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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Maître Péronilla, opéra bouffe in three acts (1878) [100:40]
Véronique Gens, Antoinette Dennefeld, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Anaïs Constans, Diana Axentii, Éric Huchet, Tassis Christoyannis, François Piolino, Patrick Kabongo, Loïc Félix, Yoann Dubruque, Matthieu Lécroart, Raphaël Brémard, Jérôme Boutillier, Philippe-Nicolas Martin, Antoine Philippot
Chœur de Radio France
Orchestre National de France/Markus Poschner
rec. live (concert performances), 31 May & 1 June 2019, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Full French libretto with English translation provided in book
Bru Zane ‘Opéra français’ series of CD-books, Volume 23
BRU ZANE BZ1039 [44:06 + 56:34]

Palazzetto Bru Zane, the centre created for the rediscovery and international promotion of the French musical heritage, continues its French Opéra series with Offenbach’s Maître Péronilla an opéra bouffe in three acts. Now with Maître Péronilla, this world première recording of the full score from 2019 marking the bicentennial of Offenbach’s birth, the Bru Zane series has reached volume 23 in a limited edition of 4,000.

Offenbach was one of a number of French based composers who were both inspired and captivated by the atmosphere of Spain. He had already written Spanish themed musical theatre works Pépito, La Duchesse d’Albe and Les bavards. In fact, in the French music journal Le Ménestrel a journalist after seeing Maître Péronilla stated ‘There is more Spain in Offenbach’s brain than in Spain itself’. For Maître Péronilla Offenbach wrote his own libretto with some assistance from Charles Nuitter and Paul Ferrier. Here Offenbach has provided many of the customary antics so characteristic of an opéra bouffe including love and revenge, elopement, marital deception where it appears that Manoëla is married twice, with the usual mix-ups and comic twists. Premièred in 1878 at Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens Maître Péronilla ran for fifty performances before being withdrawn. Evidently this large scale opéra bouffe received just a single revival in the 20th century in a partial form for a French radio broadcast which was recorded.

Here Bru Zane has recorded Maître Péronilla at live concert performances at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with the benefit of a predominantly French roster of singers. Throughout this feels like a gratifying venture for all concerned with the cast communicating a palpable sense of high spirits and ample personality. Renowned soprano Véronique Gens sings the role of Léona, the older spinster sister of Manoëla. In a classy performance Gens stands out in Léona’s act one Ballade de la belle Espagnole (Ballad of the beautiful Spanish Girl) relating how she fell in love with a handsome young man, firmly displaying her fluid, expressive tone. Eponymous hero Péronilla, Madrid’s leading chocolate maker is sung by Éric Huchet. Memorably extolling his wares in the catchy and puffed up Chocolate Song from act one Huchet reveals his smooth, delightfully warm tenor together with such excellent diction. In striking form too is Chantal Santon-Jeffery in the trouser role of Alvarès, the good-looking music teacher. Alvarès's act two Malaguenia with chorus is performed with brio by the soprano displaying compelling expression and smooth tone, most comfortable in her high register.

The part of Péronilla’s daughter the beautiful Manoëla is taken by soprano Anaïs Constans. Manoëla’s act one and act two couplets are afforded lovely singing by Constans with notably smooth and attractive tone. Baritone Tassis Christoyannis sings the part of Sergeant Ripardos, Manoëla’s cousin. Notable is Christoyannis’ performance of the act three Military Song with chorus, singing solidly and effectively with satisfying expression. Another trouser role, Frimouskino, the manipulative young notary clerk, is taken by Antoinette Dennefeld who is in fine voice especially in her ravishing act three Romance. Dennefeld’s smooth mezzo-soprano is in splendid condition, expressive and well controlled. Most enjoyable too is tenor Raphaël Brémard singing Pédrillo’s opening part of the Song of the little valets joined by baritone Philippe-Nicolas Martin as Félipe/Antonio. The Chœur de Radio France under chorus master Marc Korovitch is in tremendous form, red-blooded in the Chorus of Alguazils, witty in the Chorus of Women and demonstrating a high level of sensitivity in the ensemble piece Il se fait tard (It’s getting late). Markus Poschner conducts the Orchestre national de France with ample appreciation of the score’s humour and vitality, all balanced out with a pleasing level of style.

Recorded at live concert performances at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris the sound quality has clarity and is well balanced. There is virtually nothing in the way of stage noise and any applause has been taken out. This French Opéra series, a bilingual edition (French and English), consists of a 174-page hardback book with CDs. Containing the full French libretto and detailed synopsis there are five informative essays also included together with a full cast and track listing. A shortcoming when using the track listing is the lack of a page number to find its place in the libretto.

Engaging from start to finish this Bru Zane release of Maître Péronilla is a fitting homage to the talent of Offenbach, recorded in his 200th anniversary year.

Michael Cookson

Véronique Gens – Léona
Antoinette Dennefeld – Frimouskino
Chantal Santon-Jeffery – Alvarès
Diana Axentii – Paquite / Marietta / Rosita
Anaïs Constans – Manoëla
Éric Huchet – Maître Péronilla
Tassis Christoyannis – Ripardos
François Piolino – Don Guarddona
Patrick Kabongo – Vélasquez Major
Loïc Félix – Vélasquez Junior
Yoann Dubruque – Le Marquis Don Henrique
Matthieu Lécroart – Don Fabrice / 1st Judge
Raphaël Brémard – The Notary / Pédrillo
Jérôme Boutillier – Le Corrégidor / Brid’Oison / Juanito
Philippe-Nicolas Martin – Félipe / Antonio / 2nd Judge
Antoine Philippot – Le Majordome / L’ Huissier / Valet

