"Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?" Lyrics and Text Translation

Stephano's Aria from Gounod's Opera, Romeo et Juliette

Illustrated portrait of Charles Gounod conducting with caption 'GOUNOD'S ROMEO ET JULIETTE AT THE OPERA, PARIS', circa 1880s.
Illustrated portrait of Charles Gounod conducting with caption 'GOUNOD'S ROMEO ET JULIETTE AT THE OPERA, PARIS', circa 1880s. Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images

In the third act of Charles Gounod's five act opera, Romeo et Juliette, based on William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Romeo and JulietStephano, Romeo's page, sings a message to the Capulets after Romeo and Juliet secretly marry.  The aria makes a mockery of the Capulets by stating that their beautiful white turtledove (Juliette) who is held hostage in a nest of vultures, will one day flee to marry a pigeon (Romeo).

This entices the Capulets out of their estate and into the streets where the boys can fight. 

Recommended Listening

Searching YouTube for "Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?" will result in hundreds of recordings; the majority of which are performed by student singers as part of their voice recitals.  The three selections I picked for you below are from professional recordings with mezzo-sopranos of varying voice types

"Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?" French Lyrics

Depuis hier je cherche
en vain mon maître!
Est-il encore chez vous?
Mes seigneurs Capulet?
Voyons un peu si vos dignes valets
A ma voix ce matin
Oseront reparaître.

Que fais-tu blanche tourterelle,
Dans ce nid de vautours?
Quelque jour, déployant ton aile,
Tu suivras les amours!
Aux vautours, il faut la bataille,
Pour frapper d'estoc et de taille
Leurs becs sont aiguisés!


Laisse-là ces oiseaux de proie,
Tourterelle qui fais ta joie
Des amoureux baisers!
Gardez bien la belle!
Qui vivra verra!
Votre tourterelle vous échappera,
Un ramier, loin du vert bocage,
Par l'amour attire,
A l'entour de ce nid sauvage
A, je crois, soupire!
Les vautours sont à la curee,
Leurs chansons, que fuit Cytheree,
Résonne a grand bruit!


Cependant en leur douce ivresse
Les amants content leurs tendresses
Aux astres de la nuit!
Gardez bien la belle!

"Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?" English Lyrics

Since yesterday I try
in vain my master
Is he still with you?
My lords, Capulet?
Let's see if your worthy servants
To the sound of my voice this morning
Dare to reappear.

What do you do white dove
In this nest of vultures?
Some day, you will spread your wings,
You will follow love!
Vultures, they must battle
To hit, to cut, and thrust
Their sharp beaks!
Let these birds of prey be,
Live to your joy dove
Lovers kissing!
Keep well and beautiful!
Time will tell!
Your turtledove will escape you,
A pigeon, far from his green grove,
By love, is attracted
Round about this wild nest
A, I think, sigh!
Vultures are at the quarry,
Their songs, which fled Cytherea,
Sounds with a loud noise!
However, their sweet intoxication
Happy lovers in their loving tenderness tell
The stars of the night!
Keep well and beautiful!

More About Gounod's Opera, Romeo et Juliette

French composer, Charles Gounod began work on his opera Romeo et Juliette in 1867, for Paris's Théâtre Lyrique - the same company where his opera Faust, based on Goethe's famous tale, was a huge success (it was performed over 300 times in a span of 10 years).

 His librettists, Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, kept Shakespeare's tragedy nearly intact, only changing a few things by removing scenes and slightly modifying the ending so that Romeo and Juliet are both alive just before they die.  The opera premiered on April 27, 1867, and it proved to be just as adored as his opera Faust.