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Offenbach: Orphée aux Enfers

15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 11, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

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The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of opera's most potent archetypes, the subject of the earliest experiments in the genre by Peri and Monteverdi. But Offenbach's wickedly witty operetta uses it as a vehicle to lampoon stuffy artistic conventions as well as the social and political realities of Paris in the Second Empire. In this sublimely ridiculous scenario, Eurydice is a flighty flirt only too happy to be separated from husband Orpheus, a dullard violin teacher, when Pluto kidnaps her into his realm. At the promptings of the moralistic figure Public Opinion, Orpheus reluctantly plays out the prescribed mythic pattern of trying to reclaim his wife, while a depraved assortment of gods intervenes. The collision here of sacrosanct myth with opera buffa seems almost to anticipate aspects of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos; there is, to be sure, no mistaking an artistic lineage that leads to the romps of Gilbert and Sullivan. Marc Minkowski teases Offenbach's over-the-top parodies (an irreverent quote of Gluck's "Che faro senza Eurydice," for example) and stylistic gear-changes into an irresistibly fizzy concoction, using essentially the original 1858 version with additions from the expanded score of 1874. The orchestra brings out the exuberance of Offenbach's persistent dance rhythms--whether waltz based or in the famous can-can galop of the bacchanalian finale--as well as the tune-rich nature of the score. And the cast sparkles, featuring the crystalline acrobatics of Natalie Dessay's Eurydice, Ewa Podles in dusky, scornful contralto as Public Opinion, and Laurent Naouri as a horny Jupiter--to mention just a few of the treats in store here. --Thomas May

