Sarah Brightman - La califfa

Tu non credere perche
Questa crudelta di padroni
Ha visto in me
Solo una cagna che
Mi mett' anch'
Io alla tua catena

Se attraverso la città
Questa ipocrita, tua città
Il corpo mio
Che passa tra di voi
E' un invettiva contro la viltà

Tu ritroverai con me
La più splendida proprietà
Un attimo di sole sopra noi
Alla ricerca di te

music: Ennio Morricone
lyrics: Alberto Bevilacqua

From: La Luna (2000)
and from: La Luna: non-European version (2000)
The song also appears on the Korean version of Classics (2001) and on Amalfi: Sarah Brightman love songs (2010).

Source of the lyrics: the CD-booklet, correcting two printing errors.
See below the translation for some remarks about the possible origin of this song and the meaning of the title.


Translation into English

Unfortunately the La Luna CD-booklet gives no translation of this song.
As a first attempt, I used the AltaVista Translator, but that left a lot of words untranslated, yet it gave a good start. Thanks to Mikee Nuñez-Inton, David Smith and Andrea Di Simone the translation became complete -- some considerations are given below the translation. What we came up with is given below on the left.
The CD-booklet of the La Luna: non-European version does contain a translation of this song, and thanks to Julie Thompson I can give it here on the right:

The Lady Caliph

You do not believe, because
The owners' cruelty
Has seen in me
Only a dog,
That I will tie myself
To your chain.

When I cross the city,
This, your hypocritical city,
My body
That passes amidst of you all
Is a cry of anger against cowardice.

With me you will find once more
That most splendid property,
A moment of sunshine over all of us,
In search of you.

Don't believe because
the cruelty of the proprietors
has seen in me
just a dog, which
puts itself at your chain.

When I cross the city
this hypocrite, your city
my body,
which passes through both of you,
is an insult at cowardice.

You will find again
the most splendid possession,
a moment of sun above us
in search of you.

As you can see there are some differences, but the translation I came up with is not very different. All in all, however, I am not completely satisfied with the "official" translation on the right, as it seems to miss out some of the words (for example there is certainly a "You" at the beginning of the first line of the original), and the feeling is different.
The problem is, of course, that it is difficult to make a translation of a song, being on the one hand true to the words and on the other hand keep the feeling, the intention of the song. Personally I prefer the translation on the left, not because I took part in making it, but because it feels better to me.


