Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Charles LECOCQ (1832-1918)
La Fille de Madame Angot - operetta (1872)
(complete, with dialogue in French)
Mady Mesplé (Clairette), Bernard Sinclair (Ange Pitou), Charles Burles (Pomponnet), Christiane Stutzmann (Mademoiselle Lange) Denise Benoit, Michel Roux, Jacques Loreau, Gerard Chapuis
Choir of the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris
Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris/Jean Doussard
Rec. Paris, 1973
EMI 72435 7408228 [CD1 60.17 CD2 58.21]

Amazon France  €15,18 Crotchet

Offenbach wrote his French operatic stage works on a pattern begun by Auber in his Fra Diavalo, a comic opera with dialogue. The new genre known as opéra comique is one that is light, effervescent, bright and easily accessible. With a poor public response to serious opera, Lecocq focused on opéra comique and wrote around fifty stage works. Of them La Fille de Madam Angot is the most famous and was well received in France. The new operatic genre became popular in London from the late 1860s onwards. In Britain this uniquely French style of opérette was eventually eclipsed by the rise of the Savoy comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan two decades later.

Charles Lecocq was born of poor parents in Paris in 1832 and as he grew up soaked up the ambience of Parisian theatre life. He studied at the Conservatoire under Auber and was a contemporary of Bizet and Saint-Saëns. He went on to share with Bizet the grand prize in Offenbach’s operetta competition in 1856 for their compositions of Le Docteur Miracle. In Madam Angot, Lecocq skilfully weaves delightful melodies of more than one style. Although he set out to steer clear of Offenbach’s style of composition the music we hear is at times characteristic of Offenbach but his orchestrations are less monotonous, more inventive and less course. The melodies and motifs are quite moving and the music sweeps along – Lecocq was a first class melodist. One can understand why the work was so successful and why sheet music sales of dance arrangements sold so well.

Madam Angot, a story well known in France, is a girl of the Market who is adopted and educated in a superior manner. Rather than focus on the heavy-handed and coarse character of this person Lecocq’s libretto concentrates on her unexpectedly charming daughter, Clairette. Set at the time of the formidable French Directoire in the 1790s after the revolution the staging allows the use of the magnificent costumes of the period to provide a visual spectacle (similar to that achieved for My Fair Lady).

Remarkably there has been an absence of interest in presenting a current production of this charming work despite an early dual French/English edition being published by Boosey & Co. in their Royal Edition. Traubner in his book suggests the overture is one of the best written for a French operetta, and I wouldn’t disagree. From the moment of the cheery Act 1 opening in Les Halles there is a run of charming numbers: Pomponnet’s song "Aujourd’hui, prenons bien garde" which indicates his forthcoming marriage; the striking legend of Madam Angot "Marchande de marée"; Pitou’s reflective "Certainement, j’aimais Clairette"; and the memorable "Chanson politique". Act 2 is strong and no less effective musically: an interesting pastiche of Verdi is found in the choir of conspirators "Quand on conspire" with a highlight found in the stirring waltz song "Tournez, tournez". Act 3 contains a ballet and is memorable for its Couplets "Vous aviez fait de la dépense", which has an ‘Auber’, ring about it. The finale revisits the main songs and builds them into an energetic climax.

The soloists both sing and act appropriately. (One should not mix up this version with a very poor tape version, which does not do justice to the operetta’s charm.) It helps to be able to follow the French dialogue (though this is tracked separately so that a CD player may be programmed to play the music alone). Mady Mesplé (Clairette) needs no introduction to recordings of French opérette with her distinctive, light and thinly textured soprano voice with rapid vibrato. Bernard Sinclair (Ange Pitou) is less well known; he sings in Pathé EMI’s companion production of Les Cloches de Corneville in 1974. His energetic singing and agreeable tone matches the part well. The choir are superb and provide a strong backing.

This 2 CD set is a reissue of LPs released in the 1973, possibly as a centenary celebration of the work. The recording master tapes have transferred well to CD and the resulting sound is excellent. but the track indexing is inaccurate and seems as if it has been done ‘on line’, since an end note of a previous track is often heard. With this mid-price issue, no notes are included.

Raymond Walker


Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Oxford); ‘Musicals", Ganzl (Carlton)

Production poster (1872)

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