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Thread: Operettas (various composers) on CD/DVD/Blu Ray

          
   
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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Operettas (various composers) on CD/DVD/Blu Ray



    I had high hopes for this Fledermaus with rave reviews at Amazon and featuring Janowitz and Watcher......

    But turned out to be a failure for me because of a fatal flaw, a dull senile male Prince Orlofsky and lack of any guest aria performances or ballet during party scence. Janowitz shines brightly but cannot overcome these glaring weakness so learn from my mistake and look elsewhere

    To see the real Prince Orlofsky in action check one of Briggette Fassbaender's zany performances in Fledermaus like the 1980s ROH release below (Te Kanawa is really good here surprised me) or the 1980s Kleiber






  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    J. Strauss II: Die Fledermaus on blu-ray
    Some will say that the music is always the same, with some party music orchestration ending up in some variation of a waltz, leading then to - guess what? A real waltz. And repeat. And so on and so forth.

    But I don't care. I loved it! It is wickedly funny. I laughed out loud several times. It is wildly satisfactory and no wonder it is so popular. Independently of the score (which I found pleasing enough) this operetta works very well as music theater, and provides a wonderful evening of delicious entertainment.

    The version I saw was the latest Glyndebourne version on blu-ray released by Opus Arte, with Pamela Anderson, Thomas Allen, Hkan Hagegrd, and Artur Korn.



    This version has excellent sound and image, very talented singers who can act, and it is well directed.

    The only downside of this version is that there was some rewriting of the dialogue to make it more modern, and some purists will have a problem with that (I didn't).

    Everything else was gorgeous.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Bernstein: Candide on DVD
    This work is classified as operetta, and the version I'm seeing was filmed live at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, with the NY Philharmonic on stage, and the singers/actors in costumes, walking around the musicians, acting, singing, dancing. The chorus also participates with various pantomimes. There are some props (like chairs, a statue, other objects, swords).

    Descriptions mention a concert version, but with these elements above, I'd rather call it semi-staged. The only element missing as compared to a fully staged version is the scenery - and sometimes, the chorus members show handheld panels that provide some minimal scenery.

    Technically speaking, this DVD has some ups and downs: good image in widescreen format, three sound tracks, but no subtitles (not a problem for English speakers since this work is spoken and sung in clear English), and no bonus features.



    The chorus is the Westminster Symphonic Cour (they're pretty good). The narrator is Thomas Allan who is great.

    Singers are both from the operatic world (like Paul Groves and Stanford Olsen) and from Broadway (like Patty LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth).

    As logically expected, this hybrid group of singers deliver uneven singing, often not at the standard those who love opera and don't like musicals (like me) would prefer.

    However, it is a very successful production in my opinion, thanks to energetic acting, good casting with people who look their parts (some are good-looking too), creative solutions for the semi-staging, great comic flair, and the quality of the work itself, which is quite funny and musically pleasant.

    Recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Manuel Fernandez Caballero: El duo de La Africana on DVD
    OK, I suppose I'll post this here because it is a very similar genre to operetta in terms of structure: zarzuela.



    This is enjoyable, but with a major, major flaw: just like other reviewers on Amazon.com and Netflix, I couldn't get the subtitles to work. They are listed as existing in English and Spanish, there is an entry for subtitles on the menu, but you can't get to them. There is a lot of spoken dialogue and those parts I can understand fairly well, but it is harder to understand the lyrics of the songs, and I was unable to find a libretto online.

    It's a satirical work - an opera company rehearsing Meyerbeer's L'Africaine in its Italian version, with a love triangle. There are musical numbers recovered from L'Africaine, and a parody of La donna è mobile. Donizetti's À mes amis... pour mon âme also makes an appearance (the tenor, let's put it this way to quote a recent discussion, is better than Bocelli, but worse than Pavarotti... hehehe).The plot is fairly simple - the producer of the opera - who is Italian and speaks Italiañol (a mix of Spanish and Italian, hilarious) - is only interested in money and wants to run the company on the cheap. Then, he enlists his soprano wife for the title role so that he won't need to pay a soprano. However he gets jealous of the handsome and flirtatious tenor, with the usual comedic situations that this triangle warrants - and they are fairly funny. There are auditions, which bring the opportunity for some interesting numbers.

