Where Can I Find an English Translation of the 'Va pensiero' Lyrics?

There are many English translations of the original «Va, pensiero» text from the opera Nabucco by Verdi. The «Va, pensiero» Verdi chorus is also known as the famous coro del Nabucco. English speaking opera lovers often refer to it as «The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves» from the opera Nabucco by composer Giuseppe Verdi.

The original «Va, pensiero» lyrics were written in Italian by the Nabucco opera librettist, Temistocle Solera (1815 – 1878). Today, it is a popular piece of opera music and a standard in the grand opera house repertoire.

A «Va, pensiero» translation of the Nabucco chorus lyrics is readily available. Please note, that the Verdi Nabucco «Va, pensiero» translation below has been done specifically for this website.

Read to Discover English Translations of 'Va pensiero'

 

'Va, pensiero' in English Translation and Original Italian

An English translation of the original 'Va, pensiero' chorus is required reading for anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of why this opera chorus is so popular.

'Va pensiero' in Original Italian 'Va pensiero' English Translation
Va', pensiero, sull'ali dorate; Hasten thoughts on golden wings.
Va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli, Hasten and rest on the densely wooded hills,
ove olezzano tepide e molli where warm and fragrant and soft
l'aure dolci del suolo natal! are the gentle breezes of our native land!
   
Del Giordano le rive saluta, The banks of the Jordan we greet
di Sionne le torri atterrate… and the towers of Zion.
Oh mia Patria sì bella e perduta! O, my homeland, so beautiful and lost!
O membranza sì cara e fatal! O memories, so dear and yet so deadly!
   
Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati, Golden harp of our prophets,
perché muta dal salice pendi? why do you hang silently on the willow?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi, Rekindle the memories of our hearts,
ci favella del tempo che fu! and speak of the times gone by!
   
O simile di Solima ai fati, Or, like the fateful Solomon,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento; draw a lament of raw sound;
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento or permit the Lord to inspire us
che ne infonda al patire virtù! to endure our suffering!

The translation from the original Italian into English was done for this website.

 

Do You Have a Ukrainian Translation of the 'Va pensiero' Text?

The main aim of this page is to share an English translation of the popular opera Hebrew Slaves Chorus by librettist Temistocle Solera (1815 – 1878) and composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901).

However! Yes, we do have a Ukrainian translation of 'Va pensiero' as well.

Va, pensiero – The Hebrew Slaves Chorus
Va, pensiero – The Hebrew Slaves Chorus

 

An Audio Recording to Accompany the English Translation

Listen to the famous Verdi chorus 'Va, pensiero' as you read the English language translation:

The above audio recording of 'Va pensiero', The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from the opera Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi was recorded LIVE at the Herkulessaal der Münchener Residenz, by the K&K Philharmoniker and K&K Opernchor in April 2005, conducted by Myron Yusypovych.

“Va pensiero” photo at the Lviv Opera published in 2012
Va pensiero” photo at the Lviv Opera published in 2012

The above image has been published with permission in What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know (2012) on page 203. If you are interested, there is a different English translation of the 'Va, pensiero' text in the book.

 

What are the Key Ideas in the Hebrew Slaves Chorus?

The ‘Va, pensiero’ chorus is popularly known as The Hebrew Slaves Chorus. In the opera story, the Hebrew slaves have been exiled into a foreign land. The famous Verdi chorus is the voice of the people of Judah as they lament their lost freedom.

The exiles yearn for their native land. The Hebrew slaves sing: “Oh mia Patria sì bella e perduta!”, which translated into English is: “O, my homeland, so beautiful and lost!”.

The Hebrews long for the beauty of the land of their forefathers. They sing: “ove olezzano tepide e molli l'aure dolci”, which in English translation is: “where warm and fragrant and soft are the gentle breezes”.

The slaves remember with nostalgia the history of their ancestors. The lyrics they sing are: “Le memorie nel petto raccendi, ci favella del tempo che fu!”. In English this means: “Rekindle the memories of our hearts, and speak of the times gone by!”.

Va pensiero lyrics in English: “Rekindle the memories of our hearts!”
Va pensiero lyrics in English: “Rekindle the memories of our hearts!”

Yearning, longing and nostalgia are key themes in the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, as written by Temistocle Solera, for the opera Nabucco, composed by Giuseppe Verdi.

In order to fully appreciate the tragic beauty of the coro del Nabucco (as the Italians call it), it is best to refer to an English translation of the original Italian as you listen to a performance.

 

Does Anything Get Lost in the English Translation?

There are those who claim that all texts should be read (or listened to) in their original language. Certainly, when texts are translated from one language to another they become different from the original. This is particularly true of texts that have a rhyme and rhythm.

Va pensiero – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
Va pensiero – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves

Today, most opera performances are staged in the original language. The audience is able to follow an electronic or paper translation as the performance is taking place.

However in the past, operas would be performed in translation. This was logical from the perspective of the audience. After all, they wanted to understand what was being sung on stage. On the other hand, from a performer’s point of view, translations are often very problematic to perform. Difficult for the opera singers to perform, but necessary for the audience.

Thanks to technology, we can now have both the original language sung and an English translation available to read.

Text by Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych

 

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