As promised here is the other famous number from Bizet’s opera Les pêcheurs de perles. The aria can be sung in many ways, all of which can be effective if the tenor is good enough. Perhaps no singer was more identified with the song than Beniamino Gigli (1890 – 1957). Accordingly, I’ve included two recordings of the piece. The first made in 1925, the second four years later. Like all the versions save the last included here, Gigli repeats the aria’s last two words. This effect is so familiar that when you hear it sung as Bizet wrote it the result is jarring and you wonder were the rest of the romance is. Gigli sings in Italian in both recordings. The sound of his voice is pure honey and his head tones are glorious.
Mi par d’udir ancora Gigl 1925
Mi par d’udir ancora Gigli 1929

Next up is Giuseppe Di Stefano’s (1921 – 2008) 1944 recording, also in Italian. It was made with piano accompaniment when the 23 year tenor was AWOL from the Italian army in Switzerland. Considering how little formal vocal training Di Stefano had had and how young he was it’s a marvel of style and tonal beauty. It’s as good or better than any around. Mi par d’udir ancora Di Stefano

Yet another Italian tenor who sang this aria in his native language was Feruccio Tagliavini (1913 – 1995).  Tagliavini was a lower octane version of Gigli. Though a lyric tenor, Gigli because of his extraordinary vocal technique was able to successfully negotiate most of the Italian spinto repertoire. Tagliavini whose mellow tones and beautifully spun lines suggested his older countryman had a much smaller voice that he had to force even in some of the basic lyric roles. But here he is well within his comfort zone and sounds almost more like Gigli than Gigli. Mi par d’udir ancora Tagliavini

Enough of a French aria sung in Italian Here are a few in the right idiom. Richard Tucker (1913 – 1975) who was better known for his stentorian tones than for those of honey shows how a spinto tenor with full control of his instrument can successfully sing this lyric aria. Tucker is able to fine tune his voice so that the fragile beauty of “Je crois entendre encore” is fully realized. Je crois entendre encore Richard Tucker

Jussi Björling (1911 – 1960) takes the same approach letting his beautiful voice carry the piece. For some unknown reason he sings the aria a full tone down. High notes were never a problem for Björling so I can’t imagine why he did this except to make the difficult ending easier. Je crois entendre encore Björling

The other great Swedish tenor, Nicolai Gedda (1925 – ) combines both approaches into an amalgm of lovely sensitivity. Gedda first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1957. Over the next quarter of a century he appeared there 367 times. His beautiful tone, excellent technique, and extraordinary language skills enabled him to sing French, Italian, German, and American operas. An exceptional artist. Je crois entendre encore Nicolai Gedda

Now for something entirely different. here’s a Sicilian tenor singing a French aria in Yiddish. Yes Yiddish. It was made for the soundtrack of The Man Who Cried. It’s sung by Salvatore Licitra (1968 – 2011). It’s one of the best things he’s done over a career marked more for promise than result. As much as I dislike falsetto in opera his use of it at the number’s end is very effective. Je crois entendre encore Yiddish Licitra

Finally, the only version that complies with Bizet’s score, ie no repetition of “Charmant souvenir” at the aria’s conclusion. The singer is the great Russian tenor Leonid Sobinov (1872 – 1934). In addition to being the dominant tenor in Russia, he sang at all of the great opera houses in Europe. Unfortunately, he never crossed the Atlantic. He sings this aria in Russian; it was recorded in 1911. Je crois entendre encore Leonid Sobinov

The words and their English translation are below:

Je crois entendre encore,
Caché sous les palmiers,
Sa voix tendre et sonore
Comme un chant de ramier!
O nuit enchanteresse!
Divin ravissement!
O souvenir charmant!
Folle ivresse! doux rêve!
Aux clartés des étoiles,
Je crois encore la voir,
Entr’ouvrir ses longs voiles
Aux vents tièdes du soir!
O nuit enchanteresse!
Divin ravissement!
O souvenir charmant!
Folle ivresse! doux rêve!
Charmant souvenir!

I still believe I hear
hidden beneath the palm trees
her voice, tender and deep
like the song of a dove
oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
In the clear starlight
I still believe I see her
half drawing her long veil
to the warm night breeze.
Oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
Charming memory.