Canzoni da Battello – Gondola Songs

Did you know that “La Biondina in gondoleta” was written for this lady?

Gondola Songs

J.J. Rousseau, a French philosopher and writer from the 18th century, described in his Dictionary of Music how traditional boat songs, barcarolles, were originally sung by Venetian gondoliers who would listen to popular arias in the many theaters throughout the city and attempt to imitate their singing idols.

The “Canzoni da Battello” are pieces of music characterized by a simple melodic and harmonic structure written over poetic texts in Venetian dialect. Thanks to these characteristics the songs became very popular from the mid 1700s onwards.

The songs were intended for various occasions; the most elaborate ones were written in verses by poets and transformed into serenades for lovers and they were often performed by professional singers on gondolas or other types of boats, which might further explain the reason to why they are called boat songs.

At times the gondoliers themselves were the authors of the lyrics. During the long period of the Carnevale they would carry masked passengers in their gondolas and offer their spontaneous singing, which is a custom that very few, if any, gondoliers have maintained today.

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