It's Jacques Offenbach's 200th anniversary year, and this broadcast is a chance to get better acquainted with the versatile composer.
From a mosquito dance to a song sung by a mechanical doll to a grand duchess from a place that has never had a grand duchess: the music of Offenbach can be a lot of fun. There's also a serious side to it, as you'll discover this hour.
Jacques Offenbach and what they used to call the weaker sex is a story in itself. He had many affairs and is said to have been attracted to strong, self-assured women. Those are the kind of characters he developed in his operas and operettas.
In the mid- to late 1800s, morality was a hotly discussed topic. Can one get away with infidelity? Is it morally permissible? In the opera "The Beautiful Helen," Offenbach seems to be saying yes.
During the Second French Empire, Offenbach was a major celebrity. Yet he was also an outsider, first as a Jew, and secondly, as a German. During the Franco-German War of 1870-1871, some accused him of being Bismarck's spy. The Germans, for their part, called him a "frivolous Frenchman" and a traitor. Anti-Semitism was on the rise in both countries.
His career ruined, Offenbach withdrew to a retreat on the coast of France. His musical drama La Haine dates from 1874. The title translates as "Hate." It's about a couple in love, each belonging to a different religion and caught up in the sectarian wars of the middle ages: a different side of the usually cheerful and upbeat Jacques Offenbach.
Olga Pudova, soprano
Julien Behr, tenor
West German Radio Orchestra
Enrico Delamboye, conductor
Recorded by West German Radio (WDR) in the Cologne Philharmonie on June 22, 2019
Ah que j'aime le militaire (O I Love the Military) from The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
Mon dieux, mon dieux.. (My God, My God) from The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein
Jennifer Larmore, mezzo-soprano
Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne
Francois-Xavier Roth, conductor
Recorded by West German Radio (WDR) at the Cologne Opera on June 9, 2019