    The cast, completely unknown to me, is made of artists who are supposedly famous in Spain, and they do seem quite competent in acting, but the singing is often painful. The music is pleasant, but rare - it looks like at least this particular zarzuela (it's only the second one that I watch) has a lot more spoken dialogue than musical numbers.

    Given that this work is parody about the rehearsal of an Italian version of a French opera, many of these musical numbers are not very Spanish in flavor, unlike the other zarzuela that I know (Luisa Fernanda). The music acquires a more distinctly Spanish accent in the choral numbers which are very easy on the ear. The chorus members are generally young and good-looking, and the costumes are not bad.

    This staging comes from the Teatro Real de Madrid. Stage lighting is very deficient (or else it is the fault of the video technology); it's a very dark image, with no depth (fuzzy background), full-screen format. It doesn't make that much of a difference because the scenarios are very sparse and minimalistic. Sound balance is not good - the singers are too loud, the orchestra too soft.

    I suppose that this work is too local to be recommended. There are probably some inside jokes, since even when I could understand the Spanish, I wouldn't get some of the jokes. There is a certain lack of unity as well, with this mix of Italianate, French, and Spanish melodies. In addition to the above, the absence of subtitles and the poor technical quality of this DVD are more reasons to withdraw my recommendation. Still, I did enjoy it overall, sort of.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Chabrier: L'Etoile on DVD
    OK, this is not technically operetta, but for all practical purposes, it is. The sub-genre classification of this work is opéra bouffe, the French variety of light comical opera with spoken dialogue instead of recitative, which in my opinion makes it a lot more like operettas than any other category. As a matter of fact, this work in terms of musical feel sounds a lot like a mix of Gilbert & Sullivan with Offenbach.



    This is conducted by none less than Sir John Gardiner with the orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, with an entirely French local cast of completely unknown singers (I won't even bother listing them). It is a "studio" recording, since it was done with closed doors, no public. It seems like the recording itself was done in more than one session, since - and this is one of the downsides of this DVD - the sound balance is poor and the spoken parts are a lot louder than the singing, and have a distinctive sound quality that makes me feel that they recorded it later with microphones very close to the singers' mouths, and added these parts to the sound track (and did not do a very good job, since there are not only balance problems, but also lip sync problems).

    Technically the DVD is very poor as well, because not only there is the sound issue described above (at least hearing the good orchestra is no problem), but the 1.33:1 image is kind of blurry, with fading colors, and there is no menu whatsoever - the opera just starts playing, in French with English subtitles that can't be turned off. No extras.

    That's where the bad parts end. The work itself is delightful, funny, very enjoyable, melodious, and the singers/actors are young, good looking, enthusiastic, and do a general good job all around, with no weak links, and several fabulous moments.

    This work has a sort of fluid natural feel, the melodies match well the libretto, the orchestration is lively and agreeable. OK, let me make it clear, don't go in expecting musical fireworks... at times the music sounds like cartoon music, and at other times the work feels like a light musical rather than opera. The arias are nice but aren't show stoppers. But for what it tries to accomplish, and as far as operettas go, it's very entertaining, of the kind you watch with a constant smile on your face.

    In spite of bad quality of the DVD, because of the enthusiastic and competent performance by these good-looking young people added to the pleasant nature of the work, I'll rate this one a full "highly recommended."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #6
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Chabrier: Une Education Manquée on DVD
    It is an operetta, anyway, so I'll place my review here.



    This is from Compiègne, the company that while under the direction of Pierre Jourdan used to specialize in obscure French opera.

    The plot is very simple, for this one act operetta with a run time of 47 minutes. Newly weds don't know anything about sex. The young man's tutor doesn't have a clue either. The young man complains to his tutor that his education is lacking. There is a thunderstorm, the young bride is frightened, the young groom hugs and kisses her to reassure her, nature takes its course. Curtain.

