Dark Eyes (song)

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"Dark Eyes" (Russian: «Очи чёрные», Ochi chyornye; transl. "Black Eyes") 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.[1] Of the original melody author, Florian Hermann, not a single music score is known.[2]

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).[3][4] Ferraris then published it again in 1931 by Paris Editions Salabert, as "Tes yeux noirs (impression russe)"[5] and with Jacques Liber, on Oct 9th, 1931.[6][7]

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.[8][9] Max Jaffa also recorded it.[10][11][12][13]

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. It has become one of the signature songs of opera baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in his concerts.

Poem (original version by Hrebinka)[edit]

Russian Transliteration Translation
Очи чёрные, очи страстные,
Очи жгучие и прекрасные!
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас!
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час!
Ох, недаром вы глубины темней!
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нём сердце бедное.
Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Всё, что лучшего в жизни Бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам!
Ochi chornyye, ochi strastnyye,
Ochi zhguchiye i prekrasnyye!
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas!
Znat' uvidel vas ya v nedobryi chas!
Okh nedarom vy glubiny temnei!
Vizhu traur v vas po dushe moyei,
Vizhu plamya v vas ya pobednoye:
Sozhzheno na nyom serdtse bednoye.
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!:
Black eyes, passionate eyes,
Burning and beautiful eyes!
How I love you, how I fear you,
It seems I met you in an unlucky hour!
Oh, not for nothing are you darker than the deep!
I see mourning for my soul in you,
I see a triumphant flame in you:
A poor heart immolated in it.
But I am not sad, I am not sorrowful,
My fate is soothing to me:
All that is best in life that God gave us,
In sacrifice I returned to the fiery eyes!

The following is a metrical translation (i.e. one that can be sung to the melody).

Oh, these gorgeous eyes, dark and glorious eyes,
Burn-with-passion eyes, how you hypnotise!
How I adore you so, how I fear you though,
Since I saw you glow! Now my spirit’s low!

Darkness yours conceal mighty fires real;
They my fate will seal: burn my soul with zeal!
But my love for you, when the time is due,
Will refresh anew like the morning dew!

No, not sad am I, nor so mad am I;
All my comforts lie in my destiny.
Just to realise my life’s worthiest prize
Did I sacrifice for those ardent eyes!.

Translation by Peter Farnbank

Another rhythmical translation which is closer to the original

Oh you dark black eyes, full-of-passion-eyes Oh you burning eyes, how you hypnotise Now I love you so, but I fear you though Since you glanced at me not so long ago.

Oh I see you now, you are dark and deep I see grief and feel that my soul will weep I see now in you a winning burning glow in my poor heart will a fire grow.

I’ m not sorrowful, I’m not repenting I accept all that my fate’s presenting All the best in life, God has given us- this I sacrifice, to you dark black eyes.

by Stefan Bogdanov

Lyrics (Chaliapin version)[edit]

Russian (Cyrillic alphabet) Transliteration (Latin alphabet) English translation

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Очи чёрные, очи пламенны
И мaнят они в страны дальные,
Где царит любовь, где царит покой,
Где страданья нет, где вражды запрет.

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Не встречал бы вас, не страдал бы так,
Я бы прожил жизнь улыбаючись,
Вы сгубили меня очи чёрные
Унесли на век моё счастье.

Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Очи страстные и прекрасные,
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас,
Знать увидел вас я не в добрый час.

