Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy; original German version by Julius Hopp; new German version by Stefan Troßbach; new English version by Richard Duployen; new Spanish version by Enrique Mejías García (F,G,E,S)
Théâtre des Variétés, Paris
Company: Hortense Schneider, José Dupuis et al.
World premiere of version
François De Carpentries, director
Conductor: Jérôme Pillement
Company: Opéra national du Rhin
|THE GRAND DUCHESS
||Mezzo Soprano (Vienna: Soprano)
|WANDA, Fritz’s fiancee
|BARON PUCK, the duchess’s tutor
||Tenor or high Baritone
|BARON GROG, dpilomat
|NEPOMUK, the grand duchess's adjutant
|IZA, OLGA, AMÉLIE and CHARLOTTE, the grand duchess’s maids-of-honour
||2 Sopranos, 2 Mezzo Sopranos
|Officers, soldiers, musicians, drum majors, cutlers, peasant women, court ladies, noblemen, pages, ushers
Time and Place
Gérolstein, 19th century
The grand duchess makes the fusilier Fritz a general because she is in love with him, and she makes him a fusilier again because he wants to stay faithful to his Wanda. This striking example of favouritism made Parisians not only think of the Tuileries and of the Palais d’Hiver but reminded them also of comic scenes from small German states...
In short, the operetta mocks everything that calls for mockery: court gossip in the newspapers, instances of haunting in castles and, not least, the cold countenances of diplomats. The score manages to release the magic in things, with Offenbach’s bright music succeeding wonderfully in exposing both the bombast of the military and the pomposity of the autocrats. And to whom are these absurdities revealed? They are shown to the active minds of modern metropolitans who are made to laugh at them.
Throughout the opera, the enlightened minds of good-natured, sensible people are played off against dull political institutions and methods which appear antiquated and ready for dismantling. The grand duchess is a genuine Paris girl who is not easily tricked and gracefully cheats her dumb adorer, Prince Paul. And Fritz, a boy of the same nature, remains insensitive to courtly glamour and and because of his natural intelligence wins a battle that General Bumm would have lost.
"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)
History, Politics, Relationships, Society
Felicity Lott / Sandrine Piau / Yann Beuron / Franck Leguérinel / Eric Huchet / François Le Roux / Les Musiciens & Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble / Marc Minkowski (Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Dec 2004, Laurent Pelly dir.)
Virgin Classics 545734 2 (DVD EMI 310239 9)