It's truly about time!!!
Brett Farrell | Cape May, NJ USA | 10/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's about time a new professional recording was made of this masterpiece! I have the Plasoon/Mesple recording which is fantastic but this Minkowski/Lott edition trumps it for many reasons.
To start it's directed by Marc Minkowski, who's delightful 'Le Belle Helene' and 'Orphee aux Enfers' continue to be the most played of my Offenbach library for he truly understands how the music should be played and he knows how to bring out Meilhac and Halevy's humor as it should have been. Plus he has an uncanny gift to reset the Opera-bouffe's without spoiling the show.
Mr. Minkowski also has brought about another treat for this recording. TONS of original music that was cut after the first two preformances. When the opera was first preformed, audiences loved the first act but were bored by act's 2&3, so Offenbach made cuts and arrangements that removed the original grand ending to act 2, another great song about 'La Sabre' as a spoof on a Meyerbeer opera, and countless other songs. All was restored to how it was preformed during it's premier right down to it's lost original orchestration.
If this alone wasn't enough to inspire you than let the always delightful and beautiful voice and preformace of Felicity Lott do the convincing. She as well as the entire cast do the best job at bringing this original version back to it's original life.
This is especially a must for Offenbachanites since, to restate, it is full of many many original Offenbach gems that have been lost for over a hundred years!"
Funny and zany
William J. Coburn | Basking Ridge, NJ USA | 02/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off the performance is great. The singing is beautiful. The conductor knows how Offenbach should sound, but the best feature is the effervescence. This is an Offenbach operetta after all, and the composer and most if not all of the writers he worked with were good at comedy.
The sequence of the sharpening of the knives, a parody of a scene from a Meyerbeer opera, has been restored. It is not disconcerting today as it was in Offenbach's time.
The operetta is a satire of pointless wars, like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Lyndon Johnson was caught on a White House tape discussing the fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident with Robert Mc Namara, and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction decomposed quickly, the poison gases into acetic acid (it's like strong vinegar) in two to four months, the anthrax into a brown sludge in three years. Saddam Hussein ordered his last batch of anthrax in 1988. His son-in-law ordered the destruction of the last batch of the poison gases in 1996! That was long before Bush's war.
This operetta succeeds because it is not only a tuneful show but also a trenchant lambasting of the idea that warfare is somehow noble. General Patton sure did not think so when he pointed out you don't want to die for your country; you want the other poor sucker to die for his."
Edward Quade Winter | New York | 05/26/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the silliest damn nonsense I've ever heard! I couldn't believe what I was listening to. I had to play it 20 or 30 more times last week just to make sure I wasn't going mad. What a crazy, dippy, dopey, crackpot opera this is! No wonder Wagner despised it and the man who wrote it. That alone makes Offenbach a champ in my book! You have got to hear this recording. The Minkowsky formula comes full flower here. I didn't quite buy it in his Orphée aux enfers recording, but that was Offenbach's first full-length piece and he still hadn't quite shaken off Gluck and Grétry. In La Grande Duchesse, his razzle-dazzle lunacy was in full flower. George Bernard Shaw declared the opera a guilty pleasure, and when he was approached about turning his play Pygmalion into a musical, wondered frankly how anyone could top La Grande Duchesse.
The cast is excellent. Felicity Lott's French may have an accent somewhere but I couldn't hear it, and I have a professionally trained ear (though not a native-speaker's.) Bottom line, I kept forgetting to find flaws and reveled in her revelry. The other soloists are all great. The chorus is marvelously crisp and rhythmic, the chording impeccable. The orchestra is smallish. 8 first fiddles and the rest in proportion. Any other conductor would have doubled that, but Offenbach thrives on that lean sound, that wicked little pit band cooking every night in the theater. If that can-can in the third act doesn't have you bouncing off the walls, you're deaf. Buy this recording."