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Ochi chyornye, ochi plamenny
I manyat oni v strany dal'nye
Gde tsarit lyubov', gde tsarit pokoi
Gde stradan'ya nyet, gde vrazhdy zapryet

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Ne vstrechal by vas, ne stradal by tak
Ya by prozhil zhizn' ulybayuchis'
Vy zgubili menya ochi chyornye
Unesli na vek moyo schast'ye

Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
Ochi strastnye i prekrasnye
Kak lyublyu ya vas, kak boyus' ya vas
Znat' uvidel vas ya ne v dobryi chas

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
How I love you, How I fear you
Truly, I saw you at a sinister hour

Dark eyes, flaming eyes
They implore me into faraway lands
Where love reigns, where peace reigns
Where there is no suffering, where war is forbidden

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
I love you so, I fear you so
Truly, I saw you at a sinister hour

If I hadn't met you, I wouldn't be suffering so
I would have lived my life smiling
You have ruined me, dark eyes
You have taken my happiness away forever

Dark eyes, burning eyes
Passionate and splendid eyes
I love you so, I fear you so
Truly, I saw you at a sinister hour

Translation by Katya from russmus.net ([1])

Popular culture[edit]

"Dark Eyes" has become a jazz standard.

  • 1910 - Adalgiso Ferraris "Schwarze Augen" [14]
  • 1931 - Adalgiso Ferraris "tes yeux noirs (Black Eyes) Impression Russe" [15]
  • 1932 - Ferraris "Black Eyes" song played by Albert Sandler.
  • 1933 - Krazy Kat and his girlfriend sing the song in the cartoon Russian Dressing.
  • 1934 - Al Jolson sings in Russian for the film Wonder Bar.
  • 1936 - In the film My Man Godfrey, Carlo (the artist-protégé of Mrs. Bullock) often began this song before being interrupted in his artistic pursuit.
  • 1936 - Ismail Marzuki wrote Sundanese lyrics for the song, under the title "Panon Hideung".
  • 1937 - Tommy Dorsey and his swing orchestra recorded the piece as a trombone feature.
  • 1937 - The Ritz Brothers performed a parody of the song in the film On the Avenue.
  • 1937 - In the finale of the film Shall We Dance, Fred Astaire dances with a group of female dancers all wearing Ginger Rogers masks, with the real Ginger hiding among them. When she blurts out the words "oci ciornie", he picks her out from among the group and begins dancing with her.
  • 1938 - Maxine Sullivan recorded a swing version in Russian and English, accompanied by Claude Thornhill and members of John Kirby's sextet
  • 1939 - Ferraris' "Dark Eyes" played by Leslie Jeffries in 1939 in a mix with Brahms and others.
  • 1940 - Ernst Lubitsch's movie The Shop Around the Corner, based on the play La Perfumerie, features a plot line where Jimmy Stewart is tasked with selling cigarette boxes which play "Ochi Tchornye". It is mentioned frequently and is heard in the background during the cafe scene.
  • 1940 - Django Reinhardt recorded three instrumental versions under the French translation "Les yeux noirs".
  • 1941 - A recording of "Dark Eyes" (Ferraris) played by Harry Parry and his radio sextet was made.
  • 1941 - Jack Teagarden recorded a swinging version with his sextet. His opening cadenza remains an inspiration and a challenge for any trombonist.
  • 1941 - In W.C. Fields' film Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, Gloria Jean sang this song in a scene where she finally finds her Uncle Bill (played by W.C. Fields) in Russia after he jumped out of the airplane that they were taking to retrieve his bottle of alcohol.
  • 1942 - In the novel The High Window by Raymond Chandler, the hero Philip Marlowe hears the song sung in a night club.
  • 1942 - Spike Jones recorded a parody of this song called "Hotcha Cornya (Dark Eyes)".
  • 1943 - The Warner Bros. cartoon Falling Hare used this song in a scene where Bugs Bunny unsuccessfully tries to break down an airplane door (while the airplane was in the air and running) in order to find the Gremlin who has been continuously taunting him.
  • 1944 - In the Universal Pictures cartoon Ski for two, Woody Woodpecker is singing the refrain of the song while ice-skating.
  • 1945 - Danny Kaye sings a comical version of the song in the film Wonder Man with lyrics modified by Sylvia Fine.
  • 1945 - Mischa Auer, who played the song over and over again as Carlo in My Man Godfrey, appears as Prince Nikita Starloff, who dies after playing the first measures of the song in Rene Clair's "And Then There Were None."
  • 1947 - Wingy Manone, trumpeter, and Edmond Hall, both from New Orleans, recorded a version of "Dark Eyes". Edmond Hall's clarinet-solo is a classic and Wingy Manone sang a humorous nonsense-vocal.
  • 1950s - A very original interpretation of the song, for electric guitar, was played for years by Chet Atkins.
  • 1951 - A Finnish version sung by Tauno Palo was used in the movie Ylijäämänainen
  • 1954 - Louis Armstrong did a version called "Otchi-Tchor-Ni-Ya", which in his unique New Orleans Creole patois sounded like "Oh Cha Chunya". The words were quite different from the proper translation of the song from Russian to English.
  • 1955 - Disney's Lady and the Tramp Boris (Borzoi) calls Lady "little Otchi Tchernye".
  • 1957 - David Seville aka Ross Bagdasarian arranges an instrumental version before his Chipmunks fame. Pretty Dark Eyes.
