September 16, 2011

“Stelutis Alpinis” (Alpine Edelweiss)

Edelweiss - The flower of the Alps
It’s what might be called a modern madrigal, more precisely a modern villotta, in fact it has most of the characteristics of the rustic song form which first became current in the early 16th century in northern Italy. But most of all this song is a cornerstone of the Alpini choral repertoire, and a sort of national anthem for the Friulian people, in whose dialect—or language, as my friends from Friuli would say—it was written by Arturo Zardini, a primary school teacher, back in 1920.

“Stelutis Alpinis” (meaning edelweiss, the flower which symbolizes the Alps) tells the story of a dead soldier of WWI who asks his wife to pick up an edelweiss from the place where he was buried, somewhere over the mountains: “Pick one of those edelweiss / It will remind you of our love…” That’s why when someone dies on the mountains Friulans sing this song at the funeral—while in the other Italian Alpine regions they usually sing “Signore delle cime,” yet another sad but very beautiful song of the Alpini.

“Stelutis Alpinis” is such a beautiful song that it has been adapted and performed in many different ways, in both choral and solo modes. Here are a couple of examples. The first is a traditional version, performed by the choir of the Brigata Alpina “Julia” (subtitled in English), the latter is a wonderful rendition (and adaptation) by the Italian singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori. The song is included in the album Prendere o lasciare (1996).

P.S. Needless to say, this post is especially dedicated to Italian legendary climber Walter Bonatti (R.I.P.), whose funeral will be held tomorrow in Lecco.