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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Coscoletto ou Le Lazzarone (1865)
Mojca Erdman (soprano) ... Coscoletto; Yoo-Chang Nah (bass) ... Frangipani; Mechtild Georg (alto) ... Mariana; Thomas Dewald (tenor) ... Polycarp; Anke Hoffmann (soprano) ... Delfina; Henner Lewyhe (tenor) ... Arsenico; Angele Durand (speaker) ... Narrator
Collegium Cantandi Bonn
WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln/Helmuth Froschauer
Recorded in Funkhaus Am Wallrafplatz, Köln, May and June, 2001. DDD
CAPRICCIO 60 121 [50:48 + 30:41]

Bad Ems is a spa town near Koblenz, on the river Lahn. Still thriving, it was at the height of its popularity in the Nineteenth Century, when visitors included Tsar Nicholas I and cultural figures such as Dostoyevsky, Wagner – and Jacques Offenbach. Offenbach visited Bad Ems for the sake of his own health and because a whole series of his smaller works had their premières there. These included Les Bavards (as Bavard et Bavarde) in 1862, Signor Fagotto (1863), Le Fifre Enchanté ou Le Soldat magicien (1864), Jeanne qui pleure et Jean qui rit (1864), La Leçon de chant électromagnétique (1867) – and Coscoletto, first performed on 24 July 1865. There were further performances in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Baden-Baden before the 1860s were out. Soon after that it effectively disappeared until recent times. This first recording is based on a 2001 production which was presented at several locations in Germany, including Bad Ems itself, which now hosts an Offenbach festival.

The original French libretto for Coscoletto, by one of Offenbach’s regular collaborators Charles Nuitter, has been lost; it is here performed in the German translation by Julius Hopp, prepared for the Vienna production one year after the première. The plot of Coscoletto is a characteristic piece of love and intrigue, deception and confusion, set in Naples - occasional phrases of Italian sit rather oddly amidst the German. Events range from a misdirected letter to an eruption of Vesuvius! The characters are types which, as Peter Hawig suggests in his booklet notes, can be traced back to the traditions of the commedia dell’arte. So, for example, Coscoletto (the ‘lazzarone’) and Delfina the flower-girl are versions of Arlecchino and Columbine, and the jealous, elderly husband – Frangipani, the seller of macaroni – is clearly derived from Pantalone.

In this recording Coscoletto makes for an hour and half’s entertaining listening. In the title role Mojca Erdmann has a charming, youthful voice and the ensemble work is generally very sound. In the first act finale, the interplay of soloists and chorus is well handled. Polycarp’s elegy for his recently deceased dog (poisoned by Arsenico the apothecary) is amusingly performed by Thomas Dewald. In the second act the praises of macaroni are delightfully sung, and the finale’s mock deaths, when most of the characters fear themselves accidentally poisoned, and (actual) reconciliations, provoke Offenbach to some very characteristic writing.

Yet, this remains a minor work, not likely to do anything to make us revise our views of Offenbach; it will probably be of enduring interest only to those with a special interest in Offenbach. It here receives a good, competent, but unremarkable recording. There are quite long stretches of spoken dialogue and narrative in German. The documentation includes the full libretto in German, but no translations.

Glyn Pursglove

 



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