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Offenbach: Operas & Operettas album is a motley collection but at least they tried

Offenbach: The Operas & Operettas Collection 

Warner Classics (30 CDs, out now)

Rating:

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of two outstanding composers of operettas, Franz von Suppé and Jacques Offenbach, though you could be forgiven for not noticing. 

The neglect of Suppé this year is perhaps not that surprising (though he, not Johann Strauss II, started Viennese operetta), because interest in him has for decades been confined to his overtures.

But the neglect of Offenbach, who dominated Parisian musical life in the 1850s-70s, is a real surprise. His one grand opera, The Tales Of Hoffmann, is an opera-house staple. 

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of two outstanding composers of operettas, Franz von Suppé and Jacques Offenbach, though you could be forgiven for not noticing

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of two outstanding composers of operettas, Franz von Suppé and Jacques Offenbach, though you could be forgiven for not noticing

Operettas such as Orpheus In The Underworld, La Belle Hélène and others have been regularly performed and recorded.

But not this year. Ideal fodder for country-house opera festivals, you might think, but only Garsington dipped its toe in with the eminently missable Fantasio.

As for the major British opera companies, only English National Opera is putting on one: Orpheus. But, be warned, it’s to be directed by Emma Rice, who caused a mess at Shakespeare’s Globe and is writing a completely new book for this one. 

Offenbach is already turning in his grave.

Warner has issued a 30-CD box of Offenbach operettas, including most of the best-known ones in both French and German, plus some obscure things conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Warner has issued a 30-CD box of Offenbach operettas, including most of the best-known ones in both French and German, plus some obscure things conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Happily, Warner has issued a 30-CD box of Offenbach operettas, including most of the best-known ones in both French and German, plus some obscure things, including Les Brigands, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, and priced handily at about £40. 

It’s a motley collection but at least they tried. And there’s much to enjoy, even though the German versions add nothing, except in the case of Hoffmann. The German recording uses the original, heavily cut edition that emerged after Offenbach’s sudden death during its final rehearsals. 

The French one, more than an hour longer, reflects modern scholarship and is infinitely preferable.

 

Glyndebourne Classics

London Philharmonic Orchestra                                           EuroArts, out now

Rating:

Unusually, I’ve chosen to review a DVD box this week, one full of excellent performances. They remind us that in the Seventies, the Glyndebourne Festival was on the crest of a wave, working with creative talents of the reputation of David Hockney and Sir Peter Hall; conductors of the stature of Sir John Pritchard and Bernard Haitink; and singers of the quality of Janet Baker and Felicity Lott.

In a brave commercial decision, Southern Television, then the ITV franchise-holder for the South of England, decided to record and relay complete operas from Glyndebourne. 

Between 1972 with Verdi’s Macbeth, and 1980 with Mozart’s Il Seraglio, they relayed 11 operas – including six by Mozart and two by Verdi – and here they all are on DVD.

These 11 discs, offering 26 hours of music, will cost you about £60. That’s just over a fiver an opera. Top tickets at Glyndebourne this summer cost north of £200 each. Enough said

These 11 discs, offering 26 hours of music, will cost you about £60. That’s just over a fiver an opera. Top tickets at Glyndebourne this summer cost north of £200 each. Enough said

Some are very important, such as the David Hockney-designed Magic Flute (Mozart) and The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky), the latter being revived by Glyndebourne next year. 

Neither the sound nor the vision has the sharpness of new digital recordings, but they still look and sound really fine. There is much pleasure to be had from all these performances, which are of a stature Glyndebourne would be hard pressed to put on today.

Between 1972 and 1980 they relayed 11 operas – including six by Mozart and two by Verdi. Some are very important, such as the David Hockney-designed Magic Flute (Mozart)

Between 1972 and 1980 they relayed 11 operas – including six by Mozart and two by Verdi. Some are very important, such as the David Hockney-designed Magic Flute (Mozart)

Then there’s the price. These 11 discs, offering 26 hours of music, will cost you about £60. That’s just over a fiver an opera. Top tickets at Glyndebourne this summer cost north of £200 each. Enough said.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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