Jussi Bjorling sings, E lucevan le stelle, from Tosca
“E lucevan le stelle” (“When the stars were brightly shining”) is the romanza of Mario Cavaradossi (tenor), a painter in love with Tosca, in the third act of Puccini’s opera Tosca, composed in 1900 to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It is sung by Cavaradossi while he waits for his execution on the roof of Castel Sant’Angelo.
Written in B minor, is one of the most famous opera arias. The vocal range extends from F♯3 to A4.
The aria is introduced by a somber clarinet solo. The incipit of the melody (heard in outline earlier in the act, as the sky lightens and the gaoler prepares for the execution) is repeated on the lines “O dolci baci, o languide carezze” (“With sweetest kisses, tenderest caresses”), and also restated in forte in the closing bars of the opera, as Tosca jumps from the ramparts.
E lucevan le stelle …
ed olezzava la terra
stridea l’uscio dell’orto …
e un passo sfiorava la rena …
Entrava ella fragrante,
mi cadea fra le braccia.
O! dolci baci, o languide carezze,
mentr’io fremente le belle forme disciogliea dai veli!
Svanì per sempre il sogno mio d’amore.
L’ora è fuggita, e muoio disperato!
E muoio disperato!
E non ho amato mai tanto la vita,
tanto la vita!
The stars were shining,
And the earth was scented.
The gate of the garden creaked
And a footstep touched the sand…
Fragrant, she entered
And fell into my arms.
Oh, sweet kisses and languorous caresses,
While feverishly I stripped the beautiful form of its veils!
Forever, my dream of love has vanished.
That moment has fled, and I die in desperation.
And I die in desperation!
And I never before loved life so much,
Loved life so much!