Honegger: Les Aventures du Roi Pausole

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Brilliant Classics
WORKS: Les Aventures du Roi Pausole
PERFORMER: Mattijs van de Woerd, Ambroz Bajec Lapajne, Simone Riksman, Fabio Trümpy, Rea Kost-Fueter, Niklaus Kost, Francis van Broekhuizen, Adélaïde Rouyer, Marijje van Stralen; Opera Trionfo; Nieuw Ensemble/Ed Spanjaard


In November 1930, in between finishing his gritty First Symphony and his dyspeptic oratorio Cris du monde, Honegger composed this operetta on a salacious novel by Pierre Louÿs.

Whether or not boosted by the presence of a number of scantily clad ladies on stage, it ran for 400 performances at Offenbach’s old theatre, the Bouffes-Parisiens, and made Honegger a lot of money, which he promptly lost on the stock market.

He always felt a composer’s life was a hard one and looked sourly on this work’s success: was he to go down in history as a composer of operettas? As we know, he would not. In operating outside his natural discomfort zone, he took on a task which has always seemed easy to outsiders, though it is anything but. He acknowledged Offenbach, Mozart and Messager as inspirations for his own operetta but, 400 performances or no, a light yet memorable touch often evades him.

The problem is compounded in this recording by the Dutch singers’ straitlaced rhythms (the Swiss tenor Fabio Trümpy does better). They sing what’s on the page, but in this kind of music that’s not enough.

The orchestra plays with spirit, even if the brass are often too loud. Shorn also of its spoken dialogue, this is no more than a well-meaning performance of a curiously patchy work. Roger Nichols