Wenecja in Warszawa

On June 20 opera buffs celebrate – or should at the very least are grateful for – the birth of Jacques Offenbach: Composer and cellist, he was one of the originators of the operetta form, a precursor of the modern musical comedy. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850’s–1870’s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann.

He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffman remains part of the standard opera repertory.

I particularly recall the very first time I relished my witnessing the thrilling performance of the opera in a stunning production at the Warsaw National Theater that includes the magnificent Opera House. One couldn’t imagine that the original complex had been completely destroyed during World War II.

What stood out to my mind was Act IV that takes place in Venice, and begins with Hoffmann on the balcony of a palace, overlooking the Grand Canal. Below, Nicklausse and the glamorous courtesan Giulietta are floating in a gondola. Hoffmann listens as the two sing the gentle Barcarolle, “Beautiful Night of Love”, the opera’s most famous melody – here it is on YouTube performed by soprano Anna Netrebko and mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume and Prague Philharmonic Choir; Chorus Master: Lukas Vasilek. 

I had to pinch myself to make sure I had not been transplanted to Italy, since the wizards back stage had, using visual effects, transformed the setting into a Venetian canal – truly, on  a lovely night, a famous part of Vienna right in the middle of Warsaw! Wenecja in Warszawa!!

A barcarolle is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style.

Lyrics & Translation
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!

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!

Dear Readers:
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Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas