> MESSAGER Veronique [IL]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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André MESSAGER (1853-1929)
Véronique - operetta (complete with dialogue)
Mady Mesplé (Hélène), Andrea Guiot, Denise Benoit, Michel Dens (Florestan),
Jean-Christophe Benoit, Michel Dunand, Jacques Pruvost
René Duclos Choir
Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts Lamoureux/Jean-Claude Hartemann
Rec. Paris, 1969
EMI 72435 7407328 [CD1 48.46 CD2 47.33]

AmazonFrance  Crotchet

André Messager is mainly remembered for his delightful, tuneful ballet music for The Two Pigeons. He was a renowned conductor of his time as well as a composer. He conducted the premiere of Gustav Charpentier’s Louise and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. He was also Artistic Director of the Salle Favart (Opéra-Comique), of Covent Garden in London, of the Palais Garnier (the Opéra), director of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, and fierce champion of Wagner and Richard Strauss. Messager’s Véronique is considered to be one of the masterpieces of French operetta.

There are two big popular numbers that are instantly recognisable in Véronique and they both come early on in Act II: the "Donkey" duet, "Trot here and there … dear little donkey…" and the "Swing" duet. They are sung with verve by Michel Denis as Florestan and Mady Mesplé as Hélène de Solanges. Hélène is masquerading as Véronique, the florist's assistant, bent on correcting Florestan, her betrothed’s, licentious behaviour. (In true operetta tradition, the couple had never met. She has come up from the country to Paris to meet him only to find not that not only does he risk imprisonment unless he marries a rich heiress but that he has designs on the florist’s wife.)

The whole production is very jolly with lots of hummable tunes in many styles: in waltz time, marches, a czardas etc. Lyric soprano, Mady Mesplé is a delightful animated Hélène/Véronique and Michel Dens a dashing and urbane Florestan. They are supported by a splendid cast including Denise Benoit as Estelle/Ermance, Hélène’s aunt and co-conspirator and Michel Dunand, nicely nonchalant as the waggish Loustot in his song, "Quand j’étais baron des Merlettes".

This is an EMI France production and, I guess, a mid-price reissue. As such the documentation is sparse. There is no libretto and the synopsis is just about adequate. For this operetta there is an appreciable amount of spoken dialogue. Those with limited French should be aware of this but these sections are indicated in the track by track analysis so they can be programmed out.

A delightful, sunny entertainment with lots of hummable tunes, at least four of which are memorable, and two instantly recognisable.

Ian Lace

See also review by Raymond Walker

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

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