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Offenbach's Grande-Duchesse in new OEK version

(January 2004)

Offenbach's Grande-Duchesse in new OEK version

Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein returns in a new un-cut edition

The new Offenbach Edition Keck version of La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein is the first available critical and complete edition of this political war satire. It is based on Offenbach’s fully preserved score, on the German and French first editions and on the original production.

Thanks to the original score the stunning finale of act II – with the Carillon de ma grand-mère and the Couplets de la plume – finally exists in its originally intended form. Also the exquisite Méditation of the Grand Duchess, the original Scene of Conspiracy and numerous other previously unreleased treats are heard in Offenbach’s own instrumentation. The Viennese version reintegrated the previously cut passages of the finale. This revealed that Offenbach’s decision to cut the composed excerpts in the French version was not due to scepticism over musical or scenic value. Instead, this procedure was typical for Offenbach because of the varying expectations of his audiences. Where in Paris audiences preferred an emphasis on drama, Vienna’s priority lay in musical balance.

The successful premiere at the Opéra national du Rhin in Strasbourg in December 2003 proved the extraordinary quality of the reintegrated excerpts. Offenbach fans can re-assure themselves of this at further productions in the coming months. The new production from Laurent Pelly with Felicity Lott under artistic director Marc Minkowski at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris deserves particular appraisal. This uncut original version of Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein will be released as a premiere recording on CD and DVD.

Detailed information about the three editions (Original Edition of the Autograph, Paris 1867 and Vienna 1867) is available upon request.

La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein

Premiere of the New Edition:
5 December 2003
Strasbourg, Opéra national du Rhin
Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse
Musical Director: Jérôme Pillement
Director: François de Carpentries
Stage Design: Emmanuel Clolus
Costumes: Karine Van Hercke

Press Reviews:

"A fine success for this Grande-Duchesse, whose main concern was to introduce the new, true to the original, critical edition as world premiere. Its creation is due to Jean-Christophe Keck and it contains all numbers in their original instrumentation by the composer himself. It is surprising how he [Offenbach] managed to sacrifice the stunning end of the second act. Carillon de ma grand-mère is a wonderful ensemble of rare beauty and dramatic power. Similarly, in the following act, the Conjuration des rémouleurs – a juicy parody based on the Conjuration et Bénédiction des poignards in Meyerbeers’ Huguenots. Also omitting the dismal Méditation, which opens Act III, would mean to neglect significant details about the protagonist. Jérôme Pillement underlines the refinement and efficiency of a score that is all too often distorted by uninspired conductors and unscrupulous arrangements.
Thierry Guyenne, Opéra international (January 2004)

"To name the winner of the evening: the recovery of the 20-minute finale of the second act and its side-splitting Carillon de ma grand-mère, which achieved greater support for the continuation of the plot. Further additions restored the balance in the composition: the military-music parody now gives the romantic passages more room. Finally, the instrumentation, just as Offenbach wrote it, affirms that he was a perfect manipulator of sonority and sound."
Jean-Luc Macia, la Croix (9 December 2003)

"De Carpentires’ staging was rich in tempo with a droll play on words, as it is typical for French comedy... Conductor Jérôme Pillement equally emphasises the melodic and sensitive moments in Offenbach’s lyrical language. Perhaps this is why a subtle piano and a moderate tempo, are a pleasant surprise for some German audiences."
Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung (9 December 2003)

Further Productions, with opening nights:

10 January 2004
Sirnach, Theatergesellschaft Sirnach
(Swiss premiere, new German translation by Stefan Troßbach)

16 April 2004
Philadelphia, Opera Company of Philadelphia

21 September 2004
Le Cargot, Grenoble

5 October 2004
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris

> Further information on series: OEK (Offenbach Edition Keck)
> Further information on Work: La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (OEK critical edition)

Photo: Alain Kaiser/Opéra national du Rhin

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