Puccini’s only comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, moves like a torrent. In its skill and vitality it’s up to the best of Rossini and is evocative of Verdi’s Falstaff. But no matter the pace, the master from Lucca could, and seemingly was compelled, to write a great tune for his leading lady. And unlike Tosca’s Vissi d’arte which halts the action, ‘O mio babbino caro’ is the opera’s fulcrum. Despite its beauty it is integral to the plot.

Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, begs him to perpetrate the swindle which will provide the money which will allow her to marry Rinuccio – necessarily a tenor. The melody is so beautiful that even Mephisto the spirit of no couldn’t resist. So Schicchi changes his mind, he had previously said to to the fraud, and the opera continues.

Below are 9 interpretations of the aria. It’s basically a simple plea from a daughter to her father. And it should be simply rendered. Of course, it easily succumbs to diavaitis and is often subjected to lengthened phrases and held notes. I’ll start with two versions which are likely closest to what Puccini had in mind.  First Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – she’s best known for her Mozart and Strauss roles as well as her lieder singing. She only made occasional excursions to the Italian repertory. She also often had a rather unsteady vocal emission; but on this recording it’s not noticeable. Schwarzkopf O mio babbino caro

Maria Callas’s performance is from 1965 when her voice was well into its decline. But this aria doesn not make great technical demands, rather it requires interpretative and emotive skill which Callas had in abundance. Of all the versions presented in this piece, hers may be the best. Callas O mio babbino caro

Renata Tebaldi’s career was coterminous with that of Callas, though she lasted a bit longer. Her recording of this piece is full steam ahead and is the fastest of the lot. To my ears it lacks nuance. Tebaldi O mio babbino caro

Montserrat Caballé was famous for her beautiful piamissimi and her wide range of roles, though it wasn’t wide enough for Lauretta – 0r perhaps it was too wide. If Tebald’s reading was a sprint, Caballé’s is a marathon. Caballé O mio babbino caro

Another slow motion interpretation is that of the New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa. Her voice is beautiful, but there’s a little too much indulgence here. Te Kanawa O mio babbino caro

Kathleen Battle had a high soprano voice that was perfect for many of the opera of Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti. Her opera career came to an abrupt end when she was fired by the Met’s general manager Joseph Volpe for “unprofessional actions”; her career continued as a recital artist. As far a I know she never sang Lauretta onstage. This recording is from a recital. Battle O mio babbino caro

The Romanian singer Angela Gheorghiu is the personification of the tempestuous diva. She’s a Puccini specialist, though I don’t think she’s sung Lauretta onstage; it’s not that big a role. She has a rich and lustrous voice that is well fitted to the irresistible plea to Daddy. Gheorghiu O mio babbino caro

Anna Netrebko’s performance of this aria if from 2006 when she was still a lyric soprano. The big Verdi roles were still in her future – very well done, though on the slow side. Netrebko O mio babbino caro

Finally Renée Fleming – from a 2010 recital. This is another slow down, though the beauty of her voice seems to justify the rope-a-dope pace. Fleming O mio babbino caro

Nine is enough, though any soprano worth her ego wants to sing Puccini’s great melody. If you study hard enough you can learn to be proficient at almost anything related to music except how to write a great tune. A melodic gift like Puccini’s requires its bearer to be touched by God.


O mio babbino e caro,
mi piace, è bello, bello.
Vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!

Sì, sì, 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!

Oh my dear papa,
I love him, he is handsome, 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 the Ponte Vecchio
And throw myself in the Arno!

I am anguished and tormented!
Oh God, I’d like to die!
Papa, have pity, have pity!
Papa, have pity, have pity!