Songs and arias from Boule de neige, Vert-Vert, Orphée aux enfers, Un mari à la porte, Fantasio, Les Bavards, Mesdames de la halle, Le Roi Carotte, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Robinson Crusoë and Le voyage dans la lune
Jodie Devos (soprano), Adèle Charvet (mezzo-soprano); Munich Radio Orchestra/Laurent Campellone
Alpha Classics ALPHA 437 60:59 mins
This is a marriage made in a musical heaven with the young Dutch soprano Jodie Devos reminding us just how gifted Jacques Offenbach was as a composer. And how inventive too.
Yes, he has perfect musical manners; it’s true that he wears a gift for melody on his sleeve and his sense of rhythm is that of the boulevardier. But his orchestras are certainly made to sing for their suppers: the faintly sinister strings at the start of the Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, the shiver that runs through the basses when Eurydice sings the word ‘death’ in her invocation in Orphée aux enfers. Laurent Campellone gets the very best out of the Munich Radio Orchestra even in repertoire that will be unfamiliar to the most passionate Offenbachian.
For all that, this is Devos’s recording. She’s a gravity-defying coloratura soprano who would have thrilled the composer; and she’s certainly not the proverbial canary. It’s all characterisation in the couplets from Les Bavards as she skewers the chatterbox wife having first pinned down a grumpy husband. And when fireworks are called for she throws off scales and trills and runs with the greatest of ease. The three numbers from Boule de Neige, plundered from an earlier work in 1871 when Offenbach was struggling to rebuild his reputation after the ignominious end of the French Second Empire, are diamond bright.
Metaphorically, you’re on your feet before Devos is effortlessly stretching up to her final top notes.