    Musically it is quite mediocre. Chabrier's L'Etoile is ten times better.

    Regarding the production, staging (just a bedroom, simple but effective) and acting are appropriate. The soprano (Mary Saint-Palais) is cute but her voice is terrible. The two male characters (Franck Cassard, Philippe Forucade) do a little better. It is hard to say if the orchestra (Sinfonietta de Picardie) is good or not since the score is not demanding and the sound balance is not good (see below). The conductor is equally unknown, a certain Michel Swierczewski.

    The technical quality of the DVD is primitive. 1.33:1 image with very good definition but fading colors. Sound has very poor balance, we can barely hear the orchestra at times. Obligatory English subtitles, not even original language (French) subtitles. No extras, no choice of sound track. Bare bones.

    Not recommended, unless one is really into this genre of French opérette.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Auber: Haydée ou Le Secret on DVD
    This is an opéra-comique with lots of spoken dialogue, therefore best suited for the Operetta thread.

    Here is the production I'm watching:

    Isabelle Philippe (Haydée); Bruno Comparetti (Lorédan Grimani); Paul Medioni (Malipieri); Anne Sophie Schmidt (Rafaela); Mathias Vidal (Andréa Donato); Stéphane Malbec-Garcia (Doménico); Michael Swiereczewski (conductor); Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne; Pierre Jourdan (artistic director); André Brasilier (scenery); Jean-Pierre Capeyron (costumes); Thierry Alexandre (lighting). Kultur Video D4244 (Region 1, NTSC, 137 min, 16:9 anamorphic), 2005.



    I don't always like Compiègne's attempts at reviving obscure French operas under the leadership of Pierre Jourdan. Sometimes I think that these operas are obscure and have been forgotten for a reason, and should better rest in peace. Maybe we modern men and women shoudn't disturb their well deserved deep sleep and stage them again.

    This is a clear exception. Haydée is a very pleasant and beautiful operetta, and this production entirely does it justice, with good staging, good singing, good acting (complete with a couple of good looking sopranos), good orchestra, decent sound and image.

    Recommended!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Kálmán: Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy Princess) on DVD


    This is Kálmán's most famous work, A Csárdáskirálynő, here in German version which is the one that has been diffused around the world. It premiered in 1915 in Vienna and became quite popular in Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Russia.

    This DG product is technically of good quality (except for sound balance): it's an old film from 1972 in 1.33:1 format but the definition and colors are sharp, and the sound track offers the options of PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1. The operetta is sung/spoken in German, with German, English, and Chinese subtitles. The only extras are a trailer of Anna Netrebko's Salzburg Traviata, and of the M22 Operas, plus a slide show of DG's catalogue.

    This is filmed on location in Budapest so there is no staging per se. The locations however are beautiful and costumes are ravishing and period-appropriate. Film director is Miklós Szmetár.

    The orchestra (unknown to me) is the Symphonie Orchester Kurt Graunke, conducted by Bert Grund. It's hard to say how well they do, since the sound balance is rather poor: we can listen to the singers very loudly and clearly, but the sounds coming from the orchestra are a distant background accompaniment.

    Casting includes the phenomenal, stunning-looking Anna Moffo as the cabaret singer Silva Varescu, the title role. Dagmar Koller is her rival Stasi. Rene Kollo is her love interest, the young count Edwin.

    The plot explores the usual rich boy/poor girl device: rich count Edwin loves poor cabaret girl Silva but his family wants to marry him to rich woman Countess Stasi. Young count obeys his mother and dumps cabaret girl, goes back to his estate to marry Stasi. Silva enrolls mutual friend (young noble Boni) to pretend he has married her (so that now she is supposed to be an aristocrat as well) and attends a ball under a false name. Edwin re-falls in love with her, while Boni falls in love with Stasi. After the usual mistaken identity mishaps, it becomes clear that Silva is still a cabaret girl, but surprisingly, at the end of the operetta it becomes known that Edwin's mother was also a former cabaret singer who entered high-society by marriage, unmasking her hypocrisy in trying to prevent her son from marrying Silva. Edwin's father, knowing that his son is doing exactly what he did himself, doesn't oppose the marriage. Then all ends well, and the two happy couples - Edwin/Silva, and Boni/Stasi, plus Edwin's mother, all board a ship to America where Silva will have a singing tour. Curtain.

