Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Le Postillon de Lonjumeau, operetta (complete with dialogue, in French) (1836)
John Aler (Chapelou/Saint-Phar), June Anderson (Madeleine/Madame de Latour), Francois Le Roux (Le Marquis de Corcy), Jean-Phillippe Lafont (Biju/Alcindor), Daniel Ottewaere (Bourdon), Balvina de Courcelles (Rose)
The Jean Laforge Choral Ensemble
Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra/ Thomas Fulton
Rec. Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo 1985
EMI 574 1062 [CD1 48.46 CD2 47.33]

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This is the second EMI release of Adam’s Postillon de Lonjumeau, the first being the enjoyable LP recording of 1965 in German with Gedda, Putx, Crass and which was transferred to CD in 1990 [CDZ 252 2202]. We now have a complete recording of it with dialogue from a stable and conductor that has done much to revive forgotten French vocal works of the 19th Century. We may remember that Monte-Carlo with Fulton and the Aler/Anderson partnership brought us an excellent rare recording of Auber’s La Muette de Portici (1820) [CDS 749 2842], a work of not dissimilar musical style to that of Adam. (If only the UK had a similar team to bring back forgotten British romantic operas our musical heritage would be that much richer.)

Adolphe Adam always considered his music to be jolly, bright and comprehensible and made no excuse for it. In his own words….

"My only aim is to write music which is transparent, easy to understand and pleasing to the public."

With a pianist and composer father he received his musical training at the Paris Conservatoire. An interest in composing for the theatre was engendered by Boildeau, who pointed the lucrative returns that such composers could receive. Adam set out on a musical career which yielded forty lyric works, as well as around twenty vaudevilles, ballets and opéra comiques. He is mainly remembered for his ballet music, and in particular Giselle. Of his opéra comiques three of the best-remembered are Si etais Roi, Le Toréador, and of course Le Postillon de Lonjumeau. (A new production of Si etais Roi was broadcasted by the BBC in 2000 and could possibly be released at some future date.) Some of the Postillon score might considered suitable as ballet music since tripping measures float gaily throughout the work. Auber can be heard in some of his orchestral accompaniments and motifs: a chorus number, Jeunes époux from Act 1 of Le Postillon shares a marked similarity to the Entr’acte and chorus to Act 2 of Auber’s Manon Lescaut. As an uninhibited 19th Century composer, Adam has no problem in reaching the heart with emotionally stirring melodies while his creations flow creatively. Yet sadly he is remembered for so little nowadays. From its opening in Paris, Le Postillon’s success took a translated version into Germany where it enjoyed equal popularity. It reached London a year after its Paris premiere and New York three years later in 1840.

Le Postillon de Lonjumeau contains a simple and straightforward plot. Kurt Ganzl in his book sums the work up neatly–

It is the tale of the top-D singing Coachman (Postillon) who leaves his brand new wife to go of to the big city and become an opera star. –and that in a nutshell is what it is.

In Act 1 the newly married postillon (Chapelou) and his wife (Madeleine, an innkeeper) consult a clairvoyant who predicts an eventful time for them. The director of the Royal Opera (the Marquis) happens to be staying at the Inn (his carriage conveniently overturned close by) when Chapelou is heard singing his ‘usual’ song. The young coachman is invited to join the Marquis’s company but they have to leave directly. With excitement he asks his friend to tell his wife where he has gone.

Act 2 takes place ten years later. By now Madeleine has come into an inheritance and is known as Madame Latour, Meanwhile Chapelou has become a star at the Opera. The Marquis holds a party and by some strange coincidence has invited Madame Latour. Chapelou falls for the charms of her, not recognising the woman he left behind. He proposes, she accepts, and a wedding takes place. Try the compounded catchy part singing in track 9 is particularly delightful and is written in a style ahead of its time with surprise change of key and pace to run into the aria and fugal chorus could well have induced encores

In Act 3 the Marquis has gone off to inform the police and denounce this act of bigamy. Madeleine appears in her old peasant clothes and Chapelou recognises her. In darkness she transforms before Chapelou’s eyes into Madame Latour, the rich heiress.

She reveals her deception to the Marquis who has appeared with the police and declares to them her game –the couple have married twice and vow from that day on to love like good village people. This induces a hearty response from the chorus to provide a stirring finale.

Here we have a strong cast with both Aler and Anderson singing delightfully and make a good partnership for their lyrical roles. Their Act 1 Duo, Quoi, tous les deux, a musical conversation, illustrates how well the two complement each other and how Adam has given us much more than the recitative which other composers might have provided. The demands of the score for the Coachman’s song require that particularly high top notes be reached so this part needs to be cast with care. Aler is an accomplished singer who does Adam’s character justice but although he has a good vocal range he is a lighter tenor when compared with the robustly confident Gedda. Throughout, Fulton provides an energetic reading of the score in keeping with Adam’s jollity and gets an alert response from the superb orchestra. The chorus are sprightly but in one instance in Act 1 show a tendency to be behind the beat. The recording perhaps lacks a little of the warmth noticeable in EMI’s German recording yet is nicely balanced with soloists not too closely miced and all sections of the orchestra heard.

This 2 CD set is a reissue of a CD set released in the 1986. The recording is excellent with strong treble and considerable vocal clarity. As is the trend nowadays, this young recording (sixteen years old) is already being offered as a re-issue. The bargain mid-price issue is accompanied by rather brief notes, yet one can be assured of hearing prominent singers in a good performance.

Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Oxford); ‘Musicals", Ganzl (Carlton)

Raymond Walker


Pictures a) insert at top is the German EMI highlights recording of 1965 b) Scene from the operetta

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