E lucevan le stelle is the romanza of Mario Cavaradossi in the 3rd act of Tosca, the opera composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It is sung by Tosca's lover, the painter Mario Cavaradossi (tenor), while waiting for his coming execution.
Written in B minor, is one of the most famous opera arias.
The aria is introduced by a somber clarinet solo. The incipit of the melody (heard in outline earlier in the Act, as the sky lightens and the gaoler prepares for the execution) is repeated on the lines "O dolci baci, o languide carezze", and also restated forte in the closing bars of the opera, as Tosca jumps from the ramparts.
How the stars used to shine there,
How sweet the earth smelled,
The orchard gate would creak,
And a footstep would lightly crease the sand.
She'd come in, fragrant as a flower,
And she'd fall into my arms.
Oh! sweet kisses, oh! lingering caresses,
Trembling, I'd slowly uncover her dazzling beauty.
Now, my dream of love has vanished forever.
My last hour has flown, and I die hopeless!
And never have loved life more!
In 1920, the stage performer Al Jolson, together with Buddy de Sylva and Vincent Rose, wrote a popular song, "Avalon", about the town of the same name on Santa Catalina island. The following year, G. Ricordi, the publisher of Puccini's operas, sued all parties associated with the song, arguing that the melody was lifted from E lucevan le stelle. Puccini and his publisher prevailed in the case and were awarded $25,000 in damages and all future royalties for the song.