Le voyage dans la lune
Violette Polchi, Sheva Tehoval, Matthieu Lécroart, Pierre Derhet, Raphaël Brémard; Chœur et Orchestre National Montpellier Occitanie/Pierre Dumoussaud
Bru Zane BZ1048 151:02 mins (2 discs)
If Offenbach’s fifth and final Fairy Opera has gathered dust it’s probably because it was overtaken by history. A passion for theatrical spectacle, with an exploding rocket cannon, an erupting volcano and a transparent glass palace, became more magical in the cinema – Georges Méliès’s masterpiece A Trip to the Moon screened a quarter of a century after the first night of Le voyage dans le lune.
Yet Offenbach’s Opéra féerie is a delight as it makes its journey through a topsy-turvy world that inverts everyday social assumptions, which are mostly masculine. So when King V’lan and his son Caprice – a breeches role – arrive on the moon they learn from King Cosmos that here there is no love between the sexes and women are regularly bought and sold in the market. With earthly cunning Caprice will eventually win Fantasia, thanks to a handy supply of apples he had stowed on his space craft. The Old Adam lives as the women are liberated.
Sheva Tehoval is a magnificent Fantasia, with sweet tone and a formidable coloratura. Violette Polchi’s Caprice is every inch her match when they fall in love at the end of Act II. The two kings – Matthieu Lécroart as V’lan and Thibaut Desplantes as Cosmos – are as capricious as all of Offenbach’s rulers; and who could resist Cosmos’s spurned wife Popotte sung by Marie Lenormand? But it’s Offenbach’s score that earns the biggest hand. Who else can push a simple melody around the orchestra with such ease and grace?