'O Mio Babbino Caro' Lyrics and Translation

From Puccini's 'Gianni Schicchi' Opera (1918)

Olga Makarina performing 'O mio babbino caro' from 'Gianni Schicchi.'
Hiroyuki Ito/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most opera fans will recognize "O Mio Babbino Caro" as one of the most popular soprano arias. Written by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, the aria appears in 1918's "Gianni Schicchi." This one-act opera, Puccini's only comedy, was inspired by Dante's epic poem "The Divine Comedy," and it tells the story of Gianni Schicchi, a man who lived in 13th-century Florence, Italy.

Dramatic Context

In Puccini's opera, Schicchi is consigned to hell for having impersonated a dead nobleman in order to steal his fortune. "O Mio Babbino Caro" is sung near the beginning of the performance, after relatives of the wealthy Buoso Donati gather around his bed to mourn his passing. In fact, they are only there to figure out to whom he has left his great fortune.

A rumor spreads that instead of leaving his accumulated wealth to his family, Donati is giving his entire fortune to the church. The family panics and begins frantically searching for Donati's will. Rinuccio, whose mother is Buoso Donati's cousin, finds the will but refuses to share its contents with any of his relatives.

Confident that he has been left a large sum of money, Rinuccio asks his aunt to allow him to marry Laurette, the love of his life and the daughter of Gianni Schicchi. His aunt tells him that as long as he has received an inheritance, she will allow him to marry Lauretta. Rinuccio happily sends a message inviting Lauretta and Gianni Schicchi to come to Donati's house. Then Rinuccio begins to read the will.

He is suprised to find out that he will not be becoming a rich man. Instead, Rinuccio learns that Donati's entire fortune will be bequeathed to a monastery. He is distraught, as this means he won't be allowed to marry Lauretta as his aunt promised. When Lauretta and Gianni Schicchi arrive, Rinuccio begs Gianni to help him regain Donati's fortune so that he may wed his beloved.

Rinuccio's family scoffs at the idea and begins arguing with Gianni Schicchi. Schicchi decides they are not worth helping, but Lauretta begs her father to reconsider by singing "O Mio Babbino Caro." In the lyrics, she declares that if she cannot be with Rinuccio she would rather throw herself into the Arno River and drown.

Italian Lyrics

O mio babbino caro,
mi piace, è bello bello,
vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!
Si, si, ci voglio andare!
E se l’amassi indarno,
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio
ma per buttarmi in Arno!
Mi struggo e mi tormento,
O Dio! Vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!

English Translation

Oh my dear father,
I like him, he is very handsome.
I want to go to Porta Rossa
to buy the ring!
Yes, yes, I want to go there!
And if my love were in vain,
I would go to Ponte Vecchio
and throw myself in the Arno!
I am pining and I am tormented,
Oh God! I would want to die!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!

At the song's conclusion, Schicchi conspires to hide Donati's body, impersonate the dead man, and rewrite the will so that the riches are given to Rinuccio instead of the church. Schicchi pulls off the scheme despite protests from the dead man's relatives. Now a wealthy man, Rinuccio is free to wed his beloved Lauretta.

The sight of the two lovers together so moves Schicchi that he turns to the audience to address them directly. He may be condemned to hell for his acts, he sings, but the punishment is worth it for the satisfaction of bringing the two lovers together. As the opera concludes, Schicchi seeks forgiveness, asking those in attendance to recognize the "extenuating circumstances."

Notable Performances

"O Mio Babbino Caro" is one of the most popular soprano arias in the history of opera and one whose melody is likely to get stuck in your head. There are hundreds if not thousands of videos and recordings of "O Mio Babbino Caro" available online, including performances by Sarah Brightman, Anna Netrebko, and Kathleen Battle.

One of the most famous renditions of the aria is by Dame Joan Hammond, whose recording was a bestseller. Montserrat Caballé recorded her own highly emotional version, as did Maria Callas.

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