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Offenbach: La Belle Helene / Lott, Senechal, Beuron, Et Al

Offenbach / Lott
Release Date: 06/29/2004 
Label:  Kultur Video   Catalog #: 2916  
Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  François Le RouxFelicity LottMichel SénéchalYann Beuron
Conductor:  Marc Minkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Musiciens du Louvre
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the second Offenbach operetta to be attacked by the team of Marc Minkowski and Laurent Pelly, following a few years and other projects after their first collaboration, Orphée aux enfers (also available on DVD). If you appreciated their work in the underworld, you will be vastly amused here. Pelly, the stage director, takes his cue from the love duet, “Is this a dream?”, so that as the curtain rises we see an elderly man in bed, a younger wife brushing her teeth, getting into bed, turning the TV on and off before she falls asleep, and lo and behold she has become Helen of Troy. The chorus are tourists visiting Greece and the mélange continues throughout so that the juxtapositions we see are as relevant to modern Read more audiences as were those of Offenbach and his librettists to audiences of their own time.

While Felicity Lott may not be the mezzo originally envisioned for the title role, her tongue-in-cheek portrayal almost persuades us that she is Helen. Michel Sénéchal’s Ménélas is a model of drollery, rivaling Lott all the way in the grimace and moue department. He may not have enough voice left for the patriotic trio, but François Le Roux (Calchas) and Laurent Naouri (Agamemnon) compensate. Marie-Ange Todorovitch’s Oreste is the spoiled brat incarnate, while his two bimbos are portrayed by newcomers Stéphanie d’Oustrac and Magali Léger, totally unafraid to display their charms. Yann Beuron’s Paris takes every advantage offered by his role, perhaps lacking the insolence for the repeated “Evohé” of his first song but perfect everywhere else, whether as the rock star when he sings his Tyrolienne or the calculating seducer. The remaining kings contribute to our enjoyment, though Pelly’s costumes border on the ridiculous, but that is his customary approach as those who have seen Platée or Les Boréades will recognize.

Minkowski’s contribution is perhaps the most important, with an orchestra of the right size able to bring out all the composer’s inventiveness. While not for all tastes—Lott’s second-degree approach, the director’s distancing of the plot as well as the hyperactivity he encourages—this is a performance that most will enjoy. For some reason, the Goose Game, which is on the audio CDs, has been omitted from the DVD, perhaps for English-speaking audiences, as the DVD sold in Europe has subtitles in several languages besides English and lasts longer.

-- Joel Kasow, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  François Le Roux (Baritone), Felicity Lott (Soprano), Michel Sénéchal (Tenor),
Yann Beuron (Tenor)
Conductor:  Marc Minkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Musiciens du Louvre
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Paris, France 

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