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Canzonetta spagnuola

April 23, 2017: Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano; Warren Jones, piano

By 1815 Rossini’s operas were being performed all over Italy, except in Naples, which had its own traditions. The shrewd impresario Domenica Barbaia, however, invited Rossini to compose for him and then to serve as artistic director of the San Carlo opera house in Naples, where he became a favored son, “reigning” from 1815 to 1822. Probably in 1821, toward the end of his time there, he composed his virtuosic Canzonetta spagnuiola (Little Spanish song), “En medio a mis colores” (Surrounded by my colors). He set three verses, separated by a refrain, with colorful Spanish/Gypsy flair. His oscillating ornaments are challenging to the singer and thrilling for the audience, and his Spanish/Gypsy style sounds prophetic of Bizet, whose “Gypsy Song” in Carmen with its similar after-beat accompaniment, ornaments, and acceleration bears a striking resemblance to Rossini’s dashing work.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

Texts and Translations

Canzonetta spagnuola

En medio a mis colores, ay,

Pintando estaba un día, ay,

Cuando la musa mía, ay,

Me vino a tormentar, ay.

Ay, con dolor pues dejo

Empresa tan feliz

Cual es de bella Nice

Las prendas celebrar, ay.

Quiso que yo pintase, ay,

Objeto sobrehumano, ay,

Pero lo quiso en vano, ay,

Lo tuvo que dejar, ay.

Ay, con dolor pues dejo, etc.

Conoce la hermosura, ay,

Un corazón vagado, ay,

Mas su destin malvado, ay,

Ie impide de cantar, ay.

Ay, con dolor pues dejo, etc.


Little Spanish Song

Surrounded by my colors, ay,

I was painting one day, ay,

when my muse, ay,

came to torment me, ay.

With sorrow then I left

my happy task

of celebrating the charms

of the beautiful Nice, ay.

My muse asked me to paint, ay,

a more spiritual subject, ay,

but he asked in vain, ay,

and he had to leave, ay.

With sorrow then I left, etc.

An inconstant heart, ay,

may know beauty, ay,

but its cruel destiny, ay

prevents it from singing, ay.

With sorrow then I left, etc.

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