Mario Lanza sings Torna a Surriento

American tenor and Hollywood star with Italian origin, Mario Lanza sings “Torna a Surriento”, a Neapolitan song composed in 1902 by Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis (October 4, 1875 – December 31, 1937) to words by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis (20 July 1860 – 15 January 1926, the an Italian painter and poet remembered today for his song lyrics). From the 1956 movie “Serenade”.

Serenade

Serenade, a 1956 Warner Bros. release, was Lanza’s fifth film, and his first on-screen appearance in four years. Directed by Anthony Mann and based on the 1937 novel of the same name by James M. Cain, the film also stars Joan Fontaine, Sara Montiel (billed as Sarita Montiel), and Vincent Price.

The film tells the story of a poor vineyard worker who becomes an operatic tenor, and is involved with two women — one a high society hostess, the other a Mexican bullfighter’s daughter. Highly melodramatic in nature, the film features a large amount of operatic music, all of it sung by Lanza.

"Serenade", Original movie poster
“Serenade”, Original movie poster.

Torna a Surriento

The song was supposedly written at the request of a friend of Giambattista’s, Guglielmo Tramontano, who was mayor of Sorrento in 1902 when the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Zanardelli, stayed at his hotel in that town; it was claimed that the piece was meant to celebrate Zanardelli’s stay.

The song is a plea to Zanardelli to keep his promise to help the very poor city of Sorrento which was especially in need of a sewage system. The song reflects the beauty of the city’s great surroundings and the love and passion of its citizens.

More recent research indicates that the song may merely have been reworked for the occasion; family papers indicate that the brothers deposited a copy with the Italian Society of Authors and Editors in 1894, eight years before they claimed to have written it.

Neapolitan lyrics (Torna a Surriento)

Vide’o mare quant’è bello,
spira tantu sentimento,
Comme tu a chi tiene mente,
Ca scetato ‘o faie sunnà.

Guarda gua’ chistu ciardino;
Siente, sie’ sti sciure arance:
Nu profumo accussi fino
Dinto ‘o core se ne va…

E tu dice: “I’ parto, addio!”
T’alluntane da stu core…
Da sta terra de l’ammore…
Tiene ‘o core ‘e nun turnà?

Ma nun me lassà,
Nun darme stu turmiento!
Torna a Surriento,
famme campà!

Vide’o mare de Surriento,
che tesoro tene nfunno:
chi ha girato tutto ‘o munno
nun l’ha visto comm’a ccà.

Guarda attuorno sti Serene,
ca te guardano ‘ncantate,
e te vonno tantu bene…
Te vulessero vasà.

E tu dice: “I’ parto, addio!”
T’alluntane da stu core
Da la terra de l’ammore
Tiene ‘o core ‘e nun turnà?

Ma nun me lassà,
Nun darme stu turmiento!
Torna a Surriento,
Famme campà!

English translation (Come Back to Sorrento)

Look at the sea, how beautiful it is,
it inspires so many emotions,
like you do with the people you look at,
who you make to dream while they are still awake.

Look at this garden
and the scent of these oranges,
such a fine perfume,
it goes straight into your heart,

And you say: “I am leaving, goodbye.”
You go away from this heart of mine,
away from this land of love,
And you have the heart not to come back.

But do not go away,
do not give me this pain.
Come back to Sorrento,
let me live!

Look at the sea of Sorrento,
what a treasure it is!
Even who has travelled all over the world,
he has never seen a sea like this one.

Look at these mermaids
that stare, amazed, at you,
that love you so much.
They would like to kiss you,

And you say: “I am leaving, goodbye.”
You go away from my heart,
away from the land of love,
And you have the heart not to come back.

But please do not go away,
do not give me this pain.
Come back to Sorrento,
let me live!

Sorrento

Sorrento, Italy
Sorrento (Neapolitan: Surriento)

Sorrento (Neapolitan: Surriento) is a town overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. A popular tourist destination, it can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii as it is at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The Sorrentine Peninsula has views of Naples, Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. The Amalfi Drive, connecting Sorrento and Amalfi, is a narrow road that threads along the high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Ferries and hydrofoils connect the town to Naples, Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Ischia. Sorrento’s sea cliffs and luxury hotels have attracted celebrities including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti.

Limoncello is a digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar which is produced in Sorrento. Other agricultural production includes citrus fruit, wine, nuts and olives.

Sources

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