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The Neapolitan

The mandolin

Authors of Neapolitan songs


Vincenzo Russo

(march 18, 1876, Naples – june 11, 1904, Naples)

Neapolitan poet Vincenzo Russo was born on march 18, 1876 in Naples, in the poor family. His father Giuseppe was a shoemaker, mother Lucia was a housewife. The harsh living conditions in the old house were a cause of his frequent illness, therefore Vincenzo Russo didn't attend school. But nevertheless he got necessary level of education at the evening courses for workers.

After father's death, to support the family, Vincenzo Russo was compelled to work as a glover and forget the poetry until he has met the composer Eduardo Di Capua, famous for music for the song "'O sole mio". The friendship and collaboration of these authors had become a result of many neapolitan songs, including "Maria, Marì", "'A serenata d' 'e rrose", "Torna maggio" and "I' te vurria vasà", in which Vincenzo Russo had described his secret love to Henrichetta Marchese, jeweller's daughter who lived in the neighbourhood. Every sunday, making her way to the church, Henrichetta Marchese was asking a coachman for slowing down, passing by Vincenzo Russo's window. She wanted to have a look at the poet. Meeting not indifferent eyes of girl, Russo understood his love is mutual and had written: I' te vurria vasà (I would like to kiss you), knowing the big difference between social classes which leads Henrichetta's father to never give his consent to the marriage with the poor poet. But not only the difference of social position made him keep silence; because of painful illness Russo had never made to Henrichetta a declaration of love.

The turn of the century, december 31, 1899, Vincenzo Russo was in a bed, in fever. January 1, 1900 Eduardo Di Capua came to visit him and persuaded him to go to cafè-chantant (a type of musical establishment) where another neapolitan composer Armando Gill was playing his songs. At the exit of cafè-chantant Vincenzo Russo put in Eduardo Di Capua's pocket his verses I' te vurria vasà.

Eduardo Di Capua and
Vincenzo Russo
Twenty four hours were needed to Eduardo Di Capua to set the music to these verses and the next day he has presented it to the poet. "I was imagining it just so", Vincenzo Russo said.

In june of 1904 Vincenzo Russo was already very ill. With difficulty he got out of bed and went to the window to see the church, adorned with flowers: Henrichetta was getting married to another. He was unable anymore to stand upright, he came back to bed, called his brother-in-law and begged him to take a paper. Vincenzo Russo was dictating to him his last verses:

For me everything is over.
Goodbye, beautiful times!
Goodbye, roses and violets,
I say goodbye to you!

which he named "Ll'urdema canzona mia" (My last song).

Vincenzo Russo died of tuberculosis on june 11, 1904 at the age of 28 years old. The sheet of paper with text of his last song, addressed to Eduardo Di Capua, in unknown ways had ended up in Henrichetta's hands. She put it into a locket and was wearing it to the end of her days.