Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


DVD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Tudor 7188


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 

alternatively
Crotchet AmazonUK

 

Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
La Belle Hélène
- opéra bouffe in three acts (1864)
Helen, Queen of Sparta: Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)
Paris, son of King Priam, King of Troy: Yann Beuron (tenor)
Menelaus, King of Sparta: Michel Sénéchal (tenor)
Agamemnon, King of Argos: Laurent Naouri (bass)
Calchas, High Priest of Jupiter: François Le Roux (baritone)
Orestes, son of Agamemnon: Marie-Ange Torodovitch (mezzo)
Achilles, King of Phthiotis: Eric Huchet (baritone)
Ajax I, King of Salamis: Alain Gabriel (baritone)
Ajax II, King of Locris: Laurent Alvaro (baritone)
Choir of the Musiciens du Louvre
Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble/Marc Minkowski
Costumes and Stage Design: Laurent Pelly

rec. live, Théâtre Musical de Paris – Châtelet, 2000
ARTHAUS 107000 [127:00 (opera); 26:00 (interviews)]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Minkowski’s sparkling Belle Hélène arrives afresh on DVD from Arthaus. The production has become something of a legend since it was premiered but it still has the power to delight and enthral. 

The production’s power comes from the way so many different elements, which could have clashed horribly, come together to create a perfect ensemble piece. Minkowski, for example, shines in this music. He was already well known as an interpreter of the Baroque before he took on this production, but his love of the “authentic” is perhaps the key to the zing which he brings to the music here. The pacing is sharp and foot-tapping, with a vibrant drive to the music which never drags but sparkles throughout. Similarly, his orchestra take to this music like ducks to water, and the frequent solo contributions are played lovingly. They take the music as seriously as it demands without ever losing touch with the comedy. 

Laurent Pelly is surely the hottest director on the French scene today. His productions do not always make integrated sense: why, for example, is the setting for Helen’s bedroom in Act 2 also the site of an archaeological excavation? But we forgive him all the anachronisms for the sheer sense of fun which pervades his work. His central idea is that the Helen is a 21st century housewife, bored and sexually starved, who falls asleep and dreams of being the most beautiful woman in the world. The whole opera takes place as her dream. This works particularly well in Act 1, though the concept seems to fade as the opera progresses and there is no return to the “real” world at the end. It’s also a neat way of explaining away Felicity Lott’s rather advanced age for playing Helen of Sparta! Pelly mingles the authentic with the aggressively modern: the chorus appear in classical robes as the priests of Jupiter, then reappear as tourists on a Greek cruise, before stripping off to their swim gear for the beaches of Nauplia at the end. During the dream sequence of Act 2 a flock of sheep appear on stage to be counted. It’s all thoroughly absurd, but perfectly in keeping with Offenbach’s intentions in sending up not just the mythological story but the government of his time. 

The best thing about this DVD, however, is the performances of the central role. At the heart of everything is Dame Felicity Lott’s Helen who anchors the whole production. She looks marvellous in the array of costumes she is given and as well as singing she acts brilliantly. Her body language conveys her crushing suburban boredom in the Prologue, while she becomes the girlish coquette when she meets Paris for the first time. Her singing also conveys every emotion needed for this character. She leads a surprisingly moving address to Adonis in Act 1, and convinces in her plea for “more love”. Her invocation to Venus in Act 2 is coy and winning, while her dream sequence is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. She is as close to perfection in this role as one could hope to see or hear and we should be grateful to the Châtelet for preserving her performance. Next to her is the seductive Yann Beuron as Paris. His light, smooth tenor is just right for this young seducer and his acting is just as convincing, even when he is wrapped in a towel! His Mount Ida aria in Act 1 is beautifully mellifluous. François Le Roux’s Calchas is authoritative when he needs to be, but bad tempered and petulant when called for, as in Act 3 when someone suggest calling for another priest. The kings have glorious comic turns, led by Laurent Naouri’s Agamemnon who enjoys camping it up in the spirit of the production. What a treat to have Michel Sénéchal’s Menelaus too. He fits easily into the role of the irritable bourgeois husband who is petulant, tetchy and protective, but he never loses sight of the comedy at the heart of the piece.

This is a great production of a tremendously fun piece: it sits worthily alongside Laurent Pelly’s other Offenbach productions and should be savoured by any fan of the composer. 

Simon Thompson 

Other MusicWeb International reviews of this production:

Frank Cadenhead
Terry Barfoot
Göran Forsling
Frank Cadenhead
Arthur Baker
Arthur Baker

 






 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.