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
and on Amalfi: Sarah Brightman love songs
Source of the lyrics: the CD-booklet, correcting two printing
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
As a first attempt, I used the
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,
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
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
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
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:
This story is not entirely in agreement with what David Smith remembers,
which is written above. ('Emilia country' is a region in Italy.)
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".
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
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.
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created: 30 April 2000
last modified: 30 September 2010