Offenbach: La belle Hélène

Offenbach: La belle Hélène

by René Leibowitz

CD

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Overview

Offenbach: La belle Hélène

Jacques Offenbach's "La belle Hélène" is one of the real treasures in French operetta, a pure entertainment piece with no pretensions toward the serious. It was intended by librettists Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac as a deliberate send up of the classic Greek myths on which so many Grand operas were based, an aspect of "La belle Hélène" that was not missed by Offenbach's critics, who widely disparaged the work as being in poor taste. Nevertheless, the Parisian public was crazy about "La belle Hélène" when it opened in Paris in 1864, and that was what Offenbach was hoping for -- he was in a period of both declining health and fortunes at the time. Simplified and translated versions of the work gained popularity in other parts of the world as well, such as in German-speaking lands, England, and even in Chicago, where "La belle Hélène" was heard for the first time just three years after its world premiere. Despite its appeal with audiences, a wealth of recordings of "La belle Hélène," or for that matter any Offenbach opera given in its original form, does not exist. A couple of good recordings of "La belle Hélène" have been made in modern times; a version from 1984 led by Michel Plasson and featuring Jessye Norman in the title role is particularly noteworthy. It does not entirely render obsolete the first complete recording made of "La belle Hélène," made in 1952 and originally released on the English Nixa label; this is the main raison d'être behind this two-CD reissue version by English label Regis. Led by René Leibowitz and featuring an obscure French cast headed by singer Janine Linda, the Nixa recording is the very embodiment of pre-World War II French light opera; the singing is straightforward and barely any vibrato is used, tempos are snappy, and Leibowitz leads a modest band of theater orchestra dimensions. It is a very lively and lighthearted performance and quite complete -- even spoken dialogue is included. The sound is just okay in "La belle Hélène"; it is slightly distorted, sounding like an old radio broadcast, though it is easily tolerable. The sound is better for the filler, an excerpt performance from 1941 of Roger Désormière leading the Opéra Comique through Emmanuel Chabrier's short opera "L'étoile," a work even rarer on recordings than "La belle Hélène." Interestingly, another shortened version of "L'étoile" was recorded in 1941 with Ernest Ansermet at the podium and featuring the great French soprano Ninon Vallin. Désormière's recording both sounds better than Ansermet's, taken from broadcast, and is a slightly better performance; Désormière was simply on a roll in 1941 -- that was the year of his recording of Debussy's "Pélleas et Mélisande" that many consider to be the best ever made. There is an alternative rendering on CD of the Nixa recording of "La belle Hélène"; however, it does not contain any filler as on the Regis. The Désormière performance of "L'étoile" is to be found nowhere else on CD, giving the operetta fan a little more bang for his/her buck. There is no libretto, but the notes are well written, and for operetta fanciers who know "La belle Hélène" already and would like to hear it in a fully idiomatic historical performance, this Regis issue is a terrific option. Others should seek out a modern "La belle Hélène" first, preferably one with a libretto included.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/01/2008
Label: Regis
UPC: 5055031320622
catalogNumber: 2062
Rank: 286736

Tracks

  1. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Prelude
  2. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Vers tes autels, Jupin
  3. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Ah! Allons, la journée commence
  4. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. C'est le devoir des jeunes filles
  5. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Amours divins! ardentes flammes!
  6. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Qu'est-ce que c'est encore...voyons
  7. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Au cabaret du Labyrinthe
  8. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Mesdames, voici Calchas
  9. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Un mot
  10. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Au mont Ida
  11. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Lors, quand paraîtra la divine Hélène
  12. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Voici les Rois de la Grèce
  13. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Ces rois remplis de vaillance
  14. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. La séance est ouverte
  15. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Vainquer! Il est vainquer!
  16. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Ainsi, vous êtes gentilhomme?
  17. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Je vais arranger ça
  18. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 1. Le roi plaintif qui s'embarque
  19. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Introduction
  20. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. O reine, en ce jour il faut faire
  21. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Madame, dans une heure ici, vous aurez le j
  22. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. On me nomme Hélène la blonde
  23. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Maintenant, je suis forte!
  24. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Le voici le roi des rois
  25. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Ou est don le seigneur Paris?
  26. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. A moi les trois talents et les quatorze min
  27. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Il est d'une maladresse
  28. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. En couronnes tressons les roses
  29. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. C'est le ciel qui m'envoie
  30. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Mon mari!
  31. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. À moi! rois de la Grèce, à moi!
  32. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Un mari sage
  33. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Soit, mais vois devez me venger
  34. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 2. Je crains leur fureur
  35. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Introduction
  36. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Dansons! Aimons! Buvons! Chantons!
  37. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Le roi Ménélas blessa la déesse
  38. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Tiens les deux Ajax!
  39. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Là, vrai, je ne suis pas coupable
  40. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Et c'est pour avoir cette explication-là qu
  41. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Trio patroitique: Lorsque la Grèce est un c
  42. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Et ces malheureux accidents
  43. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Au genre humain il faut rendre service
  44. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Ah!..mais s'il y avait un autre moyen d'apa
  45. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. La galère de Cythère par ici la voici!
  46. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. La Grèce entière suppliante
  47. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Et tout d'abord, ô vile multitude
  48. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Quelle tenue pour un augure!
  49. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Elle vient, c'est elle!
  50. La belle Hélène, operetta in 3 acts: Act 3. Allons, pars, pars pour Cythère
  51. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Chamson des employées de commerce: Aussitôt que l'
  52. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Rondeau du Colporteur: Je suis Lazuli
  53. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Romance de l'étoile: O petite étoile
  54. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplets de pal: Le pal, le pal! Est de tous les s
  55. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplet de mari: Quand on aime
  56. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Quatuor des baisers: Quand on veut ranimer sa bell
  57. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplets de Laoula: Moi, je n'ai pas une ame ingra
  58. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplets de Laoula: Tous deux assis dans le bateau
  59. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplets de l'éternement: Enfin, je me sens mieux
  60. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Duetto: Je me sens, helas, tout chose
  61. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplets d'Aloès: Un amoureux Princesse
  62. L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts: Couplet de la rose: Ainsi que la rose nouvelle

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