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Zanetto” by Pietro Mascagni libretto (English)


Silvia, a courtesan - soprano
Zanetto, a young poet and minstrel - mezzo-soprano


SILVIA, alone

Against love are my curses;
I've no tears any more.
(descending slowly)
I am that cruel lady,
Whom all must adore;
But I love no one.
On lips I'm everywhere respected;
They're asking for my hand,
But the ardor of kisses
I do not understand!
Drowning is tedious.
Here in the silence
Quiet night to awaken
There should be couplets
For serenading;
Bad 'tis for a poet
To give out his fire;
Yet still, to my ire
They will be singing,
Stupid madrigals ringing.

The soldier, and the merchant
All who have power,
On me treasures shower,
But contempt I still hold
Both for them and the gold
Suffer I, my life thus to give,
For without love
Life is not fit to live.
I have no recollection
Of affection genteel.

(pointing to the city)
Now there is Florence, in splendor, lying in the distance, and having, perhaps, a youth who's looking up to this same heaven; he who once I saw, and who in his breast felt heart-beats for me, for me unworthy. Just to cross my pathway, he found it fatal! I've no hope now, but to run away from him. I must not stay here and be disgraced.

(Sings in the distance)
Heart of mine, as a flower,
Is found in thee love's secret power.
Not merry now the song I'm singing
Know'st thou to thee its way it's winging!
Heart of mine, why from weeping
Comes the perfume, true love keeping,
Think you grieving all unbidden
In the flower can be hidden?

Sweet is thy lovely singing.
Thy voice has touched my heart,
But this folly of foolish loving
Will not be on my part.
(Goes slowly up the terrace, turning absently toward the direction whence came the voice. Zanetto with a lute on his shoulder, and dragging his cloak up the steep, enters with a happy air, without seeing Silvia).


Sweet nights of summer,
By the moon lighted,
Smiles, on my journey,
On me benighted.
The stars too above
Shed on me their light
From golden eyes bright.

I'm ready—Loves my Florence
The sound of the lute?
And songs of true love?
As a minstrel I'm dressed,
And not in such plight
Could I appear
In hotel candle light
Here to sleep I will lay me
This warm summer night.
(He stretches himself out on a bench and wraps his cloak around him).
(Silvia comes quickly down from the terrace).

O poor little fellow! If I only had such sweet tranquility! Shall I call him, and offer him hospitality? but then—Just sleep down there!
(looking at him sleeping)
The silence, the perfumed air of the evening, this sleeping boy. Why should they disturb me? Yet a new palpitation is moving my heart! Ah me!
He's like my dream, exactly!
Up! Wake up!
(taking him sweetly by the hand)
(Zanetto awakes and looks at Silvia with wonder and admiration).

The lovely white vision
I saw in my dreaming.

O darling!
'Twas but a pale ray
From a star, bright seeming.

No, no! You were the lovely angel of my dream.
Your voice I heard near me;
Ah, you do not fear me!

I am, if it please you, a hostess; and welcoming a wayfarer.

Thank you, I've just had my supper—
And my sleep is all gone.

SILVIA (to herself)
Silvia, be good now!
'Tis love that is so painful
And this boy can't be so baneful!
(to Zanetto)
But, tell me; can't I know who you are?

I am Zanetto, a wandering musician;
It's my delight to change house and air every day!
Twenty useless callings
I have, to make my living.
I know how to push the bending oar
My bark speed giving;
I can bring down the falcon
Flying in the heavens;
Can tame the kicking mule,
And good verse arrange in sevens—
So I am not a fool!

But does it often happen
That your dinner
you are lacking?

Sometimes, yes!
But I find where'er going
True courtesy is showing,
And I know I am welcome—
By my lute I am able
To find a place at a table,
Company entertaining,
And for that day
A supper I am gaining.

Are you going to Florence?

Don't know.
If I find a more flowery path
I follow it. It is a strange fancy that draws
the bird through the trackless azure sky.
And I must say, too, that in my journeys I have not found fortune.

But have you not dreamed of resting some day in your fantastic and doubtful wandering? And have you not seen a little white house, set 'mid green, waving palms, and where a young girl once gave you a quick "Good morning!"

Yes, sometimes—But I know what I am—I think of fathers, and tutors; and it does not please me to disturb the family peace.

Have you not set your mind firmly on the girl
who gave you that flower
you wear on your breast?

A kiss! and I go on my travels.
Liberty to me is dear.
I want no other burdens
than my lute and the feather in my cap!
And love
When you would move
Is too heavy to carry!

A bird in the woods wants no cage
But who will say that some day he will not build a nest?

No! No! Do you know, all love makes me afraid?
It is delightful to go your own way,
as you please, and be as
free as the air!

But you are not happy—
And fate did you follow
As led by its hand;
Or the flight of a swallow
From some far-away land?


Are you led by some hope?

'Twas only a dream.

Tell it!

