The haunting duet that Morris and Catherine sing in Holland’s Washington Square is not a famous number by Verdi or anything. The music was written by the composer who did the rest of the score, Jan Kaczmarek. The lyrics are taken from a poem by the Nobel-prize-winning Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-68), titled “Tu Chiami Una Vita”:
Fatica d’amore, tristezza,
tu chiami una vita
che dentro, profonda, ha nomi
di cieli e giardini.
E fosse mia carne
che il dono di male trasforma.
The following translation is my improvement on one that I found online:
Weariness of love, sadness,
You evoke a life
That within, deep inside, has the names
Of skies and gardens.
As though it were my flesh
That the gift of evil transforms.
<<By contrast, in The Heiress, the song, “Plaisir d’Amour,” sung solo by Morris, is eighteenth century (1784), with music by the minor French composer JPE Martini, of a poem by Claris de Florian. It’s very familiar because it has been sung by everyone from Joan Baez to Brigitte Bardot, and has appeared in half a dozen other films.>>
There is also a French song in Washington Square. We hear it at 64.33 as a musical bridge between the “Carnival in Paris” scene, through a short scene where Catherine buys sheet music (where we see the soprano who is singing it), into the scene in Paris where Catherine is having her white wedding dress fitted. Again the music is by Jan Kaszmarek, the words are taken from a poem, “Absence,” by the nineteenth-century French poet Theophile Gautier:
Reviens, reviens, ma bien-aimée !
Comme une fleur loin du soleil,
La fleur de ma vie est fermée
Loin de ton sourire vermeil.
Entre nos cœurs tant de distance !
Tant d’espace entre nos baisers !
Ô sort amer ! ô dure absence !
Ô grands désirs inapaisés !
D’ici là-bas, que de campagnes,
Que de villes et de hameaux,
Que de vallons et de montagnes,
À lasser le pied des chevaux !
In English that would go: “Return, return, my beloved! Like a flower far from the sun,/ the flower of my life is closed, / far from your rosy smile. / Between our hearts such a distance/ So much space between our kisses / O bitter fate, o hard absence/ O great desires unfulfilled/ From here to down there / So many towns and hamlets / So many valleys and mountains / To exhaust the feet of the horses.”
One other song needs to be mentioned: the one Catherine is too nervous to sing on her father’s birthday….
Catherine’s solo performance
It’s the very same song–“Tale of a String”–that she performs on the piano together with the chorus of appreciative children in the “day care center” she runs in her Washington Square parlor. (Lyrics are by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, music by the versatile Jan Kaszmarek.)