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New edition of Offenbach's Fantasio unveiled in London

(December 2013)

OffenbachFantasioNews.jpg Offenbach's rarely performed Romantic opera Fantasio is heard in the new edition by Jean-Christophe Keck at the Royal Festival Hall in London, with Sarah Connolly in the title role.

Opera Rara and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment join forces for a rare performance of Offenbach's neglected Romantic opera Fantasio at the Southbank Centre in London on 15 December. Sir Mark Elder conducts a strong cast including mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly in the title role of Fantasio, the student King of Fools who pursues true love against the odds and saves a princess from an undesirable suitor.

The opera will be heard for the first time in the new edition by Jean-Christophe Keck, the Offenbach expert who heads the Offenbach Edition Keck published by Boosey & Hawkes, which has been creating reliable performing materials for Offenbach's works, from familiar favourites to rare discoveries such as Fantasio. The opera will be recorded in the studio by the same performing forces to join Opera Rara's series of discs spotlighting lost 19th century operatic repertoire deserving revived attention.

Offenbach based Fantasio on the romantic comedy by Parisian dramatist and poet Alfred de Musset, published in 1833, but not staged until 1866 after the author's death. Fantasio is a troubled, lovelorn character, and this ambiguity appealed to Offenbach, giving him the opportunity to explore a more overtly Romantic flavour in contrast to his lighter operetta works. It clearly points forward to The Tales of Hoffmann, within a little-known strand of the composer's work exploring emotionally darker and richer territory than his opera buffa. The opera grew out of the most turbulent era of the composer's life, the Franco-Prussian War, when, reviled as a German-born adoptive Frenchman, he had to take refuge in Spain. Fantasio was first staged at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1872, the composer's fourth work for the theatre.

The London performance of Fantasio will be the first performance in recent times to present the full original French version of the opera dating from 1872, employing Offenbach's authentic orchestration throughout rather than arrangements by later conductors. This is thanks to the musicological endeavours of Jean-Christophe Keck who has investigated the available sources and prepared the new edition of the opera in the Offenbach Edition Keck. Three versions of Fantasio exist - all to be offered within the new three volume Keck edition - with options drawn from both the Paris and Vienna versions, and including variants due to the title role originally being conceived for tenor, eventually being taken by the mezzo-soprano Célestine Galli-Marié who was to become the first Carmen, and later being recast for soprano. The role will be heard in London with mezzo, as heard in the original French version, and is sung by Sarah Connolly.

The Offenbach Edition Keck has been in existence for 15 years, with a growing number of Offenbach works now available in critically acclaimed and award-winning editions. As well as researching and creating performance materials for the most popular stageworks such as Orphée aux Enfers, La Vie parisienne and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, the OEK has unearthed many unknown musical gems including the Romantic operas Les Fées du Rhin and Fantasio, as well as concert works such as Offenbach's Cello Concerto (Concerto Militaire). Works in the OEK have been performed and recorded by leading artists including singers Anne Sofie von Otter and Felicity Lott, conductor Marc Minkowski, and staged by directors including Laurent Pelly, Jerôme Savary and Jean-Louis Martinoty.

Garsington Opera presents a new production of Offenbach's Vert-Vert in the Keck edition, opening on 7 June. The opera opens with a funeral for a dead parrot, where the convent girls look for a male replacement for the bird as the new object for their devotions. Vert-Vert will be staged by Martin Duncan and will employ a new English translation by conductor David Parry. This delectable three act comic opera has been recorded by Opera Rara under the baton of Parry with Toby Spence in the title role.

> Southbank Centre box office
> Opera Rara website
> OAE website

>  Further information on Work: Fantasio (OEK critical edition)

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