(Caroline Helton, soprano and Kathryn Goodson, piano, from their CD, La Tregua: Songs from a Lost World by Italian Jewish Composers, Vol. II, Blue Griffin Records)
Massarani’s Quattro Canti Veronesi were published in 1934 and set to texts taken from old “villotte popolari. A villotta is a type of 16th-century Italian secular song that has its origins in folk music and is often characterized by bawdy texts and dance rhythms. As is also common in villotte, these songs identify themselves with a specific locality, in this case by using the dialect of Verona, which is characterized by a lack of double consonants and the diminutive “-eto” ending, along with other vowel and consonant differences from modern standard Italian.
Each of these songs features earthy folk characters speaking in first-person. In “Ve la conto e ve la canto,” a rather confident young woman is rebuffing an older suitor. Massarani uses mixed and asymmetrical meters as well as a skillful variation of syllabic and melismatic text setting to fluidly and sincerely capture the voices and personalities of each of these characters from 16th-century Verona.
Sior coso, ve la conto, e ve la canto.
Sî massa longo, e questo no’l me piase.
Sî massa seco, e questo no’l me piase.
Vu sì poareto, e questo l’è un gran male,
E po’ sì vecio, e questo fa gran dano.
La conclusion la sluse fa ‘na stela,
Che vu sì bruto, e mi giovene e bela.
Mister, I’ll tell it to you and I’ll sing it to you.
You are too lanky and I don’t like that.
You are too skinny and I don’t like that.
You are poor and that’s really bad,
And then you’re old, and that does great harm.
The conclusion is as clear and bright as a star,
That you are ugly, and I’m young and beautiful.