Sorry the sound quality on this isn’t the best, but Franco Corelli is still a BAMF.

Translation:
Questa o quella per me pari sono
This girl or that girl are just
the same to me,

a quant’ altre d’ intorno mi vedo,
to all the others around me

del mio core l’ impero non cedo
I won’t give away my heart

meglio ad una che ad altre beltà
to this beauty nor to the others.

La costoro avvenenza è qual dono
Their charm is a gift

di che il fato ne infiora la vita
Given by destiny to embellish their lives

s’ oggi questa mi torna gradita
If today I love this one

forse un’ altra doman lo sarà.
I’ll probably love someone else tomorrow.

La costanza tiranna delcore
We hate constancy, the heart’s tyrant,

detestiamo qual morbo crudele,
as if it were a cruel plague,

sol chi vuole si serbi fedele;
Let those who wish to be faithful
keep their fidelity alive;

Non v’ha amor se non v’è libertà.
There is no love without freedom.

De’ i mariti il geloso furore,
The rage of jealous husbands

degli amanti le smanie derido,
and lovers’ woes I despise,

anco d’ Argo i cent’occhi disfido
I can defy Argo’s hundred eyes

se mi punge una qualche beltà.
If I fancy a beautiful girl.

Translation by Guia Monti (guiam@tinn.net)
Thanks to Aria-Database.com

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