    First of all, let me express my admiration for Anna Moffo's incredible physical form in this movie. Oh my God, those legs!!! She looks absolutely yummy in her skimpy burlesque outfits (the one on the cover image is the least revealing; there's better). I guess that being a soprano and having as first name Anna bodes well for the sex appeal of these ladies, given a certain Russian soprano who shares the same first name.

    Acting: so, so. They use lip-syncing, at times a little off, and while Anna does great, others are not as skillful as actors - nothing horrible, but not top notch acting either. Many of the female minor roles are given to good looking young women; this production has lots of eye candy.

    Singing: Pretty good but not great. Even Anna Moffo doesn't do as well as I expected, and Rene Kollo seems wasted in this light material. Koller actually seems to do better than both although she doesn't have too many arias.

    About the operetta: if this is all that there is and they didn't make changes or cuts (I have never seen or heard other versions), it does feel more like a movie (or if staged this same way, a stage play with music) than an operetta. The spoken dialogues are loooooong and the arias are short and rare. This said, the arias are very pleasant and enticing, I'd just love to have more music. Given the limitations of the genre, I find it rather good. It isn't as brilliant as the operettas of J. Strauss II or Lehár, but good nevertheless.

    Besides, there is no way I wouldn't recommend this DVD with such a sexy and dazzling Anna Moffo stealing the show with her killer legs and good looks. In musical terms it's rather light, but with some nice numbers, Eastern European-flavored, a couple of them well known. Overall, an enjoyable DVD.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #9
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Johann Strauss II: Simplicius on DVD


    This is an operetta in three acts, but it is more serious than most, with its very convoluted plot and its references to the horrors of war.

    This Kultur product preserves a performance in 2000 by the Zurich Opera House, with its orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. This is a revival after 113 years of ostracism for this work that premiered in December of 1887. The libretto in German is by Victor Léon, based on a famous 17th century novel by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelhausen called Der Abenteuerliche Simplicissimus. It tells the convoluted story of a naïve young man, raised by his hermit father away from civilization, who is suddenly brought into contact with the world right in the middle of the Thirty Years' War when he is forced to become a soldier. There is a matter of a family fortune that is up for grabs, false identities, shifting love stories, and it all wraps up with a happy end.

    The cast is the following:

    Simplicius: Martin Zysset (tenor)
    His father, the hermit/Baron Wendellin von Grübben: Michael Volle (baritone)
    His brother Arnim: Piotr Beczala (tenor)
    General von Vliessen: Rolf Haustein (baritone)
    His daughter Hildegarde: Elizabeth Magnuson (soprano)
    The astrologer Melchior, a con artist: Oliver Widmer (baritone)
    Schnappslotte (Booze Lotte), owner of a traveling canteen: Louise Martini (soprano)
    Her daughter Tilly: Martina Janková (soprano) - very cute and with beautiful cleavage
    Ebba, a Swedish spy: Liliana Nikiteanu (mezzo-soprano) - very cute

    Stage direction: David Pountney
    Scenarios (several reviews mention that it is evocative of Hieronymus Bosch's paintings): Johann Engels

    Image is 1.78:1 with good definition and color. Sound track is provided exclusively on Dolby 5.1, and has good quality. Subtitles are optional but are only in English. Running time is 132 minutes. No extras. A synopsis, however, is projected on the screen as part of the lengthy but visually interesting opening credits, and at the start of each act, which is helpful because this is a darn complicated plot.

    Very good start. Beautiful overture, and gorgeous opening baritone aria - a lot more operatic than one would expect in an operetta, both in musical terms and in terms of content (a gloomy aria in which the hermit reveals that he gave up on his life in society because of trying to atone for the guilt from having killed his own brother - definitely not operetta kind of material - it's unusual to have death as part of an operetta plot - this is looking a lot like a kind of hybrid work that spans the frontier between these two genres). It is beautifully sung by Michael Volle.

