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German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach in an 1871 carte de visite by Charles Reutlinger. Offenbach’s duetBelle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” (“Beautiful Night, O Night of Love”), known simply as the Barcarolle, from his last and unfinished opera The Tales of Hoffmann first performed in 1881, is said to be the most famous barcarole (sense 2) ever written.
A computer synthesized version of the beginning of “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” or the Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann

Borrowed from French barcarolle, from Venetian barcaroƚa (song sung by a boatman), from barca (bark, barge, boat),[1] ultimately from Egyptian bꜣjr (transport ship; type of fish).



barcarole (plural barcaroles)

  1. (music) A Venetian folk song traditionally sung by gondoliers, often in 68 or 128 time with alternating strong and weak beats imitating a rowing motion. [from late 18th c.]
    • 1826, Michael Kelly; [Theodore Edward Hook], Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, of the King’s Theatre, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, including a Period of Nearly Half a Century; with Original Anecdotes of Many Distinguished Persons, Political, Military, and Musical, New York, N.Y.: Printed by J. & J. Harper, 327 Pearl-Street, for E[vert Augustus] Duyckinck, Collins and Hannay, Collins & Co., W. B. Gilley, H. I. Megary, A. T. Goodrich, and G. & C. Carvill, OCLC 2339905, page 90:
      Venice! dear beautiful Venice! scene of harmony and love! where all was gayety and mirth, revelry and pleasure, with what warm feelings do I recall thee to my memory; day and night were the gondoliers singing barcarolles, or the verses of [Torquato] Tasso and [Ludovico] Ariosto to Venetian airs; []
    • 1867 February, “Aureolus Paracelsus”, “In a Gondola. (Suggested by Mendelssohn’s Andante in G Minor, Book I., Lied 6, of the ‘Lieder ohne Worten.’)”, in W. H. Bidwell, editor, The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, volume V, number 2 (New Series), New York, N.Y.: Published at No. 5 Beekman Street, OCLC 6298914, stanza I, page 174:
      In Venice! This night is so delicious—its air / Full of moonlight and passionate snatches of song, [] / —with a song full of dole, / A forlorn barcarole, / As my gondola glides.
  2. (music) A piece of music composed in imitation of such a song. [from late 18th c.]
    • 1822 May, “Report of Music”, in The London Magazine, volume V, number XXIX, London: Printed for Taylor and Hessey, 93, Fleet-Street, OCLC 679312431, page 492:
      A Barcarolle, with variations for the Pianoforte and flute, ad lib. by [Jean Théodore] Latour, opens with an introduction of great feeling and elegance. The Barcarolle is composed by [Jacques Féréol] Mazas, the great violinist, and has been played by him at the Philharmonic Concerts, and is original and graceful.
    • 1824, “A Collection of Admired Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English Songs, with a Progressive Accompaniment for the Spanish Guitar; by George Hervey Derwort. Nos. 1 to 13. London. Gow and Son.”, in Richard Mackenzie Bacon, editor, The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, volume VI, London: Sold by Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 47, Paternoster-Row, OCLC 793564889, pages 547–548:
      But perhaps the best airs are those of Italy (particularly the Venetian) and Spain. [] The bolero, the barcarole, the canzonetta, and romance, have all the gaiety, softness, tenderness, and chivalry, which we associate with the troubadours, the gay squires, and sprightly dames, of the early ages of poetry and music.
    • 1852 March – 1853 September, Charles Dickens, “Esther’s Narrative”, in Bleak House, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1853, OCLC 999756093, page 424:
      [H]e was in the drawing-room before any of us; and I heard him at the piano while I was yet looking after my housekeeping, singing refrains of barcaroles and drinking songs Italian and German by the score.
    • 1895 February, William Steinway, “William Steinway’s Reminiscences of Rubinstein”, in W. S. B. Mathews, editor, Music. A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Art, Science, Technic and Literature of Music, volume VII, Chicago, Ill.: Music Magazine Publishing Company, OCLC 18518358, page 395:
      Later in the evening Mr. [Anton] Rubinstein played his smaller pieces, such as the march from "The Ruins of Athens," his own "Barcarolle," and "Valse Caprice," and the enthusiasm and appreciation of his intelligent audience grew greater and greater.

Alternative forms[edit]



  • barcarole”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.

Further reading[edit]



barcarole f

  1. plural of barcarola