Tuesday, 22 June 2010

One lovely black eye

It was not until I acquired this the other day (an accident: no other parties were involved) that I realised just how much amusement the sight of one of these evokes: half a dozen total strangers smiled at me when they saw mine and some ventured a friendly jibe such as "Auditioning for the panda role, are you?"; my retort in every case was the feeble "You should see the other guy".

I knew that two of these were the subject of a comic song made famous by Charles Coborn in 1886, Herman's Hermits, and others, and that the original tune was Italian, so I looked it up. It was called Vieni Sul Mar, and to my delight I found that there was a recording of it made by Tito Schipa, whose incomparable elegance and style made him my favourite tenor years ago. When you listen to a modern tenor (or three) giving his all you might well think "What a marvellous voice!", but when Schipa sings you think only "What a beautiful song!".

You can find the recording HERE, together with the Italian words, which make no mention of any lovely black eyes.

[Очи чёрные is sometimes translated as Black Eyes so this gives me an excuse for providing a link to a loud and passionate version of the song, in Russian with English subtitles, with an incomprehensible video in which a half-naked hussy prances about, putting a silly hat on one young man and then hitting another one in the face. It is sometimes described as a Russian gypsy folk song; in fact the words and music were written respectively by a Ukrainian poet, Yevhen Hrebinka, and a German composer, Florian Hermann. The poem was first published in 1843.]

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