Isla de Capri (Isle of Capri)

I remember once stumbling upon this [see the photo above] aptly-named ice cream café on the streets of – you guessed it – Buenos Aires, and thinking to myself, “These people must be big fans of Fresedo!”. However, it is probably only in my autistic little inner world where such connections are indeed logical. After a short, but sobering inquiry on the internet, I recently found out there are a lot more “Isla de Capri” and Capri-referring ice cream parlors in the world, and I bet only few (read: none) of those have anything to do with Osvaldo Fresedo. Even in Buenos Aires, the awareness of what tango music really entails is much less widespread than it should be, based on how major it once indeed was as a kind of amazing and sophisticated folklore of a fascinating city.

OK guys, Capri, Italy, ice cream, Naples, pizza, blah blah, I get it. But I am a so much more noble tango snob, who thinks of different things when I see the title “Isla de Capri”! My personal theory is that it’s the song of a nostalgic Italian immigrant who praised the beauty of his native region in music and lyrics and …. WRONG! ….they sometimes say even an old dog can learn new tricks. Aware as I actually am (in contrast with the general population of Buenos Aires) of the grand heritage of tango music, this genre is full of unknown territory for me too. A while ago, I was listening to another version of this song and I noticed that especially the violins, but also the piano particularly reminded me of the typical melancholic style of European tangos. And that’s how I found out that in reality, “Isla de Capri” has a much different origin than I was expecting!

In fact, as some of you may actually already know, “Isle of Capri” is a European tango/popular song released in England in 1934 and composed by Wilhelm Grosz, an Austrian-Jewish refugee who had fled his homeland due to the looming threat of a Nazi takeover. Grosz worked together with an Irish/British lyricist to create an international hit that was then adapted by Fresedo as a dance tango in proper Argentine style. Interestingly enough, the lyrics of the English hit and its Argentine version are totally different – the Argentine version has its own poet listed and, as is often the case, it seems impossible to find any info about him (or a ‘her’ with a pseudonym, who knows…). This kind of adaptation of something foreign is not unique, considering there are other famous Fresedo, Canaro, Lomuto tracks that are actually European tangos or foxtrots, jazz or other genres. It’s good to realize that even though the world back then wasn’t as globalized as it is now, the world always has been a story of trends that move beyond borders.

And now some final words about “Isla de Capri”: even though its origin was foreign, I still like to think that, back then, the romantic, nostalgic lyricism of this song, combined with Fresedo’s magic and these Argentine lyrics, surely appealed to the masses of Italian immigrants living in Argentina. For them, and even for us nowadays, this song is a great chance to dream away, and I hope my translation below will help you to fully understand its charm.

Isla de Capri (Isle of Capri)
Composition: Will Grosz
Lyrics: Miguel Ángel del Valle

(Yo tuve un amor,
sueño embriagador,
en una isla de Capri.
Paisaje azul
rebosante de luz.
Mi canción de amor
dulce desgrané
en el perfume de Capri
y mi querer
en sus ojos canté.)

(I once had a love,
an intoxicating dream,
on the Isle of Capri.
A blue landscape,
of dazzling light.
I sweetly declared
my song of love
in fragrant Capri,
as I sang my adoration
to her eyes.)

Labios de miel que besaron mis labios,
ojos de sol que me hicieron soñar
y en la emoción de sus besos tan sabios
desglosaba mi alma un cantar.
Y así, los dos por senderos de dicha,
bajo ese cielo radiante de amor
vivimos juntos un suave romance
que duró lo que dura una flor…
¿Y dónde estarás ahora
acordándote de mí?
Mientras mi querer te llora
vuela mi ilusión hacia ti.

Honey lips that kissed my lips,
sun bright eyes, making me dream…
and in the ardour of her knowing kisses
my soul broke into a song.
And so, together on pathways of bliss,
under a radiant sky of love,
we enjoyed a sweet romance
that only lasted as long as a flower.
And… where are you now,
thinking of me?
While my love cries for you,
my hope flies to your side.
my emotions fly to your side.

(Labios de miel que besaron mis labios,
ojos de sol que me hicieron soñar
y en la emoción de sus besos tan sabios
desglosaba mi alma un cantar.
No puedo olvidar
horas que viví
en una isla de Capri…
Cuánta emoción
desbordó mi canción,
ansias de vivir
dulce recordar
de gratas horas pasadas
y revivir
en un beso un cantar.)

(Honey lips that kissed my lips,
sun bright eyes, making me dream…
and in the ardour of her knowing kisses
my soul broke into a song.
I shall never forget
those days I spent
on the Isle of Capri.
My singing overflowed
with such strong emotion,
a yearning to live.
It’s sweet to remember
those pleasant times
and to relive
a song in a kiss.)

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1 Comment

  1. Terence Meinrath

     /  September 23, 2022

    Lots of good info here, Lucas.


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