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Offenbach's Secret - A Film By Istvan Szabo

Offenbach / Dale / Jordan / Kulka / Kertesz
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2012488  
Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
Conductor:  Jia Lü
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 37 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

OFFENBACH'S SECRET

A film by István Szabó
after Croquefer and Les deux Aveugles by Jacques Offenbach

In Offenbachs's Secret, Oscar-winning director István Szabó throws new light on the timeless interplay between power, helplessness, courage and conformity in his character studies of two of the most scintillating personalities of France's Deuxieme Empire: the affable composer-entrepreneur Jacques Offenbach, and his aristocratic patron Charles de Morny.

Featuring Laurence Dale, Graham Clark, Tamás Jordán, János J. Kulka, Pál Makrai, István Bubik, Sándor Sasvári, Marcella Kertész, Géza
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Patachon – Laurence Dale
Giraffier – Graham Clark
Jacques Offenbach – Tamás Jordan
Count de Morny – János Kulka
Croquefer – Pál Makrai
Boutefeu – István Bubik
Ramass-ta-Tête – Sándor Sasvari

Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Jia Lü, conductor

Bonus:
- The Missing Manuscript – The History of The Tales of Hoffmann – a film by Gérald Caillat

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Languages: English, German, French
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 97 mins (documentary) + 52 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1

R E V I E W:

Is this cinema, or a pretense to present two Offenbach operettas? It is difficult to tell. The copyright date is 1995 but there is no mention of it in Ken Wlaschin’s Encyclopedia of Opera on Screen which dates from 2004. I have been told that various directors were considered before the producers settled on Szabo. I suspect this was a production for television, but even then it has not previously crossed my path. And it is definitely a curious object, a UFO. Graham Clark and Laurence Dale are seen as both actors and singers in Les deux aveugles, while the others only lend their voices to Croquefer. In between there is a silly bit of plot that comes across in stilted fashion as the dubbing into French and English (I did not sample the German) is very stagy. The Duc de Morny comes backstage and issues instructions to the composer that various bits of dialog should be altered so that different foreign dignitaries will feel insulted. The two operettas are staged in black and white sets with the performers in white-face. Les deux aveugles is a short piece for two performers, and Clark and Dale bring it off impeccably. Far more substantial is Croquefer, with its typical Offenbach touches, its gentle parodies of Meyerbeer, though the exaggerations of the Hungarian actors quickly pall. Watching in English, the shifts from dialog to sung French are disconcerting, something that does not occur when watching in French. I had never heard either of the works before and was pleased by the occasion offered, though it is difficult to imagine sitting through the entire film a second time. The supplement’s title gives away the game: The Missing Manuscript—The History of the Tales of Hoffmann. And a fascinating history it is, with pages missing here and there, some parts thought to be lost in a fire, others found stashed away to prevent drafts in a chateau, and it is clearly recounted by Jean-Christophe Keck with occasional appearances by others involved in the detective work, namely Michael Kaye.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow
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Works on This Recording

1.
Work(s) by Jacques Offenbach
Conductor:  Jia Lü
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra

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