The Three Tenors – Dark Eyes

Dark Eyes” (Russian: «Очи чёрные», Ochi chyornye; English translation: “Black Eyes“; Spanish translation: «Ojos negros»; French translation: « Les yeux noirs »; Portuguese translation: “Olhos Negros“; German translation: „Schwarze Augen“) is probably the most famous Russian romance song.

The lyrics were written by the Ukrainian poet and writer Yevhen Hrebinka. The first publication of the poem was in Hrebinka’s own Russian translation in Literaturnaya gazeta on 17 January 1843.

In “The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk”, published in 2000, the author, J.Fuld, mentions that a Soviet musicologist had reported to him that the song is not “a Russian Traditional song but a cabaret song”, published in a songs book by A. Gutheil in 1897 and mentioned, at p. 131, as a “Gypsy romance based on the melody of Florian Hermann’s Valse Hommage. Of the original melody author, Florian Hermann, not a single music score is known.

The most renowned and played version of this song was written by Adalgiso Ferraris, and published, when still in Russia in 1910, with German editor Otto Kuhl, as Schwarze Augen (Black Eyes). Ferraris then published it again in 1931 by Paris Editions Salabert, as “Tes yeux noirs (impression russe)” and with Jacques Liber, on Oct 9th, 1931.

Adalgiso Ferraris, an Italian-born British composer, had spent many years in Russia before 1915. The song became one of his major successes in the 1920s and 1930s, being also played by Albert Sandler, by Leslie Jeffries in 1939, and sung by Al Bowlly in 1939 with words of Albert Mellor.  Max Jaffa also recorded it.

Ferraris’s Dark Eyes was recorded by Harry Parry and his radio sextet in 1941, and that version is still played by many artists. Chet Atkins played an original interpretation of the song on electric guitar. Feodor Chaliapin also popularised the song abroad.

The song was briefly played by the Three Tenors in their 1990 concert in Rome.

Poem (original version by Hrebinka)

Ochi chornyye, ochi strastnyye,
Ochi zhguchiye i prekrasnyye!
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus’ ya vas!
Znat’ uvidel vas ya v nedobryi chas!
2.
Okh nedarom vy glubiny temnei!
Vizhu traur v vas po dushe moyei,
Vizhu plamya v vas ya pobednoye:
Sozhzheno na nyom serdtse bednoye.
3.
No ne grusten ya, ne pechalen ya,
Uteshitel’na mne sud’ba moya:
Vsyo chto luchshevo v zhizni Bog dal nam,
V zhertvu otdal ya ognevym glazam!