    What follows is more akin to operetta, with the appearance of the astrologer who is much more buffo than the tortured Baron, together with his bombshell companion Ebba.

    Singing *and* acting are very good so far.

    Subtitles are very intrusive, big, bright, and on top of important parts of the image.

    Then we have a waltz for Simplicius' first aria - the lyrics talk about his fear of soldiers he's seen in the forest - strange discordance between the frightful lyrics and the happy waltz music.

    This is looking like J. Strauss II wanted to compose an opera instead of an operetta... but he didn't know how to refrain from using waltz and uplifting melodies... very odd work...

    Oh wow, the arrival of the soldiers is a *very* interesting scene from a staging perspective. This is a very creative and resourceful staging.

    We're talking about prayers in another thread - there are two prayers already here, by mid-First Act.

    2nd act - the hybrid feel continues - an operatic, dense chorus, followed by a true operetta-kind of aria and it all turns light and comic when Tilly and Arnim make their entrances - excellent singing by both.

    Then Hildegarde comes up - more beautiful singing. I do like this work!

    3rd act - more comic, lighter, with good music, and a delightful scene between the pretty, sexy, and excellent singer Martina Janková and Martin Zysset, when Tilly is trying to teach Simplicius how to kiss her (which he doesn't - runs scared). Zysset is less good a tenor than Beczala who plays his brother Arnim. The very interesting staging continues - with a tree of hung men and a chorus of Swedish prisoners who look a bit like zombies, and some figures that are indeed Bosch-like. Ebba which was a silent role during the first two acts, gets to sing and does it well - it's the Bing Bing aria.

    This is followed by a very beautiful - and again, operatic - ensemble, which merges into a waltz, the Little Lady of the Danube. Unfortunately this is somewhat marred by a troupe of dancers who aren't that good, and are given a chaotic, disorganized, and mediocre choreography - one of the only weak moments of this production.

    OK, now we're up to the happy ending, the two loving couples are reunited and allowed to marry, and there is a brief joyous waltz. Curtain.

    I can clearly say that this is highly recommended: a very interesting, enjoyable, and different work, well rendered by a competent and creative production (except for the terrible dancers) and a talented team of singers. Is it a masterpiece? Hardly. It's sort of confusing, theatrically weak, and the composer can't make his mind about composing an opera or an operetta. But somehow it all still works rather well, and it is very pleasant.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    May I direct the group's attention to Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) on Art Haus? Superb cast, including a young Piotr Beczala as Camille. Hanna is sung by the elegant and sexy Dagmar Schellenberger and Danilo by Rodney Gilfry. I have great affection for this one, due in part, I suspect, from singing in it back in my misspent youth. There is a tendency to trivialize this kind of musical theatre, but I find nothing wrong with sentimental stuff. The music is nonstop tuneful and well performed. The "Wie die Weiber/Ja das studium der Weiber ist schwer" sextet, usually sung and reprised by the men, is deliciously reprised by the women. The last act includes "The Merry Widow Ballet" music (and dance) which is not a part of the score, but which adds a bit of ... naughtiness ... that Alma might find distracting.

    I, myself, am too old for that.

    Right!!

  12. #11
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    May I direct the group's attention to Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) on Art Haus? Superb cast, including a young Piotr Beczala as Camille. Hanna is sung by the elegant and sexy Dagmar Schellenberger and Danilo by Rodney Gilfry. I have great affection for this one, due in part, I suspect, from singing in it back in my misspent youth. There is a tendency to trivialize this kind of musical theatre, but I find nothing wrong with sentimental stuff. The music is nonstop tuneful and well performed. The "Wie die Weiber/Ja das studium der Weiber ist schwer" sextet, usually sung and reprised by the men, is deliciously reprised by the women. The last act includes "The Merry Widow Ballet" music (and dance) which is not a part of the score, but which adds a bit of ... naughtiness ... that Alma might find distracting.

    I, myself, am too old for that.

