Funiculì, Funiculà

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"Funiculì, Funiculà"
("Funiculì, Funiculà")
Music by Luigi Denza
Lyrics by Peppino Turco
Published 1880
Language Neapolitan
Performed by Mario Lanza

"Funiculì, Funiculà" is a famous Neapolitan song written in 1880, with lyrics by journalist Peppino Turco set to music by composer Luigi Denza. It was composed to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius. The 1880 cable car was later destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 1944; some remains of the top station were still visible in September 2012. The song was sung for the first time in the Quisisana Hotel in Castellammare di Stabia and met with huge success. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival during the same year. Edward Oxenford, an English songwriter and translator of libretti, published a version which became somewhat traditional in English-speaking countries.

The title means "funicular up, funicular down".[citation needed]

The Mount Vesuvius funicular in the 19th century

Classical versions & unintentional plagiarism[edit]

Six years after "Funiculì, Funiculà" was composed, German composer Richard Strauss heard the song while on a tour of Italy. Thinking that it was a traditional Neapolitan folk song, he incorporated it into his Aus Italien tone poem. Denza filed a lawsuit against Strauss and won. Strauss was forced to pay him a royalty fee.[1] Russian composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov also mistook "Funiculì, Funiculà" for a traditional folk song and used it in his 1907 Neapolitanskaya pesenka [Neapolitan Song] (in Russian) .[2][3] Modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg set a version for string quartet[4] which was used in an episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld.

Robert B and Richard M. Sherman wrote a new set of English lyrics to the melody of "Funiculì, Funiculà" titled "Dream Boy." This version was recorded in 1960 by Annette Funicello for her album Italiannette,[5] and became a minor hit, reaching #87 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1961.[6] "Dream Boy" was featured the following year in the Walt Disney TV production Escapade In Florence.[7] An earlier Disney adaptation is in the Mickey and the Beanstalk segment of the 1947 animated feature Fun and Fancy Free in which a starving Goofy, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse fantasize about a sumptuous feast.

A version of the song with lyrics about life at Wellesley College set to Danza's music, is part of the College's traditional stepsinging repertoire.[8]

Later, the song was performed by many artists including The Grateful Dead, Erna Sack, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Topo Gigio, Alessandro Safina, Vincent Niclo, the Red Army Choir, Andrea Bocelli, Anna German, Luciano Pavarotti, Connie Francis, Mario Lanza, and Il Volo.

Original Neapolitan lyrics[edit]

Aissera, oje Nanniné, me ne sagliette,
tu saje addó, tu saje addó
Addó 'stu core 'ngrato cchiù dispietto
farme nun pò! Farme nun pò!
Addó lu fuoco coce, ma se fuje
te lassa sta! Te lassa sta!
E nun te corre appriesso, nun te struje
sulo a guardà, sulo a guardà.

Jamme, jamme 'ncoppa, jamme jà,
Jamme, jamme 'ncoppa, jamme jà,
funiculì, funiculà!
funiculì, funiculà!
'ncoppa, jamme jà,
funiculì, funiculà!

Né, jamme da la terra a la montagna!
Nu passo nc'è! Nu passo nc'è!
Se vede Francia, Proceta e la Spagna...
Io veco a tte! Io veco a tte!
Tirato co la fune, ditto 'nfatto,
'ncielo se va, 'ncielo se va.
Se va comm' 'a lu viento a l'intrasatto,
guè, saglie, sà!

Jamme, jamme...

Se n'è sagliuta, oje né, se n'è sagliuta,
la capa già! La capa già!
È gghiuta, po' è turnata, po' è venuta,
sta sempe ccà! Sta sempe ccà!
La capa vota, vota, attuorno, attuorno,
attuorno a tte! Attuorno a tte!
Stu core canta sempe nu taluorno:
Sposamme, oje né! Sposamme, oje né!

Jamme, jamme...[9]

English translation[edit]

Yesterday evening, O Nannina,[a] I climbed up,
Do you know where?
To where an ungrateful heart can no longer vex me!
Where a fire is burning, but if you flee
It lets you be.
It doesn't chase you, doesn't melt you, with just one glance!
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Let's go to the top, Funiculì, funiculà!

Let's go from here below up to the mountain, O Nannina, a step away!
You can see France, Procida, and Spain,
And I see you!
You rise, pulled by a cable, quick as a wink
into the sky.
We'll rise up like a whirlwind all of a sudden knows how to do!
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Let's go to the top, Funiculì, funiculà!

My head is spinning, O Nannina, It's gone up there already!
It went there, spun 'round, and then returned:
It's always here!
My head is spinning, spinning,
Encircling you!
This heart of mine is always singing
the same refrain:
"Marry me, O Nannina"!
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Let's go, let's go, let's go to the top,
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Let's go to the top, Funiculì, funiculà![b]

Traditional English lyrics, by Edward Oxenford[edit]

Sheet music version

An English version of the song is subtitled "A Merry Life".[10]

Some think the world is made for fun and frolic,
And so do I! And so do I!
Some think it well to be all melancholic,
To pine and sigh; to pine and sigh;
But I, I love to spend my time in singing,
Some joyous song, some joyous song,
To set the air with music bravely ringing
Is far from wrong! Is far from wrong!
Harken, harken, music sounds a-far!
Harken, harken, with a happy heart!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Joy is everywhere, funiculì, funiculà!

Ah me! 'tis strange that some should take to sighing,
And like it well! And like it well!
For me, I have not thought it worth the trying,
So cannot tell! So cannot tell!
With laugh, with dance and song the day soon passes
Full soon is gone, full soon is gone,
For mirth was made for joyous lads and lasses
To call their own! To call their own!
Harken, harken, hark the soft guitar!
Harken, harken, hark the soft guitar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Hark the soft guitar, funiculì, funiculà![11]


  1. ^ Nickname for Giovanna.
  2. ^ Translated with help from the La Storia di Napoli [The Story of Naples] (online dictionary) (in Italian)  and Watson.


  1. ^ Foreman, Edward, Authentic Singing: The history of singing .
  2. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas, Russian and Soviet music and composers .
  3. ^ Classical Archives .
  4. ^ Lebrecht, "Why We Are Still Afraid of Arnold Schoenberg", Scena .
  5. ^ "Italiannette", Annette Funicello Discography, Discogs, retrieved 20 July 2014 .
  6. ^ "Annette Funicello", Muskmellon, Wordpress, retrieved 20 July 2014 .
  7. ^ Sherman, Robert B (1998), Walt's Time: from before to beyond, Santa Clarita: Camphor Tree Publishers, p. 231 .
  8. ^ Wellesley Songbook, Wellesley College, 1921, pp. 96–97 .
  9. ^ Watson, Russell (ed.), Funiculà, MP3 lyrics .
  10. ^ "Funiculì", Kids (traditional English lyrics), National Institutes of Health .
  11. ^ Denza (2008), Funiculì Funiculà (sheet music) (in Napolitan, with loose translation into Italian and traditional English version), Art song central .

External links[edit]