It is strange that such a first-class composer,
as Adam was, had to undertake his music studies in secret
because of parental disapproval. Encouraged by Boieldieu (composer
of La Dame Blanche, EMI 7243 5 56355 2), his fluency
of composition in conservatoire studies caused him to focus
on opera-comique. His chief aim was to provide music that
was accessible to the public. In that he succeeded triumphantly.
Si j'étais Roi was written a full fifteen years
after his tuneful Le Postillon de Longjumeau (1836)
and ballet music, Giselle (1841) had brought lasting
fame. The plot set in India on the coast of the Oman sea concerns a king, princess and fishermen.
It brings a dream-wish to life and there’s a moral ending
that wrongs always go punished.
Act 1: Zephoris is a young, handsome yet poor fisherman.
His sister Zelide is in love with another poor fisherman,
Pifear. In order to earn enough money to marry Zelide, Pifear
carries 'love-messages' from Kadoor - a minister and
traitorous cousin of the King - to a foreign ship. The
secret messages are destined for enemies of the king.
Meanwhile, Zephoris once saved a beautiful
girl from drowning and although he does not know her identity
- Princess Nemea, the king's daughter - he falls in love with
her. Kadoor wants to marry Nemea himself, yet she pines for the
man who saved her life. Kadoor pretends that it was he who
saved Nemea's life and bullies Zephoris to swear
that the truth will never be revealed. Lying on the beach,
Zephoris writes in the sand (before falling asleep) "If
I were King..."
The King, walking along the seashore, finds
Zephoris asleep on the beach and reads the words written in
the sand. The King thinks it would be fun to make Zephoris
king for one day and gives orders to take the young man to
Act 2: Zephoris wakes up in the palace and cannot
believe his eyes. Everyone behaves as if he is the king. When
Nemea enters the room, he recognizes her immediately
and reveals to her that he once saved her life.
Zephoris organizes a banquet to impress
Nemea. Kadoor wants revenge and convinces the
real king that the silly game of "King for a Day"
should end. So Kadoor puts a sleeping draught in Zephoris's
wine glass. The real King orders that the fisherman is taken
back to his cabin on the seashore.
Act 3: Zephoris wakes up back in his cabin. Kadoor
wants to see the fisherman dead, but Nemea
prevents him. The enemy (Portugal) is now about to invade the
country. The King discovers that Kadoor is the traitor who
ordered Pifear to take messages to a Portuguese ship
and asks Zephoris to lead the national army against Portugal. Zephoris defeats the King's
enemy and in saving his country is allowed to marry Nemea. Kadoor is exiled.
Medus is a rich resonant bass who, with
wide compass, manages to soar effortlessly in 'Eh, quoi!
le Prince Kadoor' [CD2 tk.17]. Medus's baritone voice
with bass resonance is well-suited to the role of the sinister
Kadoor, commanding the right air of authority. Where required,
he sings falsetto without any undue artificiality. Berton
makes a good contribution with an appropriate air of innocence
and purity in the languid phrases of her vocal numbers. Alvi
needs no introduction as a competent tenor of this Operette
series, and in this recording he does not disappoint. The
trio number 'Enfin il la tient' [CD1 tk.9] is very
Auber-like in construction. Here the singers are particularly
clear in diction and so well-balanced that one can clearly
focus on each individual vocal line.
The recording is well balanced within a
rather dry ambience, but this enhances clarity in this vintage
recording. As I have noticed in many French operetta recordings,
sound effects are subtly added and add an extra dimension,
unlike those heavy-handed effects that were characteristic
of certain Phase 4 British recordings. Here we are aware of
the sea gently breaking on the seashore.
The notes are in French only.