    Right!!
    Yes, I agree, that DVD is a winner.
    Natalie

  13. #12
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Ciboulette on DVD

    Ciboulette, opérette en trois actes, sung in French (premiered at the Théâtre des Variétés, April 7, 1923)

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    Music by Reynaldo Hahn
    Libretto by Robert de Flers and Francis de Croisset

    This early review of a product that has not yet been commercially released (it goes on sale in Europe on October 21, 2014) is made possible by FRA Musica's kind attention to Opera Lively, sending us the DVD ahead of its release.

    This Opéra Comique production was co-produced by Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Etienne, with associated partners Palazzetto Bru Zane and Opéra de Toulon, recorded live at Opéra Comique in February 2013, with video direction by Opera Lively interviewee François Roussillon.

    Orchestre Symphonique de l'Opéra de Toulon, conducted by Laurence Equilbey
    Chorus: accentus, chorus master Christophe Grapperon

    Stage director: Michel Fau (who also performs a role)
    Sets: Bernard Fau and Citronelle Dufray
    Costumes: David Belugou
    Lighting: Joël Fabing
    Choreography: Cécile Roussat
    Make-up: Pascale Fau

    Cast

    Ciboulette: Julie Fuchs
    Duparquet: Jean-François Lapointe
    Antonin: Julien Behr
    Zénobie: Eva Ganizate
    Roger: Ronan Debois
    Françoise: Cécille Achille
    Monsieur Grenu: Jean-Claude Sarragosse
    Madame Grenu: Guillemette Laurens
    Auguste, Victor: Patrick Kabongo Mubenga
    Le patron, le maire: François Rougier
    Grisard: Safir Behloul
    Madame Pingret: Bernadette Lafont (the great French stage actress who passed away shortly after this production)
    La Comtesse de Castiglione: Michel Fau (stage director)
    Le dircteur de l'opéra: Jérôme Deschamps

    FRA Music release on 2 DVDs, October 21, 2014. NTSC, all zones (worldwide), 16:9 image; DD2.0 and DTS5.1 sound tracks; subtitles in French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian. Bonus: interviews with Laurence Equilbey, Michel Fau, Agnès Terrier, Jérôme Deschamps, and Julie Fuchs (31 minutes). Runtime 145 minutes.

    Blu-ray disc also available (this review is of the DVD)

    The gorgeous insert contains six large production pictures in color, a large 3-page color panoramic view of the stage, accessible when we pull forward the booklet; track list with tableau/scene number but no reference to the title of the musical numbers; it includes the duration of each track but without the list of characters singing each number (a flaw in documentation, in my opinion); credits; a two-page, very informative essay introducing the piece in French; a well-written two-page synopsis in French, and the lyrics for two of the musical numbers. The essay and the synopsis are repeated in English and German, in subsequent pages.

    --------

    Ciboulette is a delightful operetta, composed by serious and seasoned Reynaldo Hahn in his fifties, as a 20th-century attempt to revive the genre made famous by Offenbach. The composer was challenged to do that by his friend Robert de Flers, the Chief Editor of the newspaper Le Figaro. The result was very successful, sprouting reruns in many Parisian theaters and receiving very long runs, such as the one that lasted between 1953 and 1959 at the Opéra Comique.

    Ciboulette is coming back to the Opéra Comique, in a revival scheduled to begin on April 27, 2015.

    It deserved a standard-bearing excellent recording on CD with Mady Mesplé, José van Dam, and Nicolai Gedda (which I own and love).



    One of its many curiosities is the character Duparquet, who reveals mid-way (Act II) that he was once known as Rodolphe, and led a bohemian life, together with his mistress Mimì who died of tuberculosis. Sounds familiar?

    It is set to action taking place in 1867 in Paris, the year Offenbach composed La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein. The libretto mentions Offenbach by name, as well as Halévy. There are several "insider" jokes that make reference to the operatic environment, and of course there is also the fact that the title character, a country girl, becomes an opera singer, with the final scene happening at the Opéra Comique.

    Its most popular melody is the well-known "Nous avons fait un bon voyage."

