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Maurice YVAIN (1891-1965)
La-Haut operetta (1923) (complete, with abridged dialogue in French)
Maurice Chevalier (ten) Evariste; Marina Hotine (sop) Emma; Roméo Carles (bar) Frisotin; André Balbon (sop) Saint-Pierre
Rec. Universal France (Decca) Studios, Antony, France 1953 Mono
2 CD set for the price of one
DISCOVERY/ACCORD OPERETTE SERIES 461 967-2 [2CDs: 84:51]



Maurice Yvain is largely unknown outside France, yet he followed in the footsteps of Henri Christiné as a composer of Paris-based musicals in the 1920s. He composed for the theatre between the 1920s and 1930s and with the advent of the ‘talkies’ wrote film scores, which included La Belle Équipe (1936) and Lumières de Paris (1938).
As a Parisian he would have been aware of the popularity of Christiné's Phi-Phi in 1918 and like Christiné by then was already a writer of popular song. His output encompassed revue numbers, musical comedy and musical spectaculars. Before La-Haut, Yvain had composed a successful operetta, Ta Bouche (1922), that was translated to become One Kiss in London the following year.
La-Haut is more exactly an opérette-bouffe which is based on a dream sequence. The plot concerns a man who dreams he is in heaven and returns in secrecy to visit his widow to discover what she has been doing in his absence. As Traubner in his book, Operetta, points out, it is a work full of high spirits (literally), fun and fantasy that reflects some of the works by Offenbach. The plot development is uneven and allots the majority of vocal numbers to the men.
This 1953 recording was lucky to catch Maurice Chevalier before his voice took on its later raspy characteristic. His rendering of the show's hit fox-trot number, 'Le Premier Paradis, c'est Paris' [CD1 tr.5] is both elegant and engaging. In fact this and others were numbers Yvain tailored especially for Chevalier so it is good we hear them as intended. The same cannot be said for Roméo Carles: his comic role would be quite acceptable on stage, but in a recording with no visual presence his coarse and harsh voice is unattractive. It is a disappointment to find that he sings in many of the tracks. Marina Hotine as Emma sings with confident grace. Her innocent 'Etre veuve' {CD1 tr.8] and sensuous 'Parce que' {CD1 tr.9] are a delight.
The mono recording is excellent and better than some made a decade later. The orchestra responds well to Jacques-Henri Rys's engaging pace. A spoken introduction of 1.05 minutes, as seems to be the pattern on certain other discs in this series, seems unnecessary as the information could be provided within the booklet.
Brief notes in French are provided and an attractive card case replaces the usual jewel box.

Raymond Walker


Operette series from Universal Accord reviewed by Ray Walker



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