Jacques Offenbach wrote some 100 operettas. An exact number is difficult to specify, for he reused and recycled works in order to maintain his incredible rate of productivity. Even with this taken into account, he was a prolific and reliable tunesmith, and contemporary recordings have not gone far beyond scratching the surface of his works. The Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt under Howard Griffiths addresses the deficit with this set of Offenbach overtures and entr'actes, largely avoiding the few familiar pieces. Offenbach's overtures, like those of contemporary musicals, are mostly not independent pieces but consist of tunes from the operas themselves. It is fair to say that many of these tunes would have been on the lips of Parisians of the middle 19th century. Sample the Overture to Les Bavards ("The Chatterboxes") for a taste. The titles make interesting reading, and the works themselves provide a lens into the preoccupations of French culture with a satirical edge that is often reflected in one way of another in the music here. Several of the pieces have exotic settings, and Ba-ta-clan (the Paris concert hall attacked by terrorists in 2017 is its namesake), a "chinoiserie musicale" of 1855, is a clear ancestor to The Mikado. Given the comparative lack of representation of Offenbach of any kind on CD and online, this release is welcome.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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