O mio babbino caro …

This soprano aria comes from a one-act comic opera set in Florence by Giacomo Puccini called Gianni Schicchi, written in 1918. It is sung by Lauretta after her father, Schicchi, has refused to allow her to continue her romance with Rinuccio, as she cannot provide her lover with a dowry on marriage.

In response she pleads with him singing:

Oh my dear papa,
I love him, he is handsome, handsome,
I want to go to Porta Rossa
To buy a ring!
Yes, yes, I want to go there!
And if I loved him in vain,
I would go to the Ponte Vecchio,
And throw myself in the Arno!

I am anguished and tormented!
Oh God, I’d want to die!
Papa, have pity, have pity!
Papa, have pity, have pity!

Appropriately the aria was used in the film A Room with a View based on E.M. Forster’s novel, which is partially set in Florence and has similar themes of forbidden love between Lucy and George.

The story is based on Dante’s Inferno, which features Schicchi as a disreputable forger who pretends to be Buoso Donati, in order to obtain money from that old Florentine family, which was famously rich.
In the opera Schicchi is a more comic character, who, after Lauretta’s aria, pretends to be the dying Donati in order to rewrite the rich man’s will to give Schicchi money and so allow his daughter Lauretta a dowry and therefore to marry Rinuccio.

The opera was first performed at the New York Met in December 1918, towards the end of his career, which had included such wonderful works as La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900) and Madama Butterfly (1904).

The Puccinis came from Lucca, where the family had occupied the position of head of music (maestro di capella) at the cathedral for 124 years from 1740 to 1864, when Giacomo’s father died. As he was only six at the time the Puccinis relinquished their hold on this title. He instead went to study in Milan and developed a career in opera.

Christopher Spink, 1st Violin.