Anna Netrebko & Elīna Garanča sing Offenbach's Barcarolle

Anna Netrebko & Elīna Garanča – Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (Offenbach’s Barcarolle)

Russian operatic soprano Anna Netrebko and Latvian operatic lyric mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča sing German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach’s Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour, commonly known as Offenbach’s Barcarolle. It is a duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano from The Tales of Hoffmann, Jacques Offenbach’s final opera The piece is widely regarded as the most famous barcarolle ever written. The lyrics, concerning the beauty of the night and of love, is by Jules Barbier.

The piece opens The Tales of Hoffmann‘s third act, set in Venice. It is sung by the characters Giulietta – the protagonist Hoffmann’s love, a Venetian courtesan – and Nicklausse – Hoffmann’s poetic muse, in disguise as his faithful male companion. In addition to the Venetian location it sets the seductive and sinister tone of the Venice act in general and of Giulietta’s character specifically. The music reappears later in the act in a septet, “Hélas! Mon cœur s’égare encore,” which was constructed by editors of the opera.

“Belle nuit” is in the 6/8 time signature characteristic of barcarolles, allegretto moderato. Approximately a minute of musical introduction occurs before the melody appears, although a flute accompaniment figure which suggests the melody, “suspend[ing] time” and creating anticipation for the melody before it begins, is played throughout the piece. Although it is sung by a juvenile male character, Nicklausse, in a “breeches role”, and a female character, Giulietta, the fact of its being fundamentally a piece for two women’s voices, intertwining in the same octave, means that in productions where Nicklausse has been played by a male baritone instead of a female mezzo-soprano, his part has been reassigned to a chorus soprano.

A barcarole (from French, also barcarolle; originally, Italian barcarola, from barca ‘boat’) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. In classical music, two of the most famous barcaroles are Jacques Offenbach’s “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour”, from his opera The Tales of Hoffmann; and Frédéric Chopin’s Barcarole in F sharp major for solo piano. A barcarole is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier’s stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter.

Elīna Garanča
Elīna Garanča

Elīna Garanča (born September 16, 1976) is a Latvian operatic lyric mezzo-soprano. She was born into a musical family in Riga, Latvia, where her father was a choral conductor and her mother a singer, under whom she learned at the Latvian Academy of Music before continuing her studies in Vienna and the United States.

She is a consummate artist whose distinctively dark, sultry voice boasts a power and warmth to which her regal bearing and alluring looks provide the perfect counterpoise.

Anna Netrebko
Anna Netrebko

Anna Yuryevna Netrebko (born 18 September 1971) is a Russian operatic soprano. In 2007 she became the first classical musician to be selected as one of the Time 100, Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world.

Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (Offenbach’s Barcarolle) lyrics

French

Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour
Ô, belle nuit d’amour!
Le temps fuit et sans retour
Emporte nos tendresses
Loin de cet heureux séjour
Le temps fuit sans retour
Zéphyrs embrasés
Versez-nous vos caresses
Zéphyrs embrasés
Donnez-nous vos baisers!
Vos baisers! Vos baisers! Ah!
Belle nuit, ô, nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour,
Ô, belle nuit d’amour!
Ah! souris à nos ivresses!
Nuit d’amour, ô, nuit d’amour!
Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!

English translation

Lovely night, oh, night of love
Smile upon our joys!
Night much sweeter than the day
Oh beautiful night of love!
Time flies by, and carries away
Our tender caresses for ever!
Time flies far from this happy oasis
And does not return
Burning zephyrs
Embrace us with your caresses!
Burning zephyrs
Give us your kisses!
Your kisses! Your kisses! Ah!
Lovely night, oh, night of love
Smile upon our joys!
Night much sweeter than the day
Oh, beautiful night of love!
Ah! Smile upon our joys!
Night of love, oh, night of love!
Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!

Sources