JAC­QUES OFFENBACH Bar­carolle

Con­tin­u­ing her se­ries fea­tur­ing new ar­range­ments of clas­si­cal favourites Brid­get Mer­mikides turns her hand to a bril­liant cel­list and com­poser.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

The most fa­mous ex­tract from the Tales Of Hoff­mann gets the full Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­range­ment and tran­scrip­tion treat­ment.

Jac­ques Offenbach (1819-80) was a Ger­man-born com­poser and vir­tu­oso cel­list, who trained at the Paris Con­ser­va­toire from the age of 14. He was also a re­mark­ably prodi­gious and in­flu­en­tial com­poser of the op­eretta genre. An op­eretta is a slightly loosely de­fined re­la­tion of the opera, and is char­ac­terised by ‘lighter’ story lines and mu­si­cal treat­ment and the use of di­a­logue be­tween the songs, with English com­posers Gil­bert & Sullivan be­ing prob­a­bly the best-known prac­ti­tion­ers of the style. In many ways the op­eretta can be seen as a pre­cur­sor (and the in­ter­sec­tion with opera) of mu­si­cal the­atre. As such Offenbach can be seen as a fore­fa­ther of the cul­tural phe­nom­e­non of the mod­ern mu­si­cal.

Tales Of Hoff­man was Offenbach’s last com­po­si­tion project, writ­ten by the French writer Jules Bar­bier and based on three short sto­ries by the in­flu­en­tial Ger­man writer ETA Hoff­mann. Offenbach was com­mis­sioned to com­pose the score, but sadly died a year be­fore the sched­uled pre­miere; hence the score was com­pleted by his col­leagues.

An ex­tremely pop­u­lar piece of mu­sic in Tales Of Hoff­man ap­pears in the open­ing of Act II Belle Nuit, ô Nuit d’Amour (also known as Bar­carolle) a duet for so­prano and mezzo-so­prano, which is often ar­ranged in­stru­men­tally. The text – which speaks of the beauty of love and the night - cou­pled with the be­guil­ing melody and 6/8 feel, is cut with a sin­is­ter un­der­tone re­in­forced by the du­plic­i­tous char­ac­ter, Gi­uli­etta. Offenbach clearly liked the melody as it is a re-use from an 1864 piece (this re­cy­cling is both an his­tor­i­cal and cur­rent sta­ple of me­dia com­posers) and reap­pears later in Tales Of Hoff­man. Here, I’ve man­aged to keep the orig­i­nal key of D ma­jor us­ing drop D tun­ing and re­duced the long in­stru­men­tal in­tro­duc­tion of the orig­i­nal to a more id­iomat­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate sec­tion (bars 1-17) which is char­ac­terised by arpeg­gios and chords often over a pedal (a held – in this case bass A - note against chang­ing har­monies from bar 10). The main melody from bar 18 should be flow­ing and legato, with the 3rds (as in bars 29-31) com­fort­ably un­der your fin­gers in or­der to achieve this. The tab cap­tions will guide you through the var­i­ous chal­lenges, but are worth the ef­fort as this time­less work feels very nat­u­ral on solo gui­tar.

NEXT MONTH Brid­get gets to grips with Ma Vlast (My Home­land) by Smetana

op­erett a is a loo sely de­fined re­la­tion of th e opera, char­ac­terised by light er sto ry lines and mu­si­cal treat­ment with di­a­logue be­tween songs

Jac­ques Offenbach was a prodi­gious com­poser in the op­eretta style

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