[Monday Notes no. 164] Reginella is a Neapolitan song composed in 1917 by Libero Bovio and Gaetano Lama. The song is therefore more than a hundred years old, but has not lost its charm. We analyse the interpretation of Reginella by Roberto Murolo, the greatest exponent of traditional Neapolitan song.
Reginella has a three-quarter time, a waltz tempo. As always, Roberto Murolo adapts the accompaniment to the text, thus with frequent rallentandos or even real stops. With these fermatas, Murolo reinforces the content of the text, emphasising the great melancholy that afflicts the protagonist of the song.
In fact, the singer tells of meeting the old lover by chance and finding her much changed. The woman wears fashionable clothes and speaks French, while walking through the city centre. When they were together, the two lovers were poor, but their love was enough to make them happy.
In remembering those moments, the singer confides to a canary that belonged to his beloved but remained with him. Eventually, the man opens the cage and releases the canary, as if to let go of that memory of the past, and the sadness that it evokes in him.
At the same time, the song says that even the woman, albeit absent-mindedly, thinks of and calls her old lover from time to time. Perhaps she is not so happy, despite the fancy clothes and society life.
The piece is divided into two sections and is in the key of G major. The melody moves mainly by step motion, with few jumps and always remaining within an octave. It is therefore an easy song to sing, as it does not require a great vocal extension.
At the end of the verse (part A), the piece briefly modulates to the key of B minor, III degree of the G scale, and then to that of D major, V degree of the initial key. Part B, or the refrain, remains in the key of G major. From a harmonic point of view, the piece is thus rather simple; however, we note the use of the secondary dominants E7 (V/II) and A7 (V/V).
Reginella is a love song, it is about a love that has ended, but it does not tell us why. The song reads ‘now we don’t love each other anymore’, but perhaps the singer is still a little in love, since he feels so much nostalgia. The woman too, however, retains the memory and melancholy of this love. Libero Bovio’s text has multiple interpretations, despite being very short and concise.
Reginella is therefore a small masterpiece, skilfully rendered by a great performer. Roberto Murolo always tells the story he sings, the lyrics guide his every note, whether sung or played. A great storyteller, who helped to spread and make eternal the popular Neapolitan song.
Until next Monday!