Funiculì, Funiculà

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"Funiculì, Funiculà"
Language Neapolitan
Written 1880
Published 1880
Composer(s) Luigi Denza
Lyricist(s) Peppino Turco

"Funiculì, Funiculà" (IPA: [funikuˈli ffunikuˈla]) is a famous Neapolitan song composed in 1880 by Luigi Denza to lyrics by Peppino Turco. It was written to commemorate the opening of the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival the same year. The sheet music was published by Ricordi and sold over a million copies within a year. It has been widely adapted and recorded since its publication.


The Mount Vesuvius funicular in the 19th century

"Funiculì, Funiculà" was composed in 1880 in Castellammare di Stabia, the home town of the song's composer, Luigi Denza; the lyrics were contributed by journalist Peppino Turco.[1] It was Turco who prompted Denza to compose it, perhaps as a joke,[1] to commemorate the opening of the first funicular on Mount Vesuvius in that year.[2][a] The song was sung for the first time in the Quisisana Hotel[b] in Castellammare di Stabia.[citation needed] It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival during the same year and became immensely popular in Italy and abroad.[5] Published by Casa Ricordi, the sheet music sold over a million copies in a year.[1]

Adaptations and unintentional plagiarism[edit]

Six years after "Funiculì, Funiculà" was written, the 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.[6] The Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov also mistook "Funiculì, Funiculà" for a traditional folk song and used it in his 1907 "Neapolitanskaya pesenka" (Neapolitan Song).[7] Cornetist Herman Bellstedt used it as the basis for a theme and variations titled Napoli; a transcription for euphonium is also popular among many performers. Modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg arranged a version for ensemble in 1921[8] which was used in an episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld.[citation needed]. An instrumental version was also used in the Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose, where it is often played as background music.

In 1960, Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman wrote a new set of English lyrics to the melody of "Funiculì, Funiculà" titled "Dream Boy." Annette Funicello included the song on her album of Italian songs titled Italiannette and also released it as a single, becoming a minor hit.[9][c] "Dream Boy" was featured the following year in the Walt Disney television production Escapade in Florence.[10] An earlier Disney adaptation is in the Mickey and the Beanstalk segment of the 1947 animated feature Fun and Fancy Free in which Mickey Mouse returns with magic beans while a starving Donald Duck and Goofy fantasize about a sumptuous feast.[citation needed] Big Idea Productions Veggie Tales series used the tune with new lyrics about a top hat, chocolates and a trolley stop for the "Classy Songs with Larry" segment in "Lyle the Kindly Viking", entitled 'Larry's High Silk Hat'.[11]

The tune was used with different lyrics in the commercials for the board game The Grape Escape and the drawing toy, Doodle Dome.

Over the years the song has been performed by many artists including Erna Sack, Anna German, Mario Lanza, The Mills Brothers, Connie Francis, Haruomi Hosono (with lyrics translated into Japanese), The Grateful Dead,[12] Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Il Volo. The song is also referenced by The Decemberists in the song Song for Myla Goldberg on their album Her Majesty the Decemberists. Topo Gigio, on an episode on Ed Sullivan's show, introduced his family of Italian mice who sang the song together.


Original Neapolitan lyrics[edit]

In Turco's original lyrics, a young man compares his sweetheart to a volcano, and invites her to join him in a romantic trip to the summit.

Neapolitan lyrics[13]
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!
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 'ncoppa, jamme jà,
Jamme, jamme 'ncoppa, jamme jà,
funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà,
'ncoppa, jamme jà, funiculì, funiculà!
English translation[13]
I climbed up high this evening, oh, Nanetta,
Do you know where? Do you know where?
Where your ungrateful heart no longer pains me
With teasing wiles! With teasing wiles!
Where fire burns, but if you run away,
It lets you be, it lets you be!
It doesn't follow after nor torment you
Just with a look, just with a look.
Let's go, let's go! To the top we'll go!
Let's go, let's go! To the top we'll go!
Funiculi, funicula, funiculi, funicula!
To the top we'll go, funiculi, funicula!
The car has climbed up high, see, climbed up high now,
Right to the top! Right to the top!
It went, and turned around, and came back down,
And now it's stopped! And now it's stopped!
The top is turning round, and round, and round,
Around yourself! Around yourself!
My heart is singing that on such a day
We should be wed! We should be wed!
Let's go, let's go! To the top we'll go!
Let's go, let's go! To the top we'll go!
Funiculi, funicula, funiculi, funicula!
To the top we'll go, funiculi, funicula!

Traditional English lyrics[edit]

Edward Oxenford, a lyricist and translator of librettos,[14] wrote lyrics with scant relationship to the original that became traditional in English-speaking countries.[12] His version of the song often appears with the title "A Merry Life".

Sheet music version

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!


  1. ^ The funicular was later destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 1944.[3]
  2. ^ According to one source, Denza was the son of the proprietor of the Quisisana.[4]
  3. ^ It charted for two weeks, reaching #87 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1961.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Meloncelli, Raoul (1990). "Luigi Denza". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). Retrieved 2015-01-26 – via 
  2. ^ Fuld, James J. (2000). The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (5th ed.). Courier. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-486-41475-1. 
  3. ^ Smith, Paul (March 1998). "Thomas Cook & Son's Vesuvius Railway" (PDF). Japan Railway & Transport Review: 10–15. Retrieved 2015-01-26. 
  4. ^ Nuova Antologia di Lettere, Scienze ed Arti (in Italian). Direzione della Nuova Antologia. 1908. p. 576. 
  5. ^ Randel, Don Michael (1996). The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-0-674-37299-3. 
  6. ^ Foreman, Edward (2001). Authentic Singing: The history of singing. Pro Musica. ISBN 978-1-887-11712-8. 
  7. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (2004). Slonimsky Yourke, Electra, ed. Nicolas Slonimsky: Russian and Soviet music and composers. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-415-96866-9. 
  8. ^ "273. Denza: Funiculi, funicula". Schoenberg Archives. Retrieved 2015-01-26. 
  9. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2008). Joel Whitburn Presents Across the Charts: The 1960s. Record Research. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-89820-175-8. 
  10. ^ Sherman, Robert B. (1998). Walt's Time: from before to beyond. Camphor Tree Publishers. p. 231. 
  11. ^ "Larry's High Silk Hat". Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  12. ^ a b Trager, Oliver (1997). The American Book of the Dead. Simon and Schuster. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-684-81402-5. 
  13. ^ a b Bivona, Mike (2013). Traveling Around the World with Mike and Barbara Bivona. iUniverse. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-4917-1041-8. 
  14. ^ Eyles, F. A. H. (1889). Popular Poets of the Period. Griffith, Farran, Okeden, and Welsh. p. 148. 

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