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Edmond AUDRAN (1840-1901)
La Mascotte (1880) operetta
Genevieve Moizan (sop) Bettina;
Robert Massard (ten) Pippo;
Lucien Baroux (ten) Laurent XVII;
Denise Cauchard (sop) Fiametta;
Bernard Alvi (ten) Fritellini
Choir and orchestra conducted by Robert Benedetti
Rec. Universal (Decca) Studios, Antony, France, 1956
2 CDs for the price of one

Some of the re-releases in the Accord Operette series are rare recordings and this is one of them.

Edmond Audran is not well known outside France where he was regarded as a lightweight composer. Born in Lyons he is little heard of now yet at one time he was remembered for a number of operettas produced in Paris. Olivette (1879), The Grand Mogal (1882) and Miss Helyett (1890) are little known today though a few recordings exist (c.1969) on the Gaïeté Lyrique label (MU744). His scores contain pleasant, unsophisticated melodies.

His most successful operettas came in 1880 with La Mascotte and in 1896 with the more sophisticated La Poupée. Audran rose to a higher musical level in composing a grand opera, Photis (1896), but this was never published and is totally unknown.

The present rare recording of La Mascotte is interesting because it allows one to study this composer's style which rings the changes on Offenbach and other contemporaries. To me, the overture is a bit of an enigma and one should not use it as a basis for judging the vocal material that follows. The material is thinly scored and is not particularly engaging. Perhaps the problem is the way it is played? As so often happens, composers of this period seemed happy to leave overture writing to someone else, usually a theatre's musical director. It is surprising that Audran ever allowed it to stand without modification and enrichment of orchestral detail.

By 1885 La Mascotte had chalked up 1000 performances, so what are its attractive features and what is its plot? The Parisians enjoyed its comic overtones and the piece flows well with some attractive tunes. Audran's music is bright and carries the plot along nicely. The operetta is a story of situations of luck and bad luck bestowed on its characters:

A farmer, Rocco, is blessed by bad luck and so his superstitious brother sends to him Bettina, a country girl, as a mascot who he hopes will cure this ill fortune. The farmer's shepherd, Pippo, falls for the virgin Bettina, who is later encouraged by Prince Laurent to live at his nearby castle. (The Prince is the operetta's comic character who despite his station shouldn't be taken too seriously.) Pippo helps Bettina escape from the castle when it seems she is about to be married to the Prince. The lonely Prince now receives a bout of bad luck when war breaks out and he is rejected by his subjects. Pippo marries Bettina in the hope that her powers (imaginary?) will be hereditarily bestowed on their children.

The performance is strong and the singing of Moizan and Massard does not disappoint. Baroux is anything but a lyric singer but this is not a necessity for his part. (There is no point in detailing all singers where no rival recording exists.) I found the abridged dialogue convincing and the studio orchestra plays well, though at times ponderously under Benedetti's direction. It is unusual that the principal male parts are written for tenor rather than a mixture of voices.

The recording is clear, with singers usually closely miked. They don't drown the orchestra, however. The acoustic is fairly dry but the brass, notably the horns in fanfares, are given a wider acoustic to shows off to good advantage.

Brief notes in French are provided in the attractive card case.

Raymond Walker

Other sets in the Accord 'Operette' series:

Benatzky, L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc [465 880-2];

Christiné, Dédé [461 961-2] Phi-Phi [465 886-2];

Dumas, Ignace [472 877-2];

Ganne, Les Saltimbanques [465 868-2];

Goublier, La Cocarde de Mimi Pinson [461 964-2];

Lecocq, La Fille de Madame Angot [465 883-2] Le Petit Duc [472 874-2];

Lehár, Paganini [472 868-2] Rose de Noel [472 871-2];

Maillart, Les Dragons de Villars [472 865-2];

Messager, Véronique [465 864-2];

Offenbach, La Belle Hélène[461 954-2] La Fille du Tambour Major [461 673-2] La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein [465 871-2];

Planquette, Les Cloches de Corneville [465 861-2];

Strauss, Trois Valses [461 958-2];

Varney, Les Mousquetaires au Couvent [465 874-2];

Yvain, La-Haut [461 967-2].

Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Oxford 2003); ‘Musicals", Ganzl (Carlton 1995)

Operette series from Universal Accord reviewed by Ray Walker

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