Perhaps I may stay here! Know, then, that I have no parents, father or mother. I may be the son of a Marquis, or of a villain—who knows? In the world's course so far I've lived a free and merry life; and have never desired any other. But after having enjoyed your dear voice, beautiful Madonna, I've been dreaming that I might have—a sister! Since you have aroused in me the desire for a sweet little cottage, far from all the noises of the world, set in the midst of flowers, now, yes! I begin to feel lonesome! I accept your wise counsel! Oh! If you were willing to be entertained by this nightingale wanderer, I would stay here with you. I would be always near you; and with my lute and song the long hours of your mornings I would shorten!

SILVIA (to herself)
My darling!
How my heart is exulting!
What is it always makes me fear?
To have all I have willed!
To hear I'm aflame!
Tell me my love's name!
My dream has been fulfilled!

Are you willing?

SILVIA (to herself)
I willing? Ah! no! never!
Why does he ask me?

Madonna! I ask too much, I know; but will you?

You shall know who I am tomorrow.

Again I ask you, will you?

I can not.

And why not?

A widow am I, and poor, and cannot entertain wandering poets.

Don't you have a servant?


A footman?


I can dine on fruit!

Don't speak of it.
I'm a widow, and live alone, weeping!

And may I not stand at your feet?

'Tis impossible. Believe me!

Then good-bye forever my beautiful dream! I may have, perhaps tomorrow, better fortune with Silvia!

SILVIA (to herself)
What says he?

Then in vain were all my prayers. I would ask
thee about Silvia, the Florentine.
She, they say, is the queen of all beauty.
They say that her look is a caress
which conquers and overwhelms in love.
They say that she is fair and beautiful
as thou art, lady;
and then, that she is rich and liberal.
I'll go and seek her.

SILVIA (to herself)
Great Heaven!

Perhaps I may enter her list of knights. But I intend to warble about the beauty of another lady! and the mad fool who would bring her misfortune. I confess to thee, Madonna, that I'm afraid! What shall I do? Give me your advice. Shall I go to Silvia?

SILVIA (to herself)
Well, I advise you not to!
This unknown boy
stirs up the inmost tenderness of my heart.
The opportunity invites; and the happiness;
would there were a way to catch him!

There is some friendship between us.
Why are you not willing to answer me?

SILVIA (to herself)
'Tis infamous! But so wills my destiny!

Well then?

(after silence, and with great force)
Hear me, my boy. Do not go to seek her. Thy lovely soul does not know its danger! Now hear me. No! Don't go to Silvia. Pay for your bread and your bed with the merry songs which come forth from your beautiful lips,—but you should know what bread and what bed it is. O Zanetto, if you see my emotion, it is because I love you, and wish to save you. Keep on with your songs in the leafy forests; and in the fragrance of another April, if near the threshold of an humble cottage above a labored steep, you see a girl with black eyes and golden hair—then rest. From there do not move! This is the nest of Love!

I will obey you. But if it should happen that you have slandered Silvia—
(Silvia makes a gesture of grief).
the wound of thy poor heart I have reopened. You
have told me that which makes my soul sad.
Of a loving brother
Of a trusting sweetheart,
Silvia, you have robbed.
You are not fearing only me, you are jealous!

(with much sadness)
What you imagine is not true. Go! Go!
(feigning grief)
You can't believe
How much I grieve
To tell you to return—
Keep from that way
Your feet, I pray;
But ere you stray
Again away
To thank me, learn,
I have saved thee.
Ah me! All is over!
But should he me discover!

I go. I believe you, and will not go to Silvia, after what you have said.
I go away,
your hidden balsam using;
A little tenderness
to me you are refusing!
I have of thee only the recollection that you
have not been willing to help me.
O Madonna! what corner
Of your heart holds your grieving and weeping part?

(eagerly offering him a ring)
No, truly; this ring will remind you of me.

(with a gesture of refusal)
Pardon! 'tis too rich for me!
With its jewels, you see;
Thanks, Madonna,
I could not accept it.
But tell me, are you not a widow and very poor?

SILVIA (to herself)
I have caught myself.
And a proof of my friendship
you refuse?
What are you willing I should give you?

I want no reminder of value
but some little nothing
that may be dear to thee.
Look! That flower
in your beautiful
hair will die—

I give you the flower
The first I have picked today.
It will die in thy hand,
This white flower; then understand
It shows to you my destiny.
When the flower is withered, I will have been forgotten.

Most charming Madonna, one word more.
I tremble to take up again my unending
journey; and I believe that you
can show me the path
to all happiness. I am afraid to pick it out.
To my best fortune guide me!
I will take the way
you point out with your beautiful little

(who has ascended some of the steps of the terrace indicates the direction leading away from the city.)
Be it so. 'Tis there!
Where glorious shines the Dawn!

Heart of mine, why from weeping
Comes the perfume,
true love keeping?
Think you grieving all unbidden
In this flower can be hidden?
(Makes some steps toward Silvia, but being stopped by a gesture; after making a gesture of desperation, he moves away quickly).

SILVIA alone

(She remains a moment on the terrace thinking, and looking toward Zanetto while he is far away. Then she hides her face in her hands and weeps)

Blessed art thou, O Love!
Now can I weep again!
libretto by Willard G. Day 


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