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ANDRÉ MESSAGER (1853-1929)
VÉRONIQUE operetta, 1898 (complete with abridged dialogue)
Géori Boue (sop) Helene (Veronique); Roger Bourdin (ten) Florestan; Geneviève Moizan (sop) Agathe; Max de Rieux (bar) Loustot; Marcel Carpentier (bar) Coquenard
Studio Orchestra conducted by Pierre Dervaux
Rec. Universal (Decca) Studios, Antony, France 1955
Discovery/Accord Operette Series 465 864-2 [92:18] Mono 2 CDs for the price of one


This is an excellent recording of Messager's most celebrated work. Véronique is remembered for some catchy pockets of melody and although the De ci, de là (Trot here, trot there) [CD1 tk.14] is the most notable, another Helene & Florestan duet, Ah! méchante [CD2 tk.2] contains haunting undercurrents of melody (reminiscent of his ballet, Les Deux Pigeons written in 1886). Also popular is Agathe's more robust Rondo Lisette avait peur du loup that follows the above duet [CD2 tk.4]. One should add that the fine final of Act II with its rhythmic vitality is certainly in the Bouffes-Parisien tradition.

The brilliance and inventive scoring of Véronique brought success to Messager and ensured his name was married to the operetta genre.

It is evident that Messager worked in a couple of ideas, from Sullivan's Mikado and Gondoliers, composed about a decade earlier. The two composers knew each other well through Richard D'Oyly Carte and the pastiche may well have been used by Messager as a tease. The opening chorus here is similar to List and Learn from the Gondoliers, and try Florestan's Une grisette mignonne [CD2 tk.6] for its hint of 'Here's a how-de-do' Mikado likeness.)

This is a first class recording and its mono status should not detract potential buyers. The length is similar to that of an alternative EMI stereo recording: with 2CDs for the price of one this is worthy of serious consideration. The cast work well as a team in a spirited and polished performance put together under Max de Rieux's experienced eye. The leads, Hélène and Florestan sing well and portray their roles perfectly. Agathe tends to be rather brittle and shrill in voice yet her diction is clear. Only the solo comedy lines in the opening chorus number by M. Coquenard are harsh and overdone.

The orchestra is on good form and the gusto of conductor, Pierre Dervaux makes sure this operetta keeps moving. The De ci, de là number is taken rather fast for my liking and tends to lose some of the attractiveness of its orchestration.

Brief notes in French are provided in the attractive card case.

Messager composed other operettas of note and one in particular, La Basoche, I had hoped to find featured in this series. This piece followed Ivanhoe at the Royal English Opera House (now Palace Theatre, London), and was revived by the BBC in the Twenties as part of an opera series yet hasn't been heard in the UK since. Apparently there is a Basoche highlights recording available on the Gaite Lyrique label.

Raymond Walker

Operette series from Universal Accord reviewed by Ray Walker

Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Routledge 2003); ‘Musicals", Ganzl (Carlton 1995)

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