O Mio Babbino Caro
Bridget Mermikides presents a great transcription of Puccini’s emotionally-charged aria for the solo classical guitar.
The operas of Giacomo Puccini (18581924), among them La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, have been performed countless times over the past century and are a staple of the genre (and of ‘classical music’ in general). Furthermore, there are pieces taken from these operas that are hugely popular in their own right, such as World Cup and talent-show favourite Nessun Dorma from Turandot. Here, we tackle one such aria, the stunning O Mio Babbino Caro (which translates as Oh My Beloved Father) from the 1918 opera, Gianni Schicchi. Sung by the character Lauretta, this very short aria manages to capture her devastating heartbreak and pleas to her father to
The main technical challenge is to balance a projected melody with a supporting accompaniment, to ensure that the melody is always audible and not overwhelmed by the bassline.
allow her relationship to continue. It’s an utterly beautiful melody that is performed often as an isolated work in concerts and recitals (usually as an encore due to its short duration). It’s characterised by a soaring melody with evocative melodic leaps, and a simple but effective lyricism.
Achieving this lyricism on the solo guitar while emulating the delicate orchestral accompaniment is always going to be a challenge, but by transposing the original key All professional classical guitarists pluck the strings using the fingernails. These need to be kept the right length and shaped correctly, so that they create a good plucking action and the best possible tone. Every serious player keeps a variety of nail files and buffers – a big favourite is very fine wet and dry sanding paper. This is used to smooth off the edges of the nails and keep them buffed to a fine polish. The better the nails, the better the tone! of Ab major to D major, and using drop-D tuning, one can create an arrangement that is technically possible and extremely satisfying to play, and one that captures the musical essence of Puccini’s masterpiece.
The main challenge here is to balance a projected melody with a supporting accompaniment, so the melody is audible but not overwhelmed by the bassline. The tempo is slow and flexible, to accommodate the freedom of the melody. Also, look out for Puccini’s fermata markings (the symbol at the end of bars 3 and 11, for example) where you can pause on that note, so adding a poignancy to the piece.
There are some tricky challenges in keeping the melody sustained so, as ever, take your time and use the tab captions to guide you through this wonderful work. A classical guitar ‘great’ would properly study the story behind the tune, in order to ensure their performance conveyed as much of its poignancy as possible.
Puccini: Italy’s late-era classical genius composer