La mamma morta

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"La mamma morta" (They killed my mother) is an aria from act 3 of the 1896 opera Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano.


The singer is the soprano character Maddalena di Coigny, daughter of a noble family. She is telling Gérard, one of the rivals for her love, how her mother died protecting her during the turmoils of the French Revolution. Maddalena then almost gave up on life and became terribly ill. Her faithful servant Bersi had to "trade her beauty", sell herself as a prostitute, in order to save Maddalena's life. This desperation is implied in the line Porto sventura a chi bene mi vuole! (Woe to those who love me well!) which is placed at the centre of the aria. From this point on, Maddalena recalls hearing the "voice of love", which promises companionship and forgetfulness of the horrors of Revolution.


The aria is a favourite show piece of a spinto soprano, especially ones who specialize in the Italian idiom of verismo. In the opera, the aria is placed in the third act, after Gérard's aria "Nemico della patria... Un dì m'era di gioia", another famous aria which showcases the baritone playing Gérard. Comprising a range between C4 to B5, the tessitura of the aria lies in the octave between F4 and F5, with the second section lying higher than the first section. The instrumentation of the aria is especially effective, for example the string tremolo which suggested the fires that destroyed Maddalena's home. The aria itself is divided into two sections: a tender melancholic opening part which recalls Maddalena's misadventures; and a heroic second part, full of high arching phrases, which suggested the voice of the god of love. An oppure was written by Giordano as alternative to accommodate the climactic top B, providing shorter phrases and two full measure rests. A performance takes about five minutes.


La mamma morta m'hanno
alla porta della stanza mia
Moriva e mi salvava!
poi a notte alta
io con Bersi errava,
quando ad un tratto
un livido bagliore guizza
e rischiara innanzi a' passi miei
la cupa via!
Bruciava il loco di mia culla!
Così fui sola!
E intorno il nulla!
Fame e miseria!
Il bisogno, il periglio!
Caddi malata,
e Bersi, buona e pura,
di sua bellezza ha fatto un mercato,
un contratto per me!
Porto sventura a chi bene mi vuole!
Fu in quel dolore
che a me venne l'amor!
Voce piena d'armonia e dice
Vivi ancora! Io son la vita!
Ne' miei occhi è il tuo cielo!
Tu non sei sola!
Le lacrime tue io le raccolgo!
Io sto sul tuo cammino e ti sorreggo!
Sorridi e spera! Io son l'amore!
Tutto intorno è sangue e fango?
Io son divino! Io son l'oblio!
Io sono il dio che sovra il mondo
scendo da l'empireo, fa della terra
un ciel! Ah!
Io son l'amore, io son l'amor, l'amor
E l'angelo si accosta, bacia,
e vi bacia la morte!
Corpo di moribonda è il corpo mio.
Prendilo dunque.
Io son già morta cosa!

They killed my mother
at the door of my room
She died and saved me.
Later, at dead of night,
I wandered with Bersi,
when suddenly
a bright glow flickers
and lights were ahead of me
the dark street!
I looked –
My childhood home was on fire!
I was alone!
surrounded by nothingness!
Hunger and misery
deprivation, danger!
I fell ill,
and Bersi, so good and pure
made a market, a deal, of her beauty
for me –
I bring misfortune to all who care for me!
It was then, in my grief,
that love came to me.
A voice full of harmony says,
"Keep on living, I am life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes!
You are not alone.
I collect all your tears
I walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am Love!
Are you surrounded by blood and mire?
I am Divine! I am oblivion!
I am the God who saves the World
I descend from Heaven and make this Earth
A heaven! Ah!
I am love, love, love."
And the angel approaches with a kiss,
and he kisses death –
A dying body is my body.
So take it.
I am already dead matter!

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