Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Gondoliers

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Act I

Gondolieri, carissimi!

Pronunciation: gohn-dole-YEH-ree, cah-REES-ee-mee!

Dearest gondoliers!

Siamo contadine!

Pronunciation: see-AH-moe cohn-tah-DEEN-eh!

We are only peasant girls!

Servitori umilissimi!

Pronunciation: sair-vee-TORE-ee oom-ee-LEES-ee-me!

We are your most humble servants!

Per chi questi fiori –– Questi fiori bellissimi?

Pronunciation: pair KEE qwes-tee fee-OH-ree bell-EES-ee-me?

For whom are these really lovely flowers?

Per voi, bei signori, O eccellentissimi!

Pronunciation: pair voy, bay seen-YORE-ee, oh etch-ell-enn-TEE-see-me!

For you, O gracious and charming gentlemen!

O ciel’!

Pronunciation: oh TSCHEL!

Oh Heaven!

Buon’ giorno, cavalieri!

Pronunciation: cah-vahl-YEHR-ee!

Good morning, gentlemen!

Siamo gondolieri

We are only gondoliers.

Signorina, io t’ amo!

Pronunciation: seen-yore-EEN-ah, EE-oh TOM-oh!

Young lady, I love you!

Contadine siamo

We are only peasant girls.




Peasant girls! (Remember, the girls are speaking here –– demurely coy.)





Poveri gondolieri!

Pronunciation: POE-very

Just poor gondoliers! (Now it’s the men’s turn to be modest.)

Vagary [But that’s a vagary]

A caprice.

Honorary [It’s quite honorary]

Without reference to pay. In their opening duet Marco and Giuseppe are saying in effect, “Ostensibly we earn our living as gondoliers, but truth to tell we do it just for amusement, and the resulting income is strictly incidental.”

Short-coated [Since we were short-coated]

The OED (229) and Collins (75) associate short coating with infant attire. Chambers (72), on the other hand, notes that gondoliers wear short coats; so the expression may refer to their becoming gondoliers. That seems a more likely interpretation, given that in their next line they refer to being devoted to [feminine] beauty.

Nooning [At summer’s day nooning]

The OED (229) offers three alternative meanings, any one of which would fit the context: (a) noontide, (b) a noonday meal, (c) a mid-day interval for rest or food.

Weary lagooning [When weary lagooning]
Sketch of Weary lagooning

This is short for “when weary of lagooning,” which is short for “when weary of propelling our gondolas on the lagoon.” (The lagoon is the sheltered water surrounding Venice.)