  • 1957- The Barry Sisters Sing Traditional Jewish Songs- (Cadence Records) "Otchi chornia" (Yiddish & English version).
  • 1958 - Jazz organist Jimmy Smith performs the song as an instrumental on the live album Cool Blues.
  • 1958 - Wynton Kelly performs the song as an instrumental with Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones on Piano.
  • 1959 - The song is mentioned in Kay Thompson's book Eloise in Moscow, as Eloise sings it in the bath, which "Nanny loves but I had to stop because it hurt Weenie's ears".
  • 1959 - The song is referenced in Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers.
  • 1965 - This song is performed by the Indonesian/Dutch Indo-Rockband The Tielman Brothers
  • 1966 - This song is featured in the movie Batman during Bruce Wayne and Catwoman's date. Catwoman was disguised as the Russian journalist Kitka.
  • 1969 - "Ja lubljú tebjá (Ich liebe dich)" sung by Alexandra on the album Sehnsucht - Ein Portrait In Musik is a version of this song.
  • 1970 - Violetta Villas recorded the song which later became her signature hit in Poland. Villas recording is considered the best vocal interpretation ever of this song.
  • 1973 - Sara Montiel recorded a pop-rock version in Spanish titled "Ojos Negros."
  • 1982 - "Nostalgie (Nathalie)" sung by Julio Iglesias uses this song as a refrain.
  • 1987 - The song gives its name to Nikita Mikhalkov's film Dark Eyes.
  • 1987 - Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivaș uses the song as a part of her floor music. During the 1987 World Championships, she scored a perfect 10 to become the World Champion on floor.
  • 1990 - The song is performed on the best-selling classical music album of all time, The Three Tenors in Concert and a brief part of it played by the "three tenors", Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti in their 1990 concert in Rome.
  • 1991 - The song is performed by Elya Baskin in War and Peace, a Season 2 episode of Northern Exposure
  • 1994 - The song featured in The Leningrad Cowboys' Total Balalaika Show, featuring the full 160-member Alexandrov Ensemble.
  • 1996 - Red Elvises feature this music with different lyrics entitled "Scorchi Chorniye" on their debut album Grooving to the Moscow Beat.
  • 1999 - Sabine Azéma sings this song in the French film La Bûche.
  • 2000 - A version of this song was recorded by the American band Devotchka. It is featured on their debut album SuperMelodrama.
  • 2000 - Rachel Portman used this melody in the film Chocolat. It is titled "Chocolate Sauce" on the soundtrack.
  • 2002 - The computer adventure game Syberia featured the chorus of the song in the last part of the game and being whistled by a lonesome janitor. The whole song is also in the game. It is sung by the NPC Helena in the Epilogue.
  • 2004 - The song was used as the main theme for the TV mini-series The Mystery of Natalie Wood, a biopic about the actress Natalie Wood.
  • 2004 - The song is performed by the jazz vocalist Sophie Milman on her album Milman.
  • 2005 - In the 2005 film Hostel Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson) and Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) sing Ochi Chyornye together in the sauna.
  • 2006 - A recording by Judy Morris features in the animated film Happy Feet.
  • 2006 - American figure skater Sasha Cohen used this song for her short program at the Winter Olympics.
  • 2006 - Swedish duo The Knife release the single "Marble House", the vocal melody of which is reminiscent of "Dark Eyes" (though possibly unintentionally so).
  • 2007 - The song is performed in a scene of the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises by a singer and accordion player Igor Outkine.
  • 2007–present - Folk metal band Turisas frequently incorporate a unique interpretation of this song as a finale for their song "In the Court of Jarislief" during live performances.
  • 2008 - Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir used the song as their original dance music.
  • 2008 - Russian-born American gymnast Nastia Liukin used the version from the Well-Tempered Productions CD called Gypsy as arranged by Ilan Rechtman, (who is also the pianist on the recording with violinist Lara St. John) as her floor exercise music at the Summer Olympics where she won a gold medal in the Women's All-Around Final.
  • 2009 - A Japanese version was used in the Hime Uta 2 character CD for Strike Witches.
  • 2010 - American gymnast Rebecca Bross uses a remix of the song as her floor music. She shares the same coach as Nastia Liukin, Valeri Liukin at WOGA (who is also Nastia's father).
  • 2010 - Used in the glassandahalffull productions Spots vs. Stripes advert for Cadbury's dairy milk
  • 2010 - Russian singer Vitas covered this song on his album Masterpieces of Three Centuries.
  • 2010 - Movie Brestskaya krepost (Fortress of War) by Aleksandr Kott.
  • 2010 - Israeli artist Yoni Eilat recorded a Yiddish cover of this song for his album Tzigayner Neshume.
  • 2011 - Performed by actor Benoît Poelvoorde in the restaurant scene in the French Movie Les Émotifs anonymes
  • 2012 - Russian figure skater Elizaveta Tuktamysheva uses the piece for her free skate/long program
  • 2012 - Leuven (Belgium) based band Awesomesauce covered the song at one of their concerts.
  • 2015 - A gypsy band covered the song live in the Budapest episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