    This performance received a very favorable review in the April, 2013 issue of Opernwelt, which was summarized as follows by our good Mary Auer in her Opera Lively series of articles about this magazine's content:

    "Reviewer's evaluation: In Hahn’s comedy, which premiered in 1923 at the Théâtre des Variétés, Ciboulette was a simple country girl who was supposed to make a name for herself in the big city as a singer – until, of course, love interfered. Its most recent performance at the Opéra Comique was a complete charmer, and included revival of the old custom of encouraging audience members to sing along with familiar numbers. In his capacity as director, Michel Fau left the opera in its original early 20th century setting and created many evocative images of Old Paris. He himself played the drag queen, the Comtesse de Castiglione. The cast was in all respects top-notch. In addition to the great French film star, Bernadette Lafont, as the fortune teller Mme. Pinguet, Julie Fuchs displayed plenty of wit and charm as Ciboulette, and a soprano that the reviewer likens to lilies-of-the-valley. Guillemette Laurens’ Mme. Grenu, an urban counterpart to Ciboulette, suggested to the reviewer a “pre-operative Cher.” Jean-François Lapointe, as the La Boheme revenant Rodolphe Duparquet, had a baritone like a “French Michael Volle,” while Julien Behr, singing with what came close to a lyric character tenor, was a wet-behind-the-ears Antonio. They were supported by the Orchestre symphonique de l’Opéra de Toulon conducted by Laurence Equilbey. A complete success all around."

    Female conductor Laurence Equilbey does a good job leading the orchestra from the Toulon opera house in this lively and uplifting score that also includes delicate, romantically melodious numbers. Set design is very successful, evoking the Belle-Époque Paris with some nice touches involving the match between set, costumes, and make-up - the opening scene has grayish background which is recovered not only in the costumes, but also in the fact that the characters, male and female alike, all have gray lipstick.

    Indeed, like the Opernwelt reviewer mentioned, Julien Behr is a worthy tenor in the opening scene, while the very pretty Eva Ganizate as the courtesan Zénobie is better to look at than to listen to, as her delivery is sort of generic (but correct, without sinking the ship). Jean-François Laponte doesn't disappoint vocally.

    The gray sets look like an old black-and-white movie picture, maybe a reference to the fact that the composer himself missed this piece's premiere, in order to attend the screening of a film.

    Suddenly, when the title character makes her entrance, the stage bursts into colors, with the lighting changing abruptly from the gray hues into full and lively pink hues matching her pink outfit - a very clever effect! Julie Fuchs is very charming and vocally OK, but unfortunately several notches below the great Mady Mesplé - I'm not usually one who is fixated on retired singers hindering the appreciation of current singers, but in this case I can't help but make the comparison as this current performer lacks the crystalline purity of sound and uncanny coloratura agility of her illustrious predecessor in this role.

    The Act I finale is visually very appealing, with the Les Halles market very well rendered by the sets. The gray vegetables of the previous scene are substituted by fully colorful ones; the background looks like a black-and-white old picture, while the proscenium is lavishly done in bright colors, in a nice contrast. I love the lighting.

    Night falls in the lighting, the Les Halles walls open up and we see the Notre Dame cathedral. Ms. Fuchs comes back for the Lily-of-the-valley song, and her voice has warmed up and is better than in her first scene.

    The prelude to the second act, and its first duet are extremely beautiful, solemn, and bucolic (which is appropriate to the fact that the set changes from Paris to the farm in Aubervilliers). The spoken dialogues are very funny, making reference to Ciboulette's eight fiancés (she says Yes to everybody, since she is still undecided regarding her suitors). One "buyers beware" moment: Ciboulette is an operetta with very long spoken dialogue. It functions well as a stage play but opera lovers who crave written-through music are out of luck here, given that the musical numbers are relatively few and in-between (but they are very compelling).

    Comic timing is way better in second act, with some truly funny moments in the spoken dialogue, which are all well acted by the young cast (the kissing scenes and the behavior of the eight fiancés are particularly hilarious), added by veteran French stage actress Bernadette Lafont, who died four months after this performance). Knowing the French language and being familiar with certain aspects of French life adds a lot to the appreciation of this piece, given several funny references to the local culture and Parisian mores.

