“Va pensiero” Lyrics in the Verdi Opera Nabucco

The Va pensiero lyrics are an integral part of the Verdi opera Nabucco. A classical opera in the Italian opera repertoire, the Verdi Nabucco opera has some of the best opera music ever written.

The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves in the opera Nabucco has lyrics by Temistocle Solera (1815-1878) and opera music by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). And yes, Va pensiero is one of the most popular opera songs in the classical opera music repertoire.

Taken from ancient Biblical sources, the opera chorus Va, pensiero lyrics are a favourite opera song with choirs around the world. Join us in discovering the Nabucco Verdi opera and Va pensiero – the Verdi chorus of the Hebrew slaves.


Discover Interesting Facts About the Va Pensiero Lyrics

As you discover interesting facts about the Va pensiero lyrics, we invite you to listen to opera music online.

The above recording of Va, pensiero is sung by the K&K Opernchor and K&K Philharmoniker. It is a LIVE performance from the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany under the musical direction of Myron Yusypovych (Myron Jussipowitsch).


What Are the Original Va pensiero Lyrics?

The original Va, pensiero lyrics, as sung in the Verdi opera Nabucco are:

Va', pensiero, sull'ali dorate;
Va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l'aure dolci del suolo natal!

Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate…
Oh mia Patria sì bella e perduta!
O membranza sì cara e fatal!

Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!

O simile di Solima ai fati,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento;
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù!


What Was the Literary Inspiration for the Va pensiero Lyrics?

Va pensiero – the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – was inspired by Psalm 137 of the Book of Psalms from the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Greek Catholic), it is marked as Psalm 136.

In the Psalm, the people of Judah mourn their lost feedom and their exile on the banks of the Euphrates River.

 King James’ Version Catholic Bible
137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept; when we remembered Sion.
137:2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments.
137:3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. And they that carried us away, said: Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.
137:4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?

Va, pensiero on the Lviv Opera House Stage
Va, pensiero on the Lviv Opera House Stage


What do the Va pensiero Lyrics Mean?

The Va pensiero lyrics are a lament by the captive Hebrews – the people of Judah. The people of Judah were one of the twelve Tribes of Israel.

According to tradition, the people of Judah were descendants of Judah (the fourth son of Jacob) and his wife Leah. Traditionally, the people of Judah worshipped one God and accepted that they were His Chosen People.

In 586 BC, after a 3 year siege, the city of Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed. The people of Judah were taken captive, exiled into Babylon and became slaves.

Va pensiero Lyrics
Va pensiero Lyrics

According to oral and written tradition, the people of Judah believed their exile into Babylon was a punishment by Jehovah for the sin of worshipping other deities. Accordingly, only after repenting were the Judah allowed to return to Jerusalem.

In the opera Nabucco the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves is central in the saga of freedom lost, repentance and renewal. The Va pensiero lyrics convey this key idea.


Who Wrote the Original Va, pensiero Lyrics?

The Va pensiero lyrics, also known as the famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, were written by Temistocle Solera (1815-1878).

According to the music and opera researcher, Andriano Cavicchi (a new window will open), Temistocle Solera was a:

  • poet
  • circus performer,
  • orchestra conductor,
  • opera impressario,
  • police deputy,
  • counsellor to the Queen of Spain,
  • antique dealer, and,
  • opera librettist.

Temistocle Solera was born:

  • on Christmas Day (December 25, 1815);
  • in the town of Ferrara in present-day northern Italy;
  • into a family that was involved with the moti carbonari – an underground network of revolutionary groups active in Italy during 1800-1831;
  • six months after the conclusion of the Congress of Vienna, which put the regions of present-day northern Italy under Hapsburg rule.

Temistocle Solera – Author of Va pensiero Lyrics
Temistocle Solera – Author of Va pensiero Lyrics

Why are these details about T.Solera's birth important?

They are important because they provide additionaly context for the lyrics of the opera Nabucco and specifically, – the Va pensiero chorus.

The libretto of the Verdi opera Nabucco is based on a 19th century Italian ballet and French play. However, neither the ballet, nor the play have the Va pensiero scene. The addition of this famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, in which the people of Judah mourn and lament the loss of their native land, is entirely Temistocle Solera’s!!!


Is it True that the Va, pensiero Lyrics have Political Undertones?

There is considerable amount of controversy surrounding the lyrics of the Va pensiero chorus and whether or not, the political tones attributed to it had any basis in the original writing and performance.

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

There are those who claim that because of the Va pensiero chorus, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) became associated with the Risorgimento (1815-1870) – a movement that inspired and led the unification of Italy. On the other hand, there are those who claim that Verdi’s fame was simply manipulated by various political forces and that he had nothing to do with the calls for Italian unification and release from imperial domination by French and Austrian powers.

But, what about the actual Va, pensiero lyrics and chorus?

This desire for freedom from foreign domination is certainly evident in the Va pensiero lyrics. Considering the fact that Temistocle Solera (1815-1878) was:

  • born into a politically active family
  • had a father who was arrested in 1821 on political grounds, imprisoned and exiled when Temistocle was 6 years old
  • sent to an imperial boarding school by the Hapsburg authorities from which he subsequently ran away
    would indicate that the inclusion of the Va, pensiero lyrics was not coincidental.

For anyone who has studied and/or observed human behaviour, it is not logical to claim that individuals ignore their childhood experiences. Childhood events, particularly traumatic childhood events, would have certainly impacted on a young and highly talented boy and influenced his later life.

But, that is a story and dicussion for a different time. Stay tuned for further discussions about the Va pensiero lyrics!

Text by: Oksana A.Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych


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