See also[edit]

  • Dark Eyes, a Russian music compilation album that includes Dark Eyes
  • The Red Army Choir, compilation album that includes Dark Eyes


  1. ^ James J. Fuld. The book of world-famous music: classical, popular, and folk - Courier Dover Publications, 2000. - P. 417 (see also notes at p. 684).
  2. ^ Fuld, James J. (1 January 2000). "The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk". Courier Corporation. p. 684. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books. 
  3. ^ "Ferraris_Black_Eyes.pdf". google.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Schwarze Augen = Occhi neri = Black eyes". 1 January 1910. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Open WorldCat. 
  5. ^ http://www.unicat.be/uniCat?func=search&query=author:%22Ferraris,%20A.%22&formQuery=author:%22Ferraris,%20A.%22
  6. ^ "Ferraris_Black_Eyes.pdf". google.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions". Library of Congress, Copyright Office. 1 January 1933. p. 1110. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books. 
  8. ^ "Home". iwm.org.uk. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "Dark Eyes - Al Bowlly - Song Info - AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "Vinyl Album: Max Jaffa - Gypsy Magic (1967)". 45worlds.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  11. ^ Pathé, British. "Albert Sandler - The Celebrated Violinist". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  12. ^ Pathé, British. "Leslie Jeffries". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  13. ^ bigmanio (5 March 2008). "Al Bowlly - Dark Eyes". Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via YouTube. 
  14. ^ "Schwarze Augen = Occhi neri = Black eyes". 1 January 1910. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Open WorldCat. 
  15. ^ "Editions Salabert, Paris". le-livre.fr. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 

External links[edit]