Jacques Offenbach

La Périchole, operetta in 2 acts

    Description by Rita Laurance

    Jacques Offenbach, a German transplant to his beloved city of Paris, was responsible for the creation and popularization of the French operetta. After his famous and highly successful Orphee d'Enfers, comic operas and parodies of established composers of grand opera became the vogue. Only later in his career did Offenbach turn to composing works that were independent of parody and satiric wit. With La Perichole, he strikes a sentimental and lighthearted tone, creating a love story with delightful characterizations and comic dilemmas. His librettists were Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, who also collaborated with Offenbach on several other successful operettas. They based their livret on Prosper Merimee's comic play La Carrousse de Saint-Sacrement. The premiere of La Perichole at the Theatre des Varietes on October 16, 1868, was greeted with acclaim.

    The opera takes place in eighteenth century Lima, Peru. Offenbach takes advantage of the foreign setting and spices up his score with Spanish dance forms such as fandangos, boleros, and seguidillas. The central character is La Perichole, an impoverished street singer. Throughout the opera, she is given prominence through the beauty and sophistication of her songs. The Letter Song from Act One is the most famous and well known of all the arias given to her. It is a tragic love song in which the heroine bids her dear Piquillo adieu. The poignant lyrical melody to the Letter Song is first introduced in the sprightly overture to the opera, and then restated after La Perichole sings her aria, reinforcing the mood and content of the dramatic moment. The remaining portion of Act I shows off Offenbach's incredible comic talents, as he stages a wedding for the inebriated lovers. La Perichole is again given center stage with a rollicking drinking song whose melody careens about along with the tipsy bride. The delicate orchestrations follow the weaving of the phrases and the spinning of the ceiling exactly. The bridegroom is completely smashed, and the wedding celebration is filled with broad humor and lively music.

    La Perichole is one of Offenbach's best scores; it contains an abundance of fine melodies, lively action and wit, inventive harmonies and orchestral writing, and effective theatrics. It has earned a place among comic opera aficionados, and has been revived from time to time throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is always well received by audiences, and will remain an important work in the operetta repertoire.


    1. Ouverture
    2. No. 1b, Du vice-roi c'est aujourd'hui la fête
    3. No. 1c, Promptes a servir la pratique
    4. No. 1d, Ah! Qu'on y fait gaiment glouglou
    5. No. 2, C'est lui, c'est notre vice-roi!
    6. No. 3, Dis-moi, Piquillo?
    7. No. 4, Le conquerant dir à la jeune Indienne
    8. No. 5, Vous a-t-on dit souvent
    9. No. 6, Levez-vous et prenez vos rangs
    10. No. 7, O mon cher amant, je te jure
    11. No. 8a, Ah! mon Dieu!, Melodrame
    12. No. 8b, Hola! he!... hola! de là-bas
    13. No. 8c, Et prenez les bras de vos clercs!
    14. No. 8d, Ah! quel diner je viens de faire!
    15. No. 8e, C'est un ange, messieurs!
    16. No. 8f, Ah! les autres
    17. No. 8g, Pourrais-je vous prier
    18. No. 8h, Mon Dieu!... que de ceremonie
    19. No. 8i, Et maintenant, separez-les
    20. No. 9, Entr'acte
    21. No. 10, Cher seigneur, revenz a vous
    22. No. 11, On vante partout son sourire
    23. No. 12, Quel marche sa bassesse
    24. No. 13a, Et la, maintenant que que nous sommes seuls
    25. No. 13b, Est-ce bientôt cette presentations?
    26. No. 13c, Son Altesse à l'heure ordinaire
    27. No. 14a, Nous allons donc voir un mari
    28. No. 14b, Que veulent dire ces colères
    29. No. 14c, C'est vrai, j'ai tort de m'emporter
    30. No. 14d, Sautez dessus!
    31. No. 14e, Conduisez-le, bons courtisans
    32. No. 15, Les maris courbaient le tête
    33. No. 16, On me proposait d'etre infâme
    34. No. 17a, Qui va la?
    35. No. 17b, Dans ces couloirs obscurs
    36. No. 17c, Tu n'es pas beau, tu n'es pas riche
    37. No. 17d, Je t'adore, brigand, j'ai honte a l'avour
    38. No. 18, Je suis le joli geolier
    39. No. 19, Roi pas plus haut qu'une botte!
    40. No. 20a, Tais-toi!
    41. No. 20b, Elle m'adore
    42. No. 21a, En avant! en avant soldat!
    43. No. 21b, Pauvres gens, ou sont-ils?
    44. No. 22, Ecoutez, peup d'Amérique
    45. No. 23, Tous deux, au temps de peine et de misère

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Erato
    2013 CPO CPO 7774932
    2011 Erato / Warner Classics 2564666952
    2008 Gala Records 100786
    2007 Apex
    2003 Parlophone
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 574088
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 747362
    1991 Erato 45686