A new production of Offenbach's Romantic opera Fantasio, employing the Offenbach Edition Keck published by Boosey & Hawkes, opened in Paris in February and is set to travel to Geneva, Rouen, Montpellier and Zagreb.
Jacques Offenbach’s Romantic opera Fantasio, currently enjoying a revival of interest thanks to the Offenbach Edition Keck published by Boosey & Hawkes and the Opera Rara recording conducted by Mark Elder, has returned to the Parisian company that premiered it in 1872. The new Opéra-Comique production by Thomas Jolly opened in February at the Théâtre du Châtelet, featuring mezzo Marianne Crebassa excelling in the title role. Plans are underway for the opera’s first release on DVD and the staging is set to travel onwards to the Grand Théâtre de Genève in November, and the Opéra de Rouen, Opéra National de Montpellier and the National Croatian Theatre in Zagreb in future seasons.
Offenbach composed Fantasio during a turbulent period when, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, he was reviled as a German-born adoptive Frenchman and took refuge in Spain. As Le Figaro noted, Fantasio is a "political masque which delivers an astonishing pacifist manifesto in which the autocracy is held up to ridicule: the people are only liberated from waging war when the ‘decision-makers’ have to risk their own lives…" This milieu for the lovelorn student Fantasio, seeking romance within a morally bankrupt kingdom, encouraged the composer to extend his musical range. As Opera commented: "the score of Fantasio, closer in spirit to Les Contes d’Hoffmann than to opéra comique, shows Offenbach at the top of his artistic game".
"The reconstruction of the version with mezzo-soprano is the result of Jean-Christophe Keck’s patient labour of love... Offenbach discards here his status as a simple (although brilliant) maker of cancans... Fantasio is the story of a dandy with a sharp tongue and soft heart, who would sacrifice his life ‘for a little love’, and in doing so goes so far as to slip into the role of the deceased royal jester… Marianne Crebassa stirs up the stage as Fantasio: the mezzo-soprano shines in this role that highlights her acting talent."
"If the production made a sensation, then it was through the rediscovery of the music – the music of an underestimated Offenbach. Gentle. Dreamy. Like in the first measures of the overture, where the orchestra murmurs from flutes to brass. Or in Fantasio’s first aria, ‘Voyez dans la nuit brune’, charmingly tinted by amorous melancholy. Offenbach undoubtedly saw a likeness of himself in this figure of a disillusioned commoner with fluctuating moods and disguised as a court jester – entirely trapped in the costume of a laughter-maker for his audience."
"Fantasio is a work in which love, humour and politics mix."
A new vocal score of Fantasio is released on sale in the Offenbach Edition Keck in the coming months. In recent years the edition has provided new performing materials for Offenbach rarities including Les Fées du Rhin, Geneviève de Brabant, La princesse de Trébizonde and Le roi Carotte and a new publication of Offenbach’s youthful piano waltzes Les Roses du Bengale is now available on sale.
Jean-Christophe Keck is currently preparing the score for Offenbach's three-act opera Barkouf, premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1860, the original version of what was revised to become Boule de neige.
Photo: Jose Maria Mora (Archive Keck)
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