“Era de Maggio” a timeless masterpiece

by Umberto Rusciano

When it comes to the Neapolitan song, one cannot fail to mention "It was de May“, a poignant, profound, delicate love poem, a timeless masterpiece of which every Neapolitan keeps a precious memory. Born as a poem, written in 1885 by the poet Salvatore di Giacomo, was set to music by Maestro Mario Pasquale Costa and, in the same year, was presented at the Piedigrotta Festival, the most important musical event of the time. Success was immediate, it quickly became a timeless classic, a hymn of love interpreted over the years by the greatest of music Neapolitan and national, from Murolo to Battiato from Mina a Lucio Dalla, with the latter who came to compare the text of this song to the perfection of Petrarch's poems.

A sublime morning that addora 'and rose

Era de Maggio, stele in piazza Salvatore di Giacomo

Compared to the more famous serenades, the passionate songs played under the beloved's balcony in the evening, the song is part of the lesser known genre of the "mornings: of the most delicate and light compositions, such as remember the grace of a whispered morning greeting to the beloved. Love, in all its facets, is in fact the absolute protagonist of this poem, in which Di Giacomo tells us about the evolution of a couple's feelings of lovers. The text can ideally be divided into two parts: in the first part, we witness the sweet promises and at the last goodbye before a departure, imbued with love and pathos. In the second part there is the return and a new meeting, after one year between two. However, it will be a bitter return for man, in fact, he will make a terrible discovery. Everything is set and surrounded by the scents and colors of spring in May.

It was in May, the nostalgic memory of a sweet greeting

"Era de Maggio" un capolavoro senza tempo
Era de Maggio is part of the "matenate" genre

In the first part we are projected into an intimate and delicate moment. Two lovers meet in a garden to give each other a last goodbye before his departure, probably for the military draft. Poetry, with great effect, transmits the magic of that moment to us immersing the listener in the synesthesia of sensations that pervade that place at that moment: from the fresh air on the skin to the red of cherries, to the scent of roses typical of May, all punctuated by a harmony of feelings that play in unison like the hearts of the two lovers ("Na song cantàveme a doje voce“). The two promise each other a love that overcomes all distances and difficulties, with the girl who desperately wonders when she will be able to see her beloved again ("Core, core! My heart, luntano vaje, tu mme lasse and I count ll'ore ... who knows quanno turnarraje?") who he consoles her by making a promise: just as in May, after the cold of winter, the roses return, so after a year he would return, giving her an appointment in the same place the following May (“Turnaround when lli rrose return. Si stu sciore back in May, even in May I stóngo ccá“).

From May to May, the poignant fickleness of feelings

In the second part a year has now passed. After the cold of winter, spring is back, as well as the man who returns home, more in love than before and in search of the beloved whom with so much pain he had had to say goodbye the previous May. What should have been a moment of joy, coveted for a year, however, becomes a bitter discovery. The tones and verses become poignant and dramatic: the man discovers that time has changed the feelings of the woman who is no longer there waiting for him and the feelings towards him no longer correspond; memories overwhelm him and an incurable wound cuts through his heart ("De te, my beauty, mme 'nnammuraje, si t'allicuorde,' nnanze a la funtana: ll'acqua llà dinto, nun se sécca maje, and wound of love nun if healthy"). The distance broke and took over that love that seemed to be indissoluble but which actually turned out to be fickle like the changing of the seasons. Also in this case the song perfectly manages to convey the sensations described, from the dismay to the pain felt by the young man who is yearning for that love he still desires.

It was de May it is much more than a poem, it's much more than a song: it is a fresco on feelings, on love, on time. AND' a jewel of rare beauty that Di Giacomo and Costa have given listeners and dreamers of every generation and era, a masterpiece that fills our hearts every time we listen to it.

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