David Parry / Philharmonia Orchestra

Jacques Offenbach: Vert-Vert

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Jacques Offenbach was a remarkably productive composer; over the course of his career he wrote more than 90 operettas and opéras-comiques, and in 1868, the year Vert-Vert received its premiere at l'Opéra Comique, he produced four full-length works. It's no wonder, then, that not everything he wrote was at the highest level of inspiration; it's perhaps more surprising that so much of it is of such high quality. Vert-Vert has a silly libretto, and Offenbach matches its levity with spirited music that doesn't always take itself seriously. There are stretches that are predictably formulaic, but even those are always graceful and executed with skill and professionalism. And there are many moments that are genuinely lovely, such as the duet "Lorsque l'on est amoureux" and the tenor solos "Le bateau marchait lentement" and "L'heureux enfant qui gardera vertu," or sublimely ridiculous, such as the dancing lesson that opens the third act. Vert-Vert is not likely to displace the more famous Offenbach operettas that hover around the fringes of the repertoire, but it's a charming work, and it's good to have it on disc. Opera Rara, as usual, pulls out all the stops in its production values, but this set is weakest in its most crucial areas: the consistency of the singers and the quality of the sound. The large cast has strong and weak links. Soprano Thora Einarsdottir sings with exceptional warmth and sweetness as the female lead. In the title role, tenor Toby Spence has some very lovely moments, particularly around the middle of his range, but his vibrato sometimes gets the better of him, and his low register is not always strong. Baritones Mark Stone and Franck Leguérinel, soprano Lucy Crowe, and tenors Mark Le Brocq and Loïc Félix are all very fine. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore is not sounding her most flexible and secure in the star role of La Corilla, but even when she is at less than her best, she is impressive and brings plenty of character to her part. Singers in some of the smaller roles, particularly mezzo-soprano Anne-Marie Owens and tenor Sébastien Droy, are considerably less effective. The performance includes the spoken dialogue and most of it is delivered with spirit, but it is compromised by the pronunciation of some of the non-native speakers, which is generally correct, but stiff. The voices are consistently miked at too low a level, so, unusually for an opera recording, they don't stand out with the necessary prominence.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 8:56
2 3:48
3 4:23
4 1:29
5 3:23
6 2:35
7 2:19
8 1:15
9 4:42
10 1:24
11 3:12
12 1:20
13 2:56
14 0:42
15 3:51
16 2:14
17 2:37

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 0:46
2 1:28
3 5:03
4 3:06
5 2:21
6 1:52
7 1:14
8 1:43
9 1:42
10 3:56
11 2:00
12 1:59
13 4:40
14 1:35
15 4:56
16 3:39
17 0:30
18 1:34
19 5:32
20 0:43
21 0:53
22 3:18
23 1:32
24 3:35
25 1:28
26 3:43
27 0:36
28 7:52
29 1:09
30 2:55
blue highlight denotes track pick