Offenbach: La vie parisienne

COMPOSERS: Offenbach
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Offenbach
WORKS: La vie parisienne
PERFORMER: Delavault, Wauthion, Mazin; Lyon National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/ Jean-Yves Ossorice;dir. Alain Françon (Lyon Opera, 1991)
A great deal of thought went into this 1991 Lyon Opera production (by Alain Francon) of Offenbach’s classic 1866 opéra bouffe, but somehow a vital ingredient or two went missing en route. The score itself is enchanting, and the tale of innocent foreigners being (mis)guided around Paris by some of its more rackety inhabitants a wryly humorous one. Though an unusually lengthy edition of the score is performed, and Offenbach’s orchestral sound-world lovingly recreated under the spirited musical direction of lean-Yves Ossonce, the decision to cast the work with singing actors pays limned dividends. Overall it’s hard not to feel that the work is under-sung.


A more serious problem is the tone. What ought to register as an entertainment of some brilliance and a rather desperate gaiety comes over more like a tract. Françon’s view is a pretty dark one, and though no one-wants to veto the satirical, even subversive nature of the piece, it has tipped over here into a joyless, at times alienated representation. It’s strikingly done in its way, but it’s often hard going and there aren’t that many laughs. Synopsis and limited notes in the booklet. George Hall