Writ­ten in the late 19th cen­tury for the Fes­ti­val of Piedi­grotta, Brid­get Mermikides tran­scribes a piece for lovers of a cer­tain brand of ice-cream – and Neapoli­tan pop opera.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mermikides tran­scribes a quin­tes­sen­tial piece of Neopoli­tan pop opera that was made fa­mous by Elvis and Cor­netto!

It’s very com­mon to cat­e­gorise al­most any western mu­sic up un­til the 19th cen­tury as ‘clas­si­cal’. If it seems some­what so­phis­ti­cated, has been no­tated and, es­pe­cially if it uses or­ches­tral in­stru­ments, then it’s given the ‘clas­si­cal’ la­bel. In fact, th­ese loose cri­te­ria in­clude a huge range of di­ver­sity in terms of mu­si­cal cul­ture and pop­ulism. Such is the case with this month’s piece ’O Sole Mio, which is of­ten as­sumed to be part of the op­er­atic high-art reper­toire. But its ori­gins are as ‘pop’ as any mu­sic you could name to­day. It is a Neapoli­tan song, that is a song writ­ten for the Fes­ti­val of Piedi­grotta’s an­nual song­writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion based in Naples, Italy that ran from 1830 to 1926. Like one of to­day’s hits, ’O Sole Mio (a 1898 en­try to the com­pe­ti­tion) had mul­ti­ple con­trib­u­tors; the lyrics are from a poem by Gio­vanni Ca­purro and the mu­sic by his friend, the Ital­ian singer and song­writer Ed­uardo di Ca­pua (1865-1917), as well as (the then un­cred­ited) Emanuele Maz­zuc­chi. The song came sec­ond and its rights sold for a mere 25 Lira.

It has, of course, since be­come hugely pop­u­lar, been per­formed and recorded count­less times by Ital­ian singers such as En­rico Caruso, Be­ni­amino Gigli and Lu­ciano Pavarotti (whose record­ing of the song won a Grammy in 1980). It also re­ceived a wider au­di­ence when its lyrics were trans­lated to English, or the melody adopted with en­tirely new English lyrics, such as in Charles Harrison’s Down From His Glory, Tony Martin’s There’s No To­mor­row and Elvis Pres­ley’s It’s Now Or Never, as well as Tony Ben­nett’s big band ver­sion. More re­cently, a long-run­ning UK ad­vert for Wall’s Cor­netto kept the tune in pop­u­lar cul­ture.

The melody was in­spired by Di Ca­pua’s tour of Crimea with his vi­o­lin­ist fa­ther and is an ut­terly ir­re­sistible melody, im­me­di­ately ac­ces­si­ble yet with a dis­arm­ing grace and emo­tional power that sets Ca­purro’s ro­man­tic lyrics per­fectly.

For this ar­range­ment, I’ve used drop D tun­ing in the key so that the char­ac­ter­is­tic bass os­ti­nato is playable un­der the lyri­cal melody and chord punc­tu­a­tions. The tech­ni­cal chal­lenge here is to keep th­ese three el­e­ments ap­pro­pri­ately bal­anced and dis­tinct, and the tab cap­tions will help you achieve this. It’s very use­ful to be able to play this com­pletely in time and then use your mu­si­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties to pace the melody ex­pres­sively. For added ex­pres­sion, pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the melodic or­na­ments (eg bars 31 and 38) and fer­mata signs (in bars 31 and 71) where you can rest on the note mu­si­cally be­fore con­tin­u­ing.

ThErE arE vEr­SiOnS by PrES­lEy, CaruSO, PavarOTTi anD TOny bEn­nETT anD, Of COurSE, a COr­nETTO aD­vErT!

Pres­ley to Pavarotti, Caruso to Cor­netto, this Ital­ian melody lingers on our taste buds

Ed­uardo Di Ca­pua

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