The lyrics were written by the poet and writer Yevhen Hrebinka, born in Poltava , now in Ukraine. The first publication of the poem was in Hrebinka's own Russian translation in Literaturnaya Gazeta on January 17, 1843. A song using these lyrics is attested already in the 1870s, but its melody was not known.
The melody now associated with the lyrics was likely borrowed from the "Valse hommage", Op. 21 for piano, by the German composer Florian Hermann, published in 1879. In The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (2000) James Fuld reports that a Soviet musicologist told him that the song is not "a Russian traditional song but a cabaret song", published in 1884 and reprinted as number 131 in a songbook by A. Gutheil in 1897, where it is described as a "Gypsy romance based on the melody of Florian Hermann's Valse Hommage".
In Rebeca Chávez's 2010 documentary, 'Cuando Sindo Garay visitó a Emiliano Blez', Sindo Garay gives his own account of the origin of the song. The melody of 'Ojos negros que fascinan', a bolero, was composed upon request by Garay to a Russian choir girl with beautiful and expressive eyes when an Opera company from Russia came to visit Cuba in the early to mid-1890s. Garay stated that “the melody of 'Ojos negros' (Dark Eyes) went back to Russia with the musicians and it was not until many years later that he found out through a friend that the song was part of the soundtrack of a Russian film playing at the local theatre”. Garay was pleased knowing his music was worthy of such a merit.
The most renowned and played version of Dark Eyes was written by Adalgiso Ferraris, and published, when still in Russia in 1910, with German editor Otto Kuhl, as "Schwarze Augen" (Black Eyes). Ferraris then published it again in 1931 by Paris Editions Salabert, as "Tes yeux noirs (impression russe)" and with Jacques Liber, on 9 October 1931.
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 as "Black Eyes" in 1939 with words of Albert Mellor. Max Jaffa also recorded it.
Ferraris himself can be seen in a British Pathé film from 1934 of Alfredo and his Gypsy band playing "Dark Eyes", sitting in the orchestra behind the lead Alfredo.
Poem (original version by Grebyonka )Edit
1. Очи чёрные, очи страстные,
1. Óči čjórnye, óči strástnye,
1. Black eyes, passionate eyes,
Lyrics (Chaliapin version)Edit
|Russian (Cyrillic alphabet)||Transliteration (Latin alphabet)|
Очи чёрные, очи жгучие,
Ochi chyornye, ochi zhguchie
In popular cultureEdit
A part of the song is featured in the 1936 screwball comedy film My Man Godfrey, in which the protegé Carlo (played by Mischa Auer) accompagnies himself on the piano crooning the beginning of the song several times in a schmaltzy manner.
The song is also featured in the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, in which employees of a store (played by James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, and Frank Morgan) argue over whether to sell a cigarette box that plays the song when opened. Part of the tune is also used at the very beginning of the orchestral score before the opening credits.
The 1942 film Lady From Chungking features a scene in which Lavara, the nightclub singer played by Mae Clarke, performs the song for the benefit of the Japanese General Kaimura, as portrayed by Harold Huber.
The 1943 film Thank Your Lucky Stars features 'Hotcha Cornia', a medley of this song and The Song of the Volga Boatmen, arranged by Del Porter and Spike Jones, and performed by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. 
The 1961 film Swingin' Along includes a jazz piano performance of the song.
The 2018 TV series Killing Eve includes an instrumental version of this song.
- The Red Army Choir, compilation album that includes Dark Eyes
- "НЭБ - Национальная электронная библиотека".
- "Hommage-Valse", Op. 21 (Hermann): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- James J. Fuld. The book of world-famous music: classical, popular, and folk – Courier Dover Publications, 2000. – P. 417 (the note at p. 684 says Fuld did not locate a copy of Hermann's piece: Fuld, James J. (1 January 2000). The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk. Courier Corporation. p. 684. ISBN 9780486414751. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books.
- de:Schwarze Augen (Lied) names an S. Gerdel as the first arranger, without giving any reference.
- "Sindo Garay". notaclave.com. 25 March 2018.
- "Ferraris_Black_Eyes.pdf". Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Schwarze Augen = Occhi neri = Black eyes. 1 January 1910. OCLC 315785698.
- "UniCat-Search". Unicat.be.
- "Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions". Library of Congress, Copyright Office. 1 January 1933. p. 1110. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via Google Books.
- "Home". Imperial War Museum. Archived from the original on 22 August 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Dark Eyes – Al Bowlly – Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Vinyl Album: Max Jaffa – Gypsy Magic (1967)". 45worlds.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Pathé, British. "Albert Sandler – The Celebrated Violinist". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Pathé, British. "Leslie Jeffries". britishpathe.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "Al Bowlly – Dark Eyes". 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2017 – via YouTube.
- "Alfredo And His Famous Gypsy Band (1934)". Archived from the original on 22 December 2021 – via YouTube.
- The Lady From Chungking. YouTube. Retrieved October 2, 2022.
- Thank Your Lucky Stars - soundtrack IMDb. Retrieved October 30, 2022.