top of page


CANTIGAS SEPHARADIES, 1982, for female voice and chamber orchestra

<< Previous
Next >>

Publisher: Israel Music Institute, 1983, IMI 6401 | Duration: 12 min.

Listen on Sound Cloud >>

CD: Folkways Records FTS 37466, 1985
Mezzo-sopran: Bonita Hyman
The Yale Contemporary Ensemble

Conductor: Gisele Buka

”Cantigas Sepharadies” is the first part of the trilogy ”Cantes Amargos” (1984) by Betty Olivero, whose origins can be found in collections of Ladino folk songs, ballads and narratives. The symbolism in the text originally derived from Biblical metaphor and was then influenced by Spanish medieval poetry.

The lyrics were passed down orally through generations of the descendants of Jews who were banished from Spain in 1492.

This composition is based on the narrative of the catastrophic banishment of a Jewish people, a drama that was replayed over the centuries. The legend has undergone many transformations through time; what has survived is a set of lyrics veiled in transcendental mysticism. In ”Cantigas Sepharadies” the solo voice and bass clarinet engage in a dialogue of a distinctive character, which serves as a unifying element. This theme gradually incorporates the entire orchestral complement. In essence, the original motif is an unchanging constant, in the tradition of the passacaglia device.


Si la mar era de leche

Yo me haria un peshcador

Dame la mano tu palomba.

Pariera me la mi madre

En una escura montania,

Donde crece la naranja

Y el lemin y la cyndra.

De la mar salada vengo,

De passer solo a orillo del rio

Solo era solo

Como un arbole sin solombra

Alta alta va la una

Quando el sol salir queria

Arvoles yoran por luvia

Y montanias per aire.


If the sea flowed with milk

I would a fisherman be.

Give me your hand, sweet dove.

My mother bore me

By the dark mountainside

Where the orange tree grows

And the lemon and citron.

I came from the briny sea,

Passing alone by the river’s edge

Alone, I was alone,

Like a tree without its shade.

Higher, yet higher, travels the moon

When the sun wanted to shine

Tree wept for rain

And hills for the wind.

<< Previous
Next >>
bottom of page