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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880) La Périchole - Opéra-bouffe in thee acts sung in German (1850) [120:30]
La Périchole - Sabine Brahm (soprano); Piquillo - Ralf Simon (tenor); Don Andes - Gerd Wiemer (baritone); Count Panatellas - Bernd Könnes (tenor); Don Pedro - Marcus Günzel (baritone); Guadalena/Manuelita - Jessica Glatte (soprano); Berginella/Frasquinella - Elke Kottmair (soprano); Mastrilla/Ninetta - Tanjo Höft (mezzo); Old prisoner - Dietrich Seyditz (speaker)
Chorus and orchestra of Staatsoperette Dresden/Ernst Theis
rec. Lukaskirche Dresden, 18-19 August 2009; Alter Schlachthof Dresden, 28 August 2010
no text or translations included CPO 777 493-2 [68:24 + 52:06]
La Périchole was first produced in 1868 and revised in 1874. This recording includes the whole of the first version in the new critical edition by Jean-Christoph Keck. You also get to hear two items written for the revised version - an aria for the title character and a new Finale for the final act. The recording therefore has a special interest for the Offenbach enthusiast although this may well be reduced by the use of a German translation of the sung text and by a new German version of the spoken text. The latter is however relatively brief and rarely intrusive even for a non-German speaking listener. It serves to separate the vocal numbers and provides a suitably theatrical atmosphere. You do however have to put up with the level at which it is recorded being high in relation to the musical numbers and the acoustic sounding markedly different.
Inevitably listeners’ reactions to this set will depend on their attitude to the use of German rather than French. I am all in favour of singers using a language in which they are fluent and in which their diction sounds natural. In this case the actual sounds of that language are so very different from those of the original French that the music’s character is substantially altered. I have enjoyed German language recordings of other French or Italian operas and the composer was after all born in Cologne. However the result here is a heaviness which weighs down the musical line and deflates the characteristic Offenbach delirium. The cast work hard to sing idiomatically but only rarely are they able to project the music “trippingly on the tongue” as is possible in the original language. They are not helped by an orchestra which as recorded here sounds more coarse than knowingly vulgar as the best Offenbach orchestras can.
The booklet contains a useful synopsis and essay on the work together with photographs of the cast in costume but lacks the original or translated text or any kind of translation. Although there is still an immense amount of Offenbach that has not been recorded there is no shortage of good recordings of La Périchole in the original language. I regret that on this occasion the Staatsoperette Dresden has failed to produce the kind of excitement and gratitude that their previous recordings of lesser known German operettas have caused. If this were the only recording of La Périchole it would be a very acceptable stopgap. There is much that is right here but overall this presents no serious competition to previous versions.