    Blocking is very good in this production that has obviously a great deal of theatrical flair. Very interesting are the chorus entrances, done by sliding up set panels.

    Technical aspects of this DVD are very accomplished, with crispy image and excellent sound balance in the 5.1 channels. Singers are picked up very clearly and the dynamics between the singers and the orchestra are perfect. Video direction is of excellent quality and doesn't get in the way.

    Ms. Fuchs continues to improve and her singing in act II starts to match her charming acting better than in act I - by the way, the entire act II is more successful than its predecessor, in all regards.

    Duparquet's monologue with his remembrance of Mimì's death (the La Bohème story) is very touching. This is followed by a funny report on the whereabouts of the four friends in La Bohème, years later: they are now civil servants, all four, which is deemed to be the destiny when one can no longer love.

    Ciboulette makes plans to move to Paris, and changes into an over-the-top outfit that draw laughs from the public. "Farewell carrots, welcome castanets," as she is supposed to impersonate a Spanish opera singer and adopt the artistic name Conchita Ciboulero. End of Act II, a truly well-done affair.

    Act III starts with the stage director making his entrance in drag queen, La Comtesse de Castiglione, singing in hilarious off-key. This is one of the best comedic moments of this production.

    Julien Behr displays good acting (and singing) in his first scene of this act, but theatrically speaking, there is a bit of pacing problem with this piece, which becomes a bit slow as they wait for Ciboulette and engage in endless dialogue that stops the action. Jean-François Lapointe continues to deliver the best singing among the cast.

    Julie Fuchs looks very pretty in her new Spanish incarnation and outfit. The scene when Ciboulette pretends to speak in Spanish is very funny and recovers the pace that was lost in the previous scene.

    We get to the lovely waltz "Amour qui meurt!... Amour qui passe!" which has its lyrics printed in the insert (together with the Lily-of-the-valley song). It is performed very well by Ms. Fuchs and the chorus.

    After the curtain calls, the waltz is repeated by the whole company, with the public singing along. The end.

    The bonus feature, containing 31 minutes of enlightening interviews (directed by François Roussillon) with the conductor, the stage director, the Opéra Comique dramatist Agnès Terrier (who is particularly articulate), the director of the Opéra Comique Jérome Deschamps, and briefly the title role singer, is very good but unless it is my fault, has no subtitles (or at least I was unable to make my player display subtitles for the bonus feature). Fortunately, I'm fluent in French, but those who aren't will miss these very interesting interviews.

    Overall, my rating for this product is A, recommended. Pros include imaginative staging with great sets and costumes and particularly successful lighting, charming artists who are good actors (including seasoned French stage actress Bernadette Lafont), good singing by the two principal male singers, good conducting and orchestral playing, nice blocking, a stupendous act II, and the fine musical moments this piece contains, as well as the good quality of the technical aspects (sound, image) of the DVD including good video direction, and generally good documentation with gorgeous production pictures and well-written essay and synopsis (even the lyrics for the sing-along are provided).

    Cons that prevent the product from achieving A++ territory include so-so singing by the otherwise pretty and charming female leads, some pacing problems with long spoken dialogues from the piece itself especially in act III, and a couple of documentation/technical problems, such as not displaying musical number titles with characters in the insert, and not adding subtitles to the very good bonus feature interviews which then become only accessible to French speakers.

    It is a good buy for operetta lovers and admirers of French culture in general, and the references to other operettas, composers, and to La Bohème make this work rewarding as well for other opera lovers.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); October 18th, 2014 at 05:56 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  14. Likes Florestan liked this post
  15. #13
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    Simplicius, reviewed above, is going to be released in Blu ray in mid-November, according to amazon.com.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Thanks for the Ciboulette review, Luiz. The price has made me hold off but I think I'll get it, good French dialogue just a bonus and I've always had a soft spot for Bernadette Lafont who was one of lovely François Truffaut's preferred actresses.
    Natalie

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    And the one nobody can do without!
    I have this one on L.P in a red velvet box (like above) .
    And of course the gold paint CD set .

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