Jacques Offenbach – La gaité parisienne
Charles Gounod – Faust Ballet Music
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conductor
La gaité parisienne and Faust Ballet Music is an amusing recording. This short sentence would be enough to summarize everything, as the first sentence of Anna Karenina sums up Tolstoy’s novel, but this did not prevent the Russian genius to add pages and pages of detailed narration. So, without further comparisons to a great writer, but simply taking the hint from him, I will add few words.
La gaité parisienne is a ballet in one act with music by Jacques Offenbach (there are references in particular to Vie Parisienne), which tells of the adventures and loves of a rich Peruvian traveller in Paris at the end of the XIX century. The music portrays the lively and full of spirit city, as it is imagined by every dreamer, and is arranged by Manuel Rosenthal in cooperation with Jacques Brindejonc-Offenbach, the composer’s nephew. It was staged for the first time at the Grand Théâtre de Monte-Carlo by the company Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo on April 5, 1938, with the choreography of Léonide Massine and libretto by Count Etienne de Beaumont. Protagonists were Nina Tarakanova (the Glove-maker; later Alexandra Danilova played the role), Eugenia Delarova (The Florist), Léonide Massine (the Peruvian), Igor Juškevič (the Officer).
Faust ballet music by Charles Gounod was included in the opera for the performance at the Opéra National de Paris on March 3, 1869, ten years after its debut. Here the atmosphere is completely different, much less carefree and, in some ways, less cheerful. Gounod is more thoughtful and serious than Offenbach, so listen to them one after another creates an interesting contrast, though, in my opinion, Offenbach removes the attention from Gounod.
Charles Dutoit conducts the excellent Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal with a spectacular outcome. Great enthusiasm and energy characterize the performance from beginning to end, without a moment to breath, which in this case would have meant a weakening of music. Instead, the lively and festive atmosphere remains the same and allows the illusion of being right in the middle of a party. This applies more to Offenbach that Gounod, of course, but also here the previous dynamism is not lost, even if it appears in a different way. I cannot help but define “pyrotechnics” this recording.