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from Prologue of the French opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach
Libretto: Jules Barbier

Role: Hoffmann, a poet
Voice Part: tenor       Fach: lyric tenor
Setting: Luther's tavern, Nuremburg, 19th century
Synopsis: During the intermission of Stella's opera, Hoffmann and a group of students come into Luther's taproom for a drink. The students ask for a story and Hoffmann responds with the legend of Kleinzach, a dwarf whose incredible ugliness he begins describing. Midway through, though, he begins to reminisce about the beauty of a woman he used to know.
Range: Tessitura:
E3 - A4A3 - F#/Gb4
Translations/Aria Texts:
Translation into English by Ann Feeney (added 1998-09-28)
Il était une fois à la cour d'Eisenach!, Hoffmann's aria from Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Il était une fois à la cour d'Eisenach!		Once upon a time, in the court of Eisenach,
Un petit avorton qui se nommait Kleinzach!	there was a little dwarf named Kleinzach.
Il était coiffé d'un colbac			His head was dressed in a wig, and
Et ses jambes faisaient clic clac!		his legs went clic-clac!  
Voilà Kleinzach!				Behold, behold Kleinzach!
Il avait une bosse en guise d'estomac;		He had a hump for a stomach,
Ses pieds ramifiés semblaient sortir d'un sac;	his feet seemed to emerge from a sack,
Son nez était noir de tabac 			His nose was black from tobacco
et sa tête faisait cric crac!			and his head went cric-crac!  
Voilà Kleinzach!				Behold, behold Kleinzach!
Quant aux traits de sa figure...		As for the features on that face...
Ah! sa figure était charmante!			Ah, that face was charming!
Je la vois, belle, belle comme le jour		I see her again, beautiful, beautiful 
							as the day when,
Où courant après elle 				chasing after her, 
Je quittai comme un fou la maison paternelle	I ran like a madman away from my family home,
Et m'enfui à travers les vallons et les bois!	and tore across valleys and woods!
Ses cheveux en torsades sombres			Her hair, in dark locks, 
Sur son vol élégant jetaient leurs chaudes 	cast elegant shadows,
Ses yeux enveloppés d'azur 			her azure eyes 
Promenaient autour d'elle un regard 	 	about her a clear, pure glance,
	frais et pur 
Et comme notre char emportait sans secousse	and as our smooth carriage bore our hearts 
							and our love,
Nos coeurs et nos amours sa voix vibrante 	her vibrant, sweet voice, 
	et douce					
Aux cieux qui l'écoutaient jetait ce chant 	carried that triumphant song to the 
	vainqueur					listening skies, 
Dont l'éternel écho résonne dans mon coeur!	whose eternal echo resounds in my heart!

Kleinzach?  Je parle d'elle.  			Kleinzach?  I'm speaking of her!
Non!  personne!  rien!				No!  Nobody!  Nothing!
Mon esprit se troublait!  rien!  		My wits were troubled.	Nothing.  
Et Kleinzach vaut mieux, 			And Kleinzach is better worth,
tout difforme qu'il est!			all deformed as he is.
Quand il avait trop bu de genièvre ou de rack	When he had drunk too much gin or rack,
Il fallait voir flotter les deux pans 		You had to see the the two panels of his coat 
	de son frac,					flop
Comme des herbes dans un lac, 			like weeds in a lake.  
et le monstre faisait flic flac!		And the monster went flic-flac!  
Voilà Kleinzach!				Behold, behold Kleinzach!

Translation by Ann Feeney (
Sheet Music/Scores:
The Ultimate Tenor Aria Album (Version 2.0). Published by CD Sheet Music. Available at and
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