Disc: 1
1. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Overture
2. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Qui suis-je? Du théâre antique...'
3. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'La femme dont le coeur rêve'
4. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Il est sorti!'
5. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Ah! c'est ainsi!'
6. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Oh Vénus, belle déesse'
7. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'J'ai peur...'
8. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: Ballet pastoral
9. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Moi, je suis Aristée'
10. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 1, Tableau 1: 'Voilà! Voilà ce que je dis...'
See all 32 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: Entr'acte
2. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Ah! quelle triste destinée'
3. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Voilà deux jours que je suis seule'
4. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Quand j'étais roi de Béotie'
5. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Va-t'en, je te dis, tu sens le vin'
6. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Pour attirer du fond de sa retraite'
7. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'A la une... à la deux... à la trois'
8. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Il m'a semblé sur mon épaule'
9. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Ah, je le savais bien'
10. Orphée aux enfers, operetta: Act 2, Tableau 3: 'Galop'
See all 20 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Performer: Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Yann Beuron, Ewa Podles, et al.
  • Orchestra: Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Lyon
  • Conductor: Marc Minkowski
  • Composer: Jacques Offenbach
  • Audio CD (November 11, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00000I3U8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,143 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By F. Behrens HALL OF FAME on July 17, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Some time ago, EMI issued a 3-CD set of the revised four act version of Offenbach's "Orphée aux Enfers" ("Orpheus in the Underworld") that is now available only in Europe or by special order. Dotted as it was with terrific tunes and very witty dialogue, the production as a whole dragged a bit, especially during the long ballet sequences. But now the same label has come out with a brand new recording (CDCB 56725 2) on two CDs of the original two act version with some additions from the longer one. And as Jackie Gleason used to say, it is a regular riot. With Natalie Dessay as a screaming Eurydice (the name means "wide justice" according to Robert Graves) who can make herself quite at home Down There and Yan Beuran as her cello-playing spouse who has to be forced by Public Opinion (Ewa Podles, in a bit of classy casting) to try to bring back his wife, this version simply hurtles headlong under the direction of Marc Minkowski from one great spoof of the venerable legend (the Olympians in revolt against too much ambrosia as the orchestra plays the Marseillaise) to another (some gods dancing a minuet while the rest indulge in a "galop infernal"-which the cuties at the Moulin Rouge took as their own and called it the Can-can!) So brush up on your French as you follow the text (and you should for this one, you know) and really have a good time on earth, on Olympus, and "aux enfers."
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Landis on January 20, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This CD should be illegal - everyone from the singers to the musicians obviously had way too much fun - and so will you! Natalie Dessay shines as Eurydice and Laurent Naouri is a delightful (if rather roving) Jupiter, while Yann Beuron makes Orphee come alive. Ewa Podles gives Public Opinion exactly the right amount of santimonious self-rightousness.
A truly delightful recording - even if you aren't an opera lover, you owe it to yourself to listen to this wonderful romp to Mount Olympus and the Underworld...a case of Heaven in Hell!
Great performances all around, great sound...doesn't get any better (or more fun) than this.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 26, 1999
Format: Audio CD
This recording is based on performances in the opera house and is therefore highly theatrical and with a point of view that frequently emphasizes dramatic gesture over musical purity. You can hear the raised eye-brows and knowing glances as Marc Minkowski sets fast pace to this satirical re-telling of the Orpheus myth. Sometimes the tempos seem too fast, and the text gets lost. But the energy of the show is evident and is very engaging.
This recording has a cast that is adept with the dialogue and sings with dramatic involvement. Natalie Dessay sings Euydice with much more virtuosity than one normally hears in this work. Ewa Podles is deliciously hooty, haughty, and always indignant as Public Opinion. Laurent Naouri portrays the head god Jupiter with glibness and sonorous tonal authority. Stephen Cole's John Styx is both terrifying and hysterically funny as he swings unpredictably between leering and longing.
The booklet accompanying the CD is in French, English and German. The essay provides an interesting historical context for the operetta. The booklet also explains how the performing edition of the operetta was sliced together from the original 2-act version and a later 4-act version. (The French EMI CD that was recorded in the late 1970's is of the 4-act version.) This version is more taut in terms of dramatic tension and tempo. It is more wickedly funny as a result.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Cragg on January 17, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Minkowski and his troupe of players provide an exciting and characterful rendition of Offenbach's send-up of classical opera themes-- oh that the great "reformer" Gluck had had anything like Offenbach's imagination and humour. The small, music-hall size orchestra and the lively, burlesque comedy carries the whole thing through without its dragging. There are innumerable memorable musical moments, so that repeated listening is rewarding, even though French spoken gags get a bit tedioius on too many repetitions. Natalie Dessay very much comes into her own -- a great singer who is also a great comedienne. But Ewa Podles' over-the-top performance, despite some vagaries in the French pronunciation, threatens to steal the show, much as Dessay threatens to steal the show from bigger-name sopranos in recordings of other operas. Oh that Minkowski had toured more widely with this production -- it must have been a marvelous evening of theatre as well as of music!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Tietjen on November 6, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I must agree with everyone before me who gave this album 5 stars. It has become one of my favorite recordings, and I'm not particularly a huge fan of Offenbach or even light opera/operetta in general. The conducting is superb and the performers are excellent: standouts are Natalie Dessay as Eurydice and Laurent Naori as Jupiter. I disagree with the reviewer who says that Ewa Podles took herself much too seriously: she's Public Opinion, she's SUPPOSED to take herself seriously! I thought she was fantastic, and very funny in her own way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Posner on February 15, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The last version of Orpheus in the Underworld that I owned was a 2 record set from Everest conducted by Rene Leibowitz, and I remembered it fondly, which helped my decision to buy this new version. It's delightful fun, mostly because the cast seems to be having so much fun. It's always a hoot when opera singers unbend, and all the snarling, sneering, and other hijinks in this version make me smile--as does the actual singing, which is fine. The dialogue is delivered with such verve that even if you don't know French (but know the story line), you'll laugh at the lines. This is a big improvement over most singspiel recordings (such as Mozart's Seraglio) where the German dialogue puts me to sleep between musical numbers. If there was any chance that today's Broadway audience would know anything about mythology, this version of the operetta would make a terrific show. The only thing I miss is the full overture, even though it's spurious.
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