View Full Version : L'Affaire Tailleferre on DVD

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
July 22nd, 2016, 08:37 PM
During my recent visit to Paris, France, I went to the FNAC booksellers store near Gare Saint-Lazare to look for something specifically French that we can't see/find elsewhere.


I scored a lovely DVD that I'm quite sure is rarely on sale in other countries.


This thing gave me more pleasure than most other DVDs and blu-ray discs I've purchased in the last several years. It is simply gorgeous.

I do realize that this is a really "niche" affair and won't be accessible to many international opera lovers. For one thing, I don't know if people will ever be able to buy this outside of France. And then, for full enjoyment it requires three conditions:

1. One must understand spoken and subtitled French. There is no other language, here. It's only French.
2. One must be familiar with French culture. There are a number of "insider jokes."
3. It really helps if one is able to read music. The documentary given as bonus feature includes several examples of the score and if you can read music, you'll wildly enjoy the educational aspect.

Given that I do fulfill all three conditions above (and I know that Soave_Fanciulla does too, so I'm highly recommending this to her), I really, really, really loved this DVD.

It contains four short "opéras bouffes" by French 20th century female composer Germaine Tailleferre (the only female in the "Groupe des Six"). Do read up about this composer, dear readers! Her life and works are quite interesting.

She gathered these four works as "Petite histoire de l'art français: du style galant au style méchant." This translates as "Little History of French Art, from the elegant style to the evil style."

And indeed that's what it is, and it is highly successful.

Mme. Tailleferre composed four short operas in the style of Rameau, Rossini (in his French opera seria phase), Charpentier, and for the last one, an operetta mix of Boldieu, Auber, and Offenbach. Her librettist for all four pieces was Denise Centore. These works are from 1955, a time when new pieces were often commissioned to play on the radio (which was the case for these four operas).

They are entitled:

La Fille d'Opéra
Le Bel Ambitieux
La Pauvre Eugénie
Monsieur Petipois achète un château

These short operas are lively, musically beautiful, and enticing. The Rossini-style piece (Le Bel Ambitieux) is the least accomplished one, but the other three are pretty neat.

The French opera company Opéra-Théâtre de Limoges put together these four pieces, staged as four court cases in a courtroom, with a judge (an added, non-singing role) and a host, a radio guy complete with one of those 1950's-era radio microphones.

It was recorded in November 2014 and released on DVD in 2015 by BelAir Media and Canopé Editions. Subtitles in French only are given for the sung parts (all the spoken parts in French have no subtitles). This DVD is region zero (worldwide) but won't play on NTSC-only DVD players given that it is done with the French video standard (fortunately I do have a French DVD player at home, exactly for these cases). The program is 2h40' long, with about 1h15' for the four operas, and the rest is a *very* informative documentary, perhaps the best I've ever seen on a DVD, given that it thoroughly analyzes the musical structure of the pieces (like I said, with examples of the score) and situates very nicely Germaine Tailleferre's status in French music, and the movement around her when she was alive. It also explains the various styles the composer used in these four operas as homage to her great predecessors - if you want to learn more about French Baroque, Rossini's French period, other French composers, etc., that's the documentary you were waiting for.

Christophe Rousset conducts the Orchestre de Limoges et du Limousin. There is no chorus. The stage director is Marie-Eve Signeyrole. Choreography (very good) is by Julie Compans. Lighting is by Philippe Berthomé. Video direction is by Alain Mercier.

Sets are modest but well-utilized, and Mme. Signeyrole's staging concept of a courthouse did work very well for these pieces. Costumes are great! They are imaginative and capture perfectly the 1950's atmosphere.

If you get this DVD, pay attention to the scene at the 28-minute mark. It is hilarious. While the soprano displays her coloratura skills, the dancers around her make big oh's and ah's with open mouths. That's the part that is on the cover image.

Singers are phenomenal.

I'm completely in love with Magali Aranult-Stanczak who sang four roles: Pouponne, Euphrasie, Titine, and Héloïse. Particularly as Pouponne this young lady was incredibly good in voice and acting, and so pretty and sexy!


Clémentine and Eugénie were roles very well sung by Kimi McLaren, also very charming. Paula, La Mère, and Cunégonde were done correctly by Antoinette Dennefeld. Another great singer was Dominique Coté as L'Inspecteur, Alphonse, Gégène, and Monsieur Petipois. Together with Magali, Dominique completes the couple of the two best singers. Other comprimario roles, too numerous to list, were performed well, across the board.

The DVD itself is sort of amateur-level. No insert. All the information you can get for this product is on screen; not on print. The image is so-so, a bit grainy (analog definition). Sound is OK, better for the singers than for the orchestra.

In spite of the poor technical features of this product and its limited release (with subtitles in French only and done with the French video format that won't play elsewhere), it is, like I said, highly entertaining, musically pleasant, and extremely educational (no wonder, it was included as mandatory material for the tests to get the Baccalauréat d'Education Musicale for the years 2016, 2017, and 2018).

I grant to this DVD with no hesitation the maximum score of A++, and anybody who does fulfill the three conditions I mentioned above will wildly enjoy this release.

This videoclip has a trailer for this production (again, in French only). You can see parts of Magali's fabulous performance in it:


On Amazon you do find this used copy of this DVD for $57: [clicky (https://www.amazon.com/LAffaire-Tailleferre/dp/2240036524/)] - again, beware; it won't play on regular DVD players sold in the American market.