Giovanni Ermete Gaeta – Canzone serba / Srpska pesma

edited by Giordano Merlicco

Italian original with Serbian text on the front

A meeting of Serbian exiles in Thessaloniki, during the First World War: while they make music, drink, discuss, prepare to fight back against the Austro-Hungarian occupation, the tragedy of a couple of traitor-lovers unfolds. Surprising one-act drama of patriotic inspiration and Balkan setting, full of learned references to Serbian history and culture, forgotten work by the author of Canzone del Piave.

THE BOOK: The famous Neapolitan lyricist Giovanni Gaeta set this, which is probably his only prose work, in the context of the Serbian exile during the First World War. The Serbian army had been forced by the Habsburg attack to retreat through Albania, then reaching the Macedonian front (April 1916 – September 1918), from where the assault towards the North was launched, for the liberation of the Motherland. Precisely in that period the author, in contact with Trieste environments, must have picked up the epic-literary suggestions already made his own by D’Annunzio (see Ode to the Serbian Nation) and elements of Serbian culture also of an ethno-musical nature, to translate them into this short theatrical piece published in Naples in 1918. With the chance discovery of this text by the translator in the 1990s, and with its bilingual publication, to allow the public to also become aware of it of the Serbo-Croatian language, an extraordinary document full of meaning is returned to the history of the two literatures and to the history of the international Risorgimento brotherhood. The Mazzini and Garibaldi ideal, shared by the author, was based on solidarity between peoples and, as regards Italians and Yugoslavs, as Sandro Pertini will point out, brotherhood was established not only in the hard years of the First World War, but at the height of the Italian Risorgimento, when Giuseppe Mazzini published his Slavic Letters in 1857 and predicted with extreme lucidity that the movement for independence of the Southern Slavs would be the most important, after the Italian, for the future Europe.

Giovanni Ermete Gaeta (Napoli 1884-1961), of humble origins, he showed musical and poetic talent at a very young age.
In his long career he wrote the lyrics for over 2000 songs, for many of which he was also the author of the melody. The lyrics of famous Neapolitan songs such as A Mergellina, Santa Lucia luntana, Canzone napolitana, Io ‘na guitar e ‘a luna, even Tammurriata nera (1945, made even more famous by the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare), as well as the lyrics of several songs with a patriotic theme including the very famous Canzone del Piave (1918). From 1904 onwards he used the pseudonym E.A. for all his works. Mario, with whom he became famous but never rich, since due to the needs of treating his wife’s illness he soon had to sell the rights to his main works.

author: Giovanni Ermete Gaeta
title: Canzone serba / Srpska pesma
edited by: Giordano Merlicco
Serbian translation: Mirjana Jovanović Pisani e Igor Pisani
price: 15,00 €
pages: 128
ISBN: 9788831492249