One of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, Tito Schipa sings “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (A furtive tear), a romanza from Act 2, scene 8 of the Italian opera L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. A 1929 video.

One of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, Tito Schipa sings “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (A furtive tear), a romanza from Act 2, scene 8 of the Italian opera L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. A 1929 video.

Tito Schipa

Tito Schipa (2 January 1889 – 16 December 1965) was an Italian tenor, considered the greatest tenore di grazia (leggero tenor, a lightweight, flexible tenor voice type) and one of the most popular tenors of the 20th century.

He was known for his refined vocal technique, expressive singing, and charming stage presence. His real name was Raffaele Attilio Amedeo Schipa. He began his vocal studies in Milan and made his operatic debut in 1910 in the town of Vercelli, performing the role of Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

Schipa’s voice was not the largest or most powerful among tenors, but what set him apart was his extraordinary ability to convey emotion and nuance through his singing. His vocal timbre was warm and lyrical, perfectly suited for the bel canto repertoire. Schipa’s mastery of phrasing and his impeccable diction allowed him to bring a unique expressiveness to his roles, captivating audiences with his subtlety and elegance.

Throughout his career, Schipa was associated with many of the great opera houses of the world, including La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. His repertoire included roles in operas by Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, and Verdi, as well as works by Puccini and other composers. Some of his most famous roles included Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore,” the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” and Count Almaviva in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.”

Schipa’s artistry was not confined to the opera stage. He was also an accomplished recitalist, known for his interpretations of Italian and Neapolitan songs. His recordings of these songs remain beloved by fans and critics alike, showcasing his ability to bring out the beauty and sentimentality of the music. His performances of “O Sole Mio” and “Mamma” are particularly famous, demonstrating his smooth legato and heartfelt delivery.

In addition to his singing, Schipa had a talent for composition. He wrote several songs and operettas, blending his understanding of the human voice with his compositional skills. His work as a teacher later in life also contributed to his legacy, as he passed on his knowledge and techniques to a new generation of singers.

Tito Schipa’s influence on the world of opera and vocal music is enduring. His recordings continue to be admired for their artistry and emotional depth. Schipa passed away on December 16, 1965, in New York City, but his legacy lives on through his contributions to opera and his timeless recordings. He is remembered as a tenor who, through his exceptional musicality and sensitivity, left an indelible mark on the world of classical music.

Una Furtiva Lagrima (A furtive tear)

“Una Furtiva Lagrima” is one of the most famous arias composed by Gaetano Donizetti, featured in his opera “L’elisir d’amore” (The Elixir of Love), which premiered in 1832. The aria is sung by the character Nemorino, a poor peasant who is hopelessly in love with the wealthy and beautiful Adina.

The aria occurs in the second act of the opera, at a crucial moment when Nemorino believes he has seen a tear in Adina’s eye, which he interprets as a sign that she loves him. This brief moment of hope and tenderness contrasts with his earlier despair and unrequited love, and it is this realization that gives the aria its deep emotional resonance.

Donizetti’s music beautifully captures the mixture of joy, wonder, and vulnerability in Nemorino’s heart. The melody is lyrical and expressive, beginning softly and gradually building in intensity. The orchestration is delicate, allowing the voice to convey the nuances of the character’s emotions. The simplicity and purity of the melody make it incredibly moving, resonating with audiences through its sincerity.

The text of the aria, written by Felice Romani, speaks of Nemorino’s joy at seeing the tear and his hope that Adina’s heart is finally opening to him. The phrase “Una furtiva lagrima” (A furtive tear) itself is poignant, encapsulating the intimate and private nature of the moment Nemorino has witnessed. The aria reflects his inner transformation from despair to hope, underscored by the gentle yet powerful musical lines that Donizetti has crafted.

“Una Furtiva Lagrima” has become a staple of the tenor repertoire, cherished for its expressive beauty and emotional depth. It demands not only technical skill but also a deep understanding of the character’s emotional journey. Performers strive to bring out the aria’s subtle nuances, making each performance a unique and personal interpretation.

Una furtiva lagrima lyrics (libretto)

Una furtiva lagrima

Una furtiva lagrima
negli occhi suoi spuntò:
Quelle festose giovani
invidiar sembrò.
Che più cercando io vo?
Che più cercando io vo?
M’ama! Sì, m’ama, lo vedo. Lo vedo.
Un solo istante i palpiti
del suo bel cor sentir!
I miei sospir confondere
per poco a’ suoi sospir!
I palpiti, i palpiti sentir,
confondere i miei co’ suoi sospir…
Cielo! Si può morir!
Di più non chiedo, non chiedo.
Ah, cielo! Si può! Si può morir!
Di più non chiedo, non chiedo.
Si può morir! Si può morir d’amor.

English translation: A furtive tear

A furtive tear
in her eyes appeared:
Those festive young girls
she seemed to envy.
What more need I look for?
What more need I look for?
She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
For a single instant the beats
of her beautiful heart to feel!
My sighs to confound
for a while with her sighs!
Her heartbeats, her heartbeats to feel,
my sighs with hers to merge
Heavens! One could die!
More I cannot ask, I cannot ask.
Oh, heavens! One could, one could die!
More I cannot ask, I cannot ask.
One could die! One could die of love!


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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