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Les filles de Cadix

Les filles de Cadix

Nous venions de voir le taureau,
Trois garçons, trois fillettes.
Sur la pelouse il faisait beau,
Et nous dansions un boléro
Au son des castagnettes :
« Dites-moi, voisin,
Si j'ai bonne mine,
Et si ma basquine
Va bien, ce matin.
Vous me trouvez la taille fine ?...
Ah ! ah !
Les filles de Cadix aiment assez cela. »
Et nous dansions un boléro
Un soir, c'était dimanche.
Vers nous s'en vint un hidalgo
Cousu d'or, la plume au chapeau,
Et le poing sur la hanche :
« Si tu veux de moi,
Brune au doux sourire,
Tu n'as qu'à le dire,
Cet or est à toi.
-- Passez votre chemin, beau sire...
Ah ! Ah !
Les filles de Cadix n'entendent pas cela. »
Et nous dansions un boléro,
Au pied de la colline.
Sur le chemin passa Diégo,
Qui pour tout bien n'a qu'un manteau
Et qu'une mandoline :
« La belle aux doux yeux,
Veux-tu qu'à l'église
Demain te conduise
Un amant jaloux ?
-- Jaloux ! jaloux ! quelle sottise !
Ah ! ah !
Les filles de Cadix craignent ce défaut là! »

The girls of Cadiz

We’d just left the bullfight,
Three boys, three girls,
The sun shone on the grass
And we danced a bolero
To the sound of castanets.
‘Tell me, neighbour,
Am I looking good,
And does my skirt
Suit me, this morning?
Have I a slender waist? . . .
Ah! Ah!
The girls of Cadiz are fond of that.’
And we were dancing a bolero
One sunday evening.
A hidalgo came towards us,
Glittering in gold, feather in cap,
And hand on hip:
‘If you want me,
Dark beauty with the sweet smile,
You’ve only to say so,
And these riches are yours.’
Go on your way, fine sir.
Ah! ah!
The girls of Cadiz don’t take to that.
And we were dancing a bolero
At the foot of the hill,
Diego was passing by,
Who has no other clothes but a coat
And a mandolin:
‘Fair, gentle-eyed lady,
Would you like a jealous lover
To lead you to church tomorrow?
Jealous, jealous, what folly!
Ah! ah!
The girls of Cadiz fear this flaw.

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Pauline Viardot, née Garcia (1821-1910) was one of the most remarkable, accomplished musical professionals of the 19th century. Born into a family of music professionals, she wanted to be a pianist, but following the early death of her sister soprano Maria Malibran, her family insisted that she train as a singer. She enjoyed a stellar, international career initially as a singer, then as a sought-after teacher. She composed all her life, moving with protean ease between the various national styles she assimilated: Spanish, French, Italian, English, German and Russian.

Many composers turned to her not only to sing in their operas, but to offer considerable assistance with composition, including Meyerbeer, Berlioz (who also fell in love with her), Gounod and Massenet. Brahms asked her to sing the first performance of his Alto Rhapsody.

Pauline Garcia made the wise decision to marry Louis Viardot, who was considerably older than she was, and supported her career unstintingly. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev fell in love with her and remained her lifelong companion, often living with or near to her family. However, the unusual ménage-à-trois was harmonious, and she had the best of both worlds. Unlike her friend Clara Schumann, she made careful decisions about the number of children she could sustain. Two of her children became musicians in turn, and Louise Héritte-Viardot was a composer in turn.

During the 1860s, the Viardots – who were committed republicans – moved to Baden-Baden, where she composed operettas for her many students and hosted an important salon. They returned to Paris after the defeat of Napoléon III, where she continued to teach and host her salon for several decades more.

Viardot wrote more than 100 songs, exploring the best of contemporary poetry in the texts of Musset, Turgenev, Pushkin, Gautier, Mörike, Goethe and others. She also made extremely popular arrangements of Chopin’s mazurkas with added texts. Her style is elusive, absorbing the best of the German, Russian, French, Spanish and Italian influences which surrounded her. Her formal range is vast, from simple folk-like songs to through-composed large-scale structures. She deserves far greater recognition for her compositional achievements.

Most of her songs were published during her lifetime, but Viardot did not maintain a work catalogue or chronology; moreover, many of the songs were translated into different languages, so exist under multiple titles. A complete, searchable list of songs can be found here:

A full catalogue with musical incipits can be found here: There is no complete critical edition or recording of the songs although a wide selection is available. Thanks to her vast stylistic range, it is easy to incorporate her songs into recital programmes.

© Natasha Loges, 2022


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Jeppe Aakjær was a Danish poet and novelist. His work particularly focussed on his home region of Jutland.

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