Offenbach - Maitre Peronilla (CD + Book)
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Label: Bru Zane
Cat No: BZ1039
Format: CD + Book
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 28th February 2020
Choeur de Radio France
Orchestre National de France
Castanets, tambourines and triangle merrily punctuate one of Offenbach’s last scores, which multiplies impressive vocal ensembles while not renouncing intimate numbers of great poetry. Our world premiere recording features specialists of this repertory such as Éric Huchet and Loïc Félix, but also opera singers more unexpected in this context – including Véronique Gens – who audibly delight in letting their hair down in such joyful company, ably supported by the talents of the Orchestre National de France and the Choeur de Radio France.
2Choeur: Roulez, sonnez et faites rage
3Serenade: Helas, ma petite cousine (Frimouskino, Choeur)
4Couplets et Duetto: En la comblant de gateries (Frimouskino, Ripardos)
5Couplets du chocolat: Oui, je le dis, et m'en fais gloire (Peronilla)
6Ballade de la belle Espagnole: Il etait un joli jeune homme (Leona)
7Entree, Couplets et Dialogue: Manoela (Frimouskino, Manoela, Leona, Peronilla)
8Choeur: Amis et parents (Peronilla, Choeur)
9Presentation des freres Velasquez: Velasquez major (Les Deux Velasquez, Peronilla, Guardona, Choeur)
10Romance et dialogue: Quand j'ai du, la mort dans l'ame (Alvares, Frimouskino, Ripardos)
11Terzetto: Quelle est donc cette joie (Alvares, Frimouskino, Ripardos)
12Choeur, melodrame et dialogue: La cloche sonne (Leona, Peronilla, Ripardos, Don Fabrice, Frimouskino, Manoela, Alvares, Guardona, le Marquis)
13Choeur et Dialogue: Buvons a plein bord (Peronilla, Leona, Guardona, le Marquis, Choeur)
14Finale: Ah! ah! ah! (Peronilla, Leona, Guardona, le Marquis, Choeur)
16Melodrame Et Couplets Des Petits Valets: Tiens! Deja Minuit (Pedrillo, Antonio, Juanito, Felipe, Petits Valets)
17Rondeau: Je Pars, Je Vais, Je Vole (Frimouskino)
18Ensemble du Souper: Je Rage, Soupons Tout De Meme (Tous Avec Le Choeur)
19La Malaguenia: D'ou Viens-Tu, Chanson Nouvelle (Alvares, Tous Avec Le Choeur)
20Ensemble: Il Se Fait Tard (Tous Avec Le Choeur)
21Quatuor: Sortez Avec Precaution (Manoela, Alvares, Frimouskino, Ripardos, Peronilla)
22Choeur Des Alguazils Et Melodrame: Ouvrez, Au Nom De La Loi! (Tous Avec Le Choeur)
23Couplets De Manoela: Petit Papa, Protegez-Moi (Manoela, Tous Avec Le Choeur)
24Finale : Allons, Allons, Il Faut Partir! (Tous Avec Le Choeur)
26Choeur: De L'audience Enfin Voici Le Jour (Paquita, Rosita, Marietta, Choeur)
27Chanson Militaire: Toujours Idele a La Consigne (Ripardos, Choeur)
28Romance et Dialogue: Asurement J'ai Confiance (Frimouskino, L'Huissier, Ripardos)
29Couplets du Maitre a Chanter: On Nous Separe, On Nous Accable (Alvares)
30Finale: Le Contrat! (Tous Avec Le Choeur)
Set in Spain, a locale that always brought out the best in Offenbach, Maître Péronilla centres on the efforts of the titular Péronilla, a successful Madrid chocolatier, to find a suitable husband for his daughter Manoëla. Her marriage to the much older Don Guardona is subverted by her cousins Fromuskino and Ripardos, resulting in her civil marriage to Guardona but church wedding to the young music-master, Alvarès. Péronilla’s sister Léona has been spurned by Alvarès and is bent on revenge, but this comedy of ‘the woman with two husbands’ resolves itself when, during a court process in which Péronilla (now favouring Alvarès) resumes his previous profession of lawyer, it emerges that the civil paperwork contracted Guardona to Léona, leaving Manoëla freely wed to her beloved Alvarès.
The implausible plot doesn’t make overmuch of the Spanish setting, but that doesn’t prevent Offenbach from throwing castanets and a show-stopping Malaguenia into the mix to give some local flavour, while balancing things out with a Viennese-style waltz for the Act 2 finale. With some twenty characters in total plus chorus, the original production was a feast for the eye (the costumes attracted particular praise), and the score combines some catchy tunes (apart from Alvarès’s Malaguenia, there’s a memorable Sérénade as well as a patter-style Rondeau for Frimouskino, a Ballade de la belle Espagne for Léona, and Péronilla’s Couplets du chocolat) with deft orchestration that gives this opéra-bouffe the elegance and refinement of an opéra comique. As one of the more perceptive contemporary critics noted, the style is ‘amiable rather than crazy, subtle rather than clownish’.
In short, this is a work well overdue for revival and reappraisal, and the Palazetto Bru Zane, renowned for its classy productions of French rarities, has done it proud. A dream cast is headed by the brilliant Véronique Gens as the duenna-like Léona, and tenor Éric Huchet as her chocolatier brother. Manoëla is tenderly sung by Anaïs Constans, while Antoinette Dennefeld and Chantal Santon-Jeffrey shine in the trouser-roles of Frimouskino and Alvarès. Baritone Tassis Christoyannis completes the main line-up as Ripardos, clearly enjoying his toe-tapping Act 3 Chanson militaire ‘Toujours fidèle à la consigne’. The minor roles, too, are all sung with verve and obvious enthusiasm for the idiom.
Markus Poschner presides over proceedings with a sure feeling for the score’s subtleties and humour, adroitly realised by the Orchestre National de France, and the Radio France Chorus enter into the spirit of the comedy with their frequent contributions. Under the artistic direction of producer Benoît Gaspard, the cast seem to have just as much fun in the dialogue as they do in the musical items. Of the many highlights, stand-out numbers are Gens’s Act 1 Ballade ‘Il était un joli jeune homme’, Dennefeld’s quickfire delivery of the Act 2 Rondeau ‘Je pars, je vais, je vole’, Santon-Jeffrey and chorus in the Malaguenia, and the unusually touching Act 2 Quartet ‘Sortez avec précaution’. If by the end of Act 3 you’re not convinced of the work’s brilliance, you’ll surely be in a very small minority, for this is as engaging and refined a piece as many of Offenbach’s more celebrated scores. In the hands of a gifted director with a feeling for comedy plus a touch of postmodern irony, it could surely work well in a stage revival.
As usual with Bru Zane releases, this is a particularly handsome package, the CDs housed in a numbered, limited-edition hardcover book with in-depth background articles, illustrations, full libretto and English translation, plus helpful ribbon-markers so you don’t lose your place! Last year’s La Périchole from the same label was a big success with collectors and critics: though far less well-known, Maître Péronilla deserves to do just as well. Outstandingly performed by an experienced and committed cast, it should be on every operetta lover’s shelves. Chapeau!
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