Here is another example of an imaginative and useful
recycling of material from the vast EMI archives. Two of the Overtures
- La Périchole
and La Vie Parisienne
- come from complete
recordings under Michel Plasson. The remainder is from a disc of French
music conducted by Louis Frémaux recorded in the unlikely surroundings
of the Festival Hall in Corby. All of these are worth hearing, especially
the latter, but the bulk of the disc comes from a recital by Jane Rhodes.
These are particularly splendid examples of the idiomatic performance
of Offenbach. Each is sung very much in character, with the manner of
performance directed by the context of the item and by the words. Jane
Rhodes plays freely with the music, always respecting the underlying
line and tempo but varying both to characterise it fully. It is arguable
that her voice is too large for many of the pieces that she sings but
she manages to avoid the kind of effect all too often resulting from
with a heavy voice attempting something needing a lighter
and fresher approach.
Each of the chosen operettas is represented by its Overture followed by from two to four excerpts. The most enjoyable are probably those from La Périchole
and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein
, although not everyone will appreciate the occasionally broad characterisation in the former. The various orchestras play stylishly but the choir sing no more than dutifully. Fortunately their contribution is a small part of the whole.
I am not clear to whom EMI expect this disc to appeal. It would be an excellent introduction to the composer’s music but much more so if adequate notes – or indeed notes of any kind – were provided to explain the context of each item. The innocent ear will probably appreciate that the singer sounds intoxicated in “Ah! Quel diner” and that the Grande-Duchesse thoroughly relishes the opportunity to inspect her soldiers, but it would be good to explain more than that, ideally with the text and translation. The disc should however appeal also to those who know all the excerpts well. For both groups it offers a good representation of Jane Rhodes’ artistry in this music and also of Offenbach’s genius in his o