Track Listing
CD 1 [44:06]
Act I
1. Ouverture
2. Chœur: Roulez, sonnez et faites rage (Chœur)
3. Sérénade: Hélas, ma petite cousine (Frimouskino, Chœur)
4. Dialogue et sortie: Veux-tu te taire (Léona, Frimouskino, Chœur)
5. Dialogue: Ah ! mon petit Frimouskino! (Frimouskino, Ripardos)
6. Couplets et Duetto: En la comblant de gâteries (Frimouskino, Ripardos)
7. Dialogue: Attention! Voici l’oncle Péronilla! (Frimouskino, Ripardos, Léona, Péronilla)
8. Couplets du chocolat: Oui, je le dis, et m’en fais gloire (Péronilla)
9. Dialogue: Exiger la signature! (Péronilla, Léona, Frimouskino)
10. Ballade de la belle Espagnole: Il était un joli jeune homme (Léona)
11. Dialogue: Tiens! Mais, je ne la connaissais pas (Léona, Péronilla)
12. Entrée, Couplets et Dialogue: Manoëla! (Frimouskino, Manoëla, Léona, Péronilla)
13. Chœur: Amis et parents (Péronilla, Chœur)
14. Dialogue: Mesdames et messieurs (Péronilla, Le Marquis, Guardona, Ripardos, Frimouskino, Léona)
15. Présentation des frères Vélasquez : Vélasquez major! (Les deux Vélasquez, Péronilla, Guardona, Chœur)
16. Dialogue: Monsieur le notaire! (Léona, Le Notaire, Frimouskino, Péronilla, Manoëla, Le Marquis, Ripardos)
17. Chœur de sortie: Amis et parents (Chœur)
18. Dialogue: Au revoir, mon cher Guardona! (Le Marquis, Guardona, Don Fabrice, Ripardos, Frimouskino)
19. Mélodrame: Dix heures! (Alvarès)
20. Romance et dialogue: Quand j’ai dû, la mort dans l’âme (Alvarès, Frimouskino, Ripardos)
21. Terzetto: Quelle est donc cette joie? (Alvarès, Frimouskino, Ripardos)
22. Dialogue et Mélodrame: Tu vas me dire enfin... (Alvarès, Frimouskino, Ripardos, Péronilla)
23. Chœur, Mélodrame et Dialogue: La cloche sonne (Léona, Péronilla, Ripardos, Don Fabrice, Frimouskino, Manoëla, Alvarès, Guardona, Le Marquis)
24. Chœur et Dialogue: Buvons à plein bord (Péronilla, Léona, Guardona, Le Marquis, Chœur)
25. Finale: Ah! ah! ah! ah! (Péronilla, Léona, Guardona, Le Marquis, Chœur)

CD 2 [56:34]
Act II
1. Entracte
2. Mélodrame et Couplets des petits valets: Tiens! Déjà minuit! (Pédrillo, Antonio, Juanito, Félipe, Petits Valets)
3. Dialogue et reprise du chœur: Caramba! Je vous y prends (Le Majordome, Pédrillo, Antonio, Juanito, Félipe, Ripardos, Alvarès, Manoëla, Frimouskino)
4. Rondeau: Je pars, je vais, je vole (Frimouskino)
5. Dialogue: Tiens, tiens... (Le Majordome, Manoëla, Alvarès, Ripardos, Le Marquis, Léona, Péronilla, Guardona)
6. Ensemble du souper: Je rage, soupons tout de même (Tous avec le Chœur)
7. La Malaguenia: D’où viens-tu, chanson nouvelle? (Alvarès, Tous avec le Chœur)
8. Dialogue: Je n’y tiens plus (Alvarès, Guardona, Péronilla, Léona, Le Marquis)
9. Ensemble: Il se fait tard (Tous avec le Chœur)
10. Dialogue: Eh! bien, messieurs mes gendres? (Péronilla, Alvarès, Guardona, Léona, Ripardos, Frimouskino)
11. Quatuor: Sortez avec précaution (Manoëla, Alvarès, Frimouskino, Ripardos, Péronilla)
12. Dialogue: C’est ma sœur qui va rager! (Péronilla, Guardona, Léona, Alvarès, Manoëla, Frimouskino, Ripardos, Le Marquis)
13. Chœur des Alguazils et Mélodrame: Ouvrez, au nom de la loi! (Tous avec le Chœur)
14. Couplets de Manoëla: Petit papa, protégez-moi (Manoëla, Tous avec le Chœur)
15. Finale: Allons, allons, il faut partir! (Tous avec le Chœur)
16. Entracte
17. Chœur: De l’audience enfin voici le jour! (Paquita, Rosita, Marietta, Chœur)
18. Chanson militaire: Toujours fidèle à la consigne (Ripardos, Chœur)
19. Dialogue: Eh bien ! Voilà le grand jour! Le jour du procès! (Ripardos, Frimouskino)
20. Romance et dialogue: Assurément j’ai confiance (Frimouskino, L’Huissier, Ripardos)
21. Chœur: Marchons au pas (Chœur)
22. Dialogue: Voici le tribunal! (Tous sauf Péronilla)
23. Couplets du Maître à chanter: On nous sépare, on nous accable (Alvarès)
24. Dialogue: C’est... ça... ça... captivant! (Tous)
25. Finale: Le contrat! (Tous avec le Chœur)

Book Contents (Bilingual edition in French and English):
Alexandre Dratwicki – ‘Maître Péronilla: an introduction’
Gérard Condé – ‘Maître Péronilla: opéra-bouffe or opéra-comique?’
Jean-Claude Yon – ‘Offenbach and Spain’
Étienne Jardin – ‘The voice of commerce’
Bénédict (Benoît Jouvin) – ‘The evening of the première’
Full Libretto

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