AskDefine | Define barcarole

Dictionary Definition

barcarole n : a boating song sung by Venetian gondoliers [syn: barcarolle]

User Contributed Dictionary




Alternative spellings


  1. A Venetian folk song traditionally sung by gondoliers
  2. A composition in this style



  1. Plural of barcarola

Extensive Definition

A barcarolle (from French; also Italian barcarola, barcarole) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. In classical music, the two most famous barcarolles are those by Jacques Offenbach, from his opera The Tales of Hoffmann, and Frédéric Chopin's Barcarolle in F sharp major for solo piano.
A barcarolle is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier's stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter. While the most famous barcarolles are from the Romantic period, the genre was well-enough known in the 18th century for Burney to mention, in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771), that it was a celebrated form cherished by "collectors of good taste." It was a popular form in opera, where the apparently artless sentimental style of the folklike song could be put to good use: in addition to the Offenbach example, Paisiello, Weber, and Rossini wrote arias which were barcarolles, Gaetano Donizetti set the Venetian scene at the opening of Marino Faliero (1835) with a barcarolle for a gondolier and chorus, and Verdi included a barcarolle in Un Ballo in Maschera: (Richard's atmospheric "Di’ tu se fidele il flutto m’aspetta" in Act I). Arthur Sullivan set the entry of Sir Joseph Porter's barge (also bearing his sisters, cousins and aunts) in HMS Pinafore to a barcarolle. Schubert, while not using the name specifically, used a style reminiscent of the barcarolle in some of his most famous songs, including especially his haunting "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" ("to be sung on the water"), D.774.
Other barcarolles include the three Venetian gondolier's songs from Songs without Words, opus 19, opus 30 and opus 62 by Felix Mendelssohn; the "June" barcarolle from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons; Béla Bartók's "Barcarolla" from Out of Doors; guitarist Agustin Barrios's Julia Florida; several examples by Anton Rubinstein, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Glazunov, Edward MacDowell, and Ethelbert Nevin; and most impressively of all, the collection of thirteen by Gabriel Fauré for solo piano. Representing the 20th century are Ned Rorem's Barcarolles," written in 1949 in Morocco.

References and further reading

  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-674-61525-5
  • Article "Barcarolle", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2
barcarole in German: Barcarole
barcarole in Spanish: Barcarola
barcarole in French: Barcarolle
barcarole in Galician: Barcarola
barcarole in Italian: Barcarola
barcarole in Hebrew: ברקרולה
barcarole in Luxembourgish: Barcarole
barcarole in Dutch: Barcarolle
barcarole in Japanese: 舟歌
barcarole in Polish: Barkarola
barcarole in Portuguese: Barcarola (poesia)
barcarole in Russian: Баркарола
barcarole in Slovenian: Barkarola
barcarole in Swedish: Barcaroll
barcarole in Chinese: 船歌
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