Performers: Devellereau/Wesseling/Canniccioni, Naouri/Chorus & Orch. of the Lyon Opera/Sebastien Rouland
Studio: Virgin Classics 50999 5193019
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: French DTS 5.0, DD 5.0, PCM stereo
Recording live at the Opera National de Lyon just about a year ago, this is a delightful modern updating of Offenbach’s mid-19th-century opera-bouffe in four acts. I don’t know how much was changed in the lyrics, if any, but everything seems to fit the modern dress and mores setting. Oh, perhaps the need for a “majeur” to lead the dinner party is a bit anachronistic, but it all works just fine. The singing is superb from everyone and the clever choreography keeps one’s interest thruout. The costumes are appropriate, with some quite sexy ones on the women. During the instrumental entr’actes a clever bit involving processions on a moving walkway at Orleans airport in Paris provides plenty of laughs will offering something fun to watch during the non-singing portions. The subtitles are also very well translated and most readable.
Two upper-class friends, Raoul and Bobinet, had been lovers of diva-type Metella but she pretends she doesn’t know them when she appears at the airport with a third man. Raoul learns from his former valet who is now a tour guide that he is welcoming his new charges – a Swedish baron and baroness. Raoul switches with this valet and installs the couple in his apartments, hoping to seduce the baroness. This should be easy because the baron expresses his desires to cut loose in Paris and even has a written introduction from a friend to the courtesan Metella.
It turns out to be not so easy for Raoul and the high point of the operetta is a put-on formal dinner to which the baron is invited, supposedly populated by highly desirable society women and important men he wants to meet. Actually the guests are friends and the servants of Raoul plus his friend Bobinet. In the end the baron admits that in spite of the ruse he had a great time, and the Swedish husband and wife are reunited, along with some other liaisons in the ensemble. Although the music doesn’t follow much of the familiar Rosenthal ballet music Le vie parisienne, you will recognize some of the familiar melodies involved in the operetta.
The DTS sound is excellent and the transfer very hi-res, almost as good as Blu-ray. A fine production, obviously staged for TV but benefitting handsomely as a result, compared to some more staid videos of stage presentations.
– John Sunier