Notes on song and translation

Some notes concerning the song and the translation, with many thanks to David Smith and others mentioned:
 >  Title and possible origin of the song
The word califfa in the title of the song is not an existing word in Italian. It is meant as a female form of califfo: the wive of the califfo, which means "Caliph" (or: "Khalif"). [With thanks to Arianna Franceschi.]
Since "the female caliph" does not sound very well and "the lady caliph" sounds more majestic, more regal, as seems to be the intention of the song, the latter has become the translated title.
A Caliph is a Muslim ruler. The word, generally spelled with a capital C, comes from the Arabic for substitute or deputy: the Caliph is the representative in absence of the Profet. The title is used by successors of Mohammed (c.570-632) as worldly leaders of the Muslim community and protectors of the law (they had no religeous authority).
"The caliphate of Baghdad reached its highest splendour under Haroun al-Raschid (786-809). From the 13th century the titles Caliph, Sultan, Imam came to be used indiscriminately, but in the 19th century Ottoman Sultans sought to revive their claim to the title, especially Abdul Hamid II (1876-1908). In 1924 the Turks declared the abolition of the Caliphate." -- Brewer's Consise Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, ed. Betty Kirkpatrick, Cassell Publishers Ltd., 1992.
Another point worth noting, adds David Smith, is "that there was an Italian film from the early seventies called La Califfa. During that period of time there were many dark films about how tough life was in socialist/communist Italy and I think that La Califfa film was about a woman who was badly treated by her husband but ultimately does well in the end." This may mean that the addressed "you" in the very last line could refer to a better world, with freedom and a good life for all.
Vibeke Patterson wrote me later that "La Califfa" is a film from 1970, and that the original music for the film was composed by Ennio Morricone. Information on the film can be found at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), where I see that the movie is also known as "Lady Caliph", so I made a good choice for the translation title ...
The film was directed by Alberto Bevilacqua (1934, Italy), who also wrote the words of this song and the scenario of the film, as well as a novel. The Lady Caliph was played by Romy Schneider (1938-1989, Austria). There is no mention of Morricone on the IMDb, nor is the story of the movie given.
Geoffrey Kidd sent later the story as it appears in the liner notes of the soundtrack album of the movie, which is written in not so very good English. Guessing a little as to what is meant, we think this summarises the story:
In the Emilia Country, the nickname "Califfa" is given to an unprejudiced and persevering woman. The "lady Caliph" [played by Romy Schneider] hates Doberdò [Ugo Tognazzi], the owner of the factory where her husband worked before he was killed by the police during a riot. She learns to respect Doberdò and the two become lovers. But in the end Doberdò is murdered by killers hired by other industrialists he stood up against because of his love for the "lady Caliph".
This story is not entirely in agreement with what David Smith remembers, which is written above. ('Emilia country' is a region in Italy.)
Geoffrey adds that "Morricone's soundtrack is absolutely stunning!".
Stephen Laws writes that his "belief has always been that - since the movie deals with industrial relations/strikes etc in Italy and (as I understand it), a woman taking over the running of a factory - the title means 'Lady Boss'."
That as title makes it sound rather uninspiring, I think: "Lady Caliph" has as title more to say, more strength.
Stephen adds that the songs has already been 'covered' as a vocal by the Italian singer Milva.
 >  Third line of the first stanza: "Ha visto -- has seen"
Unlike English, but like many other languages (Dutch, French, German, ...), Italian has a different word for the formal you (second person, plural) and the informal you (second person, single). In the formal sense "Ha visto" means "he/she has seen".
But the subject of "Ha visto" is "crudelta" and instead of saying that the owners think that she is a "cagna" (see next note), the author says that the cruelty of the owners has seen her as a cagna. So "Ha visto" does not mean "he/she has seen", but "it (the cruelty) has seen in me".
[Thanks to Jim Baxter and Andrea Di Simone.]
 >  Fourth line of the first stanza: "cagna -- dog"
Actually, "cagna" is "bitch", meaning "female dog". But since the word "bitch" when used in English is most often used in a degrading way, it is better to use "dog" here, and "herself" in the following line, to indicate it is a female dog -- although the actual Italian words translate as "myself". When Italians want to say "bitch" in the offensive meaning, they use the word "puttana" (=whore). [Thanks to Arianna Franceschi for info.]
 >  Fifth line of the second stanza: "invettiva -- cry of anger"
Translating "invettiva" here is not easy. Arianna Franceschi writes that it does not mean "insult" (=insulto) or "curse" (=maledizione), as I first wrote here, but comes from Latin and refers to the speaker's invective [=forceful attacking speech used for blaming someone for something and often including swearing] in the forum or in the Senate: a tough speech but without offending. Hence, using "cry of anger" is a good and poetical translation here.
Note that the "E' un" in the original lyrics is wrongly spelled in the CD-booklet as "Eun" and actually has no meaning.
 >  Second line of the third stanza: "proprietà -- property"
Translating "proprietà" is not an easy thing to do, as the meaning is not directly clear. The word can mean "property", as in an object (house, car, ...) owned, but it can also mean "correctness" as in being dressed correctly or smartly ("properly dressed", so the say). The use of "property" sounds perhaps strange here, but as Arianna Franceschi points out: overs use to say "I'm yours". In this line, "property" is used in both the spiritual and the materialistic meaning at the same time: "love". This meaning fits well with and perhaps even refers to the following lines: sunlight is something no one can steal.
Further, "più" means "more" or "most" and is the adjective to "splendida" (=splendid), both refering to "proprietà": "love", which is the greatest property there is.
Combining these notes, and looking to the poetics in connection with the rest of the stanza, translating "That most splendid property" works very well (though "la" actually means "the" rather than "that").
[Thanks to David Smith, Arianna Franceschi, Chad, Julie Thompson for help and info.]
 >  Fourth line of the third stanza: "te -- you"
This "you" keeps the poetical ambiguity in the stanza: it refers to the property "love" (previous note) and to sunlight, to freedom.

<=== The Sarah Brightman main page  /  CD index  /  lyrics index

Jos van Geffen -- Home  |  Site Map  |  Contact Me

created: 30 April 2000
last modified: 30 September 2010