Wednesday 27 February 2019

Sparkling delight: Coloratura Offenbach from Jodie Devos

Offenbach colorature - Jodie Devos - Alpha Classics
Offenbach coloratura arias; Jodie Devos, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Laurent Campellone; Alpha Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 February 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A delightful compilation of Offenbach's arias for coloratura soprano, combining the well-known with the rarities

Whether you call it coloratura, soprano d'agilita, chanteuse d'agilite or chanteuse légère, a certain female voice runs through Offenbach's work from his early small scale operettas of the 1850s right through to his final work Les contes d'Hoffmann of 1880. The voice type seems to have had a certain vogue in mid 19th century Paris, during the same period Gounod wrote Juliette (Roméo et Juliette, 1867) and Marguerite (Faust, 1859) for such a voice type, both works tailored to the charms of Marie Miolan-Carvalho, wife of Léon Carvalho who ran the Théâtre Lyrique where Gounod's operas premiered. Offenbach clearly enjoyed writing for the voice type though, there are so many examples.

This new disc from Alpha and Palazzetto Bru Zane presents us with a selection of coloratura arias sung by soprano Jodie Devos with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and conductor Laurent Campellone. So we have arias from Boule de neige (1871), Vert-vert (1869), Orphee aux enfers (1858), Fantasio (1872), Les Bavards (1862), Mesdames des Halles (1858), Le roi carotte (1872), les contes d'Hoffmann (1880), Robinson Crusoe (1867) and Le voyage dans la lune (1875).

The fascination being that the disc gives us examples of Offenbach's writing for coloratura soprano from the smaller scale pieces of the 1850s through the larger scale operas comiques including the fascinating Fantasio which points the way to the final grand opera Les contes d'Hoffmann.

As demonstrated on these tracks, the French coloratura voice has a certain joie de vivre and perky lightness far removed from Lucia di Lammermoor's madness. To this Jodie Devos brings qualities of great charm and wit, combined with technical appositeness. Despite the concentration on agility, the writing for the voice is very varied, there are lyrical and melancholy numbers too, and Devos shows herself as well able to spin an elegant line as throw off acuti.

There is certainly no shortage of style, but there are a remarkable number of words too. The high soprano voice is not known for clarity of diction, technical demands come first, but Devos clearly relishes the language and having a French soprano singing in French remains a delight.

Another surprise is how varied things are, so that besides being a basket of bonnes bouches to dip into the recital works just as well when listened to from beginning to end, such is the sheer variety of Offenbach's writing, and Jodie Devos' responses to it.

As well as Olympia's aria from Les contes d'Hoffmann we also get the barcarolle 'Belle nuit, O nuit d'amour' in which Devos is ably partnered by mezzo-soprano Adele Charvet. Laurent Campellone and the Munchner Rundfunkorchester provide the stylish accompaniments, and the orchestra gets let off the leash for the overture to Les Bergers.

The CD booklet contains a fine article on the background to Offenbach's writing for the coloratura voice, as well as full texts and translations but I would have quite liked a little on the individual operas.

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) - excerpts from Boule de neige (1871), Vert-vert (1869), Orphee aux enfers (1858), Fantasio (1872), Les Bavards (1862), Mesdames des Halles (1858), Le roi carotte (1872), les contes d'Hoffmann (1880), Robinson Crusoe (1867) and Le voyage dans la lune (1875)
Jodie Devos (soprano)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Laurent Campellone (conductor)
Recorded at Bayerischere Rundfunk, Studio 1, Munich, July 2018
ALPHA CLASSICS Alpha437 1CD [60.59]

Available on-line.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Celebration time: Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Grand Théâtre de Genève (★★★★★) - Opera review 
  • Trapped in the underworld with a surly teenager: Gavin Higgins & Francesca Simon's The Monstrous Child  (★★★★½) - opera review 
  • Contemporary yet romantic: Noah Mosley's Aurora debuts at Bury Court Opera's swansong season (★★★½) - opera review
  • The idea of bringing to life something which has never been alive before: my interview with conductor Jessica Cottis - interview
  • Britten & Mendelssohn violin concertos from Sebastian Bohren & Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (★★) - CD review
  • The full Egmont: Beethoven's incidental music linked by extracts of Goethe's play (★★★½) - CD review
  • Sweeter than Roses: music of Purcell & his contemporaries from Anna Dennis & Sounds Baroque  - (★★) CD review
  • Sung Poetry: Kitty Whately & Simon Lepper - From the Pens of Women (★★) - concert review
  • Choral music for Advent and Christmas from Portsmouth  - CD review
  • Love songs in Temple Church: Brahms and Schumann for Valentine's Day (★★★½) - concert review
  • An obsession with Norse myths: composer Gavin Higgins introduces his new opera The Monstrous Child  - interview
  • Home

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