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Quann’ a femmena vo’ Lyrics, Translation, and Sheet Music

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The lyric to “Quann’ a femmena vo’ ”

(When a Woman Has Decided to Do It/If a Woman Wants It)

The song is in Neapolitan.

Note, transcription and synopsis by Dr. Gian Paolo Nardoianni

I am sorry to say that Gigli’s Neapolitan (in this song, at least) is every bit as bad as his French (do you remember his “Vainement ma bien-aimée”?). He pronounces many words in an absolutely unintelligible way. The lyrics never were translated into Italian, let alone English.

What follows is an almost literal translation, with a little paraphrase here and there to make the text clearer:

Vincenzella tesseva a Fravòlanotte e ghiuorne vicino ‘o telare:

‘a spuletta faceva vulare

zuche zuchete zuchete zù (onomatopoeic words imitating the sound of the loom)

Faticanno sta bona guagliona

‘na canzona cantava d’ammore

cu ‘na voce ca propete ‘o core

mbarzamav’ e faceva accussì:

Turì turì turò turì turì turà (onomatopoeic words imitating the sound of the loom)

ai voglia ‘e dì no, ai voglia a spià

quann’ a femmena vò dint’all’uocchie t’ ‘o ffà!

A cunning flirtatious young girl called Vincenzella (=little Vincenza) is a weaver by trade and lives in Fravòla( Afragòla, near Naples). She weaves night and day sitting at her loom. She makes the spool fly. While working, this good girl sings a love song with a voice that just charms everybody’s heart and says: “You can say No as many times as you want, you can hire as many spies as you want: but if a woman wants it, she can cheat on a man under his very own eyes.”
Finalmente sta nenna spusajed’ o paese nu ricco cafone:

doppo ‘n anno ‘o facette barone!

zuche zuchete zuchete zu.

Chistu chiochiere jeva ‘n campagna

e lassava tessenn’ a mugliera:

quanno a casa turnava la sera

‘a truvava cantann’ accussì:

Turì turì turà turì turì turà

ai voglia a dì “No”, ai voglia a spià:

quanno a femmena vò dint’all’uocchie t’ ‘o fa.

At last the girl gets married to a rich peasant of her village. After a year, she makes him a cuckold. When in the morning her half-witted husband goes to work on his farm, he leaves his wife sitting at her loom, and when he gets home at night he finds her singing: “You can say No as many times as you want, you can hire as many spies as you want, but if a woman wants it, she can cheat on a man under his very own eyes.”
Suspettuse na sera turnaien’ora prima pe sta cchiù sicure

ma sentette purzì dint’ ‘o scure

nu vasillo azzeccuso accussì

piglie ‘a scatola, appiccia ‘o cerino

e tramente smiccea ‘a cannela

Vincenzella cummoglie c’ a tela

‘o ‘nterzetto e cantaje accussì:

Turì turì turà etc.

One evening, the man smells a rat and decides to return home an hour ahead of time. Once there, he hears in the dark the noise of a smack. He strikes a match and while, with the aid of a candle, he tries to peer into the half-light, Vincenzella hides her lover, covering him with her canvas and sings: “You can say No as many times as you want etc.”

Gian Paolo Nardoianni, MD, was born in Potenza, in the South of Italy, and studied piano at the local conservatory. After graduating from the University of Pavia with honors in medicine he devoted himself to orthopedics. He now lives and works in Potenza.

Special thanks to Professor Adriano Vargiu for providing a copy of the sheet music for the song.