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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Opera Review: Songs from the Big Chair

L'Etoile at City Opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

Jean-Poaul Fouchécourt as King Ouf, out for a stroll in L'Etoile
Photo © 2010 New York City Opera
Emmanuel Chabrier's charming opéra bouffe returned to the stage of the David Koch Theater to open the New York City Opera's spring season. If this sunny staging is any indication, the beleaguered company is back on its feet and headed in the right direction.

Created in 2003, this is one of the durable productions created at Glimmerglass Opera, brought to New York as part of the long partnership that existed between the two companies when Paul Kellogg directed both houses. Mark Lamos (whose staging of Madama Butterfly is also running this spring) gives the audience a visual confection of shimmering curtains, giant inflatable chairs and bright primary colors to accentuate the farcical nature of the opera. The creative use of mounted Vari-Lites in the production also adds to the comic mix.

The game, Francophone cast dealt handily with Chabrier's mix of spoken dialogue and rapid-fire arias. Especially strong were Julie Boulianne in the trouser role of Lazuli (the hero of the piece) and the fine comic tenor Jean-Poaul Fouchécourt in the key role of King Ouf. François Loup held down the bottom end of the cast as Siroco, the King's astrologer. His duet with the King in praise of the liqueur Chartreuse was a major highlight of the final act.

Like many of the comic operas produced at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, the plot of L'Etoile is silly and disposable, with the kind of mock-executions and misunderstandings that continue to delight fans of Gilbert and Sullivan. And at less than three hours long, this energetic opera goes by before you know it. But under the expert direction of Emmanuel Plasson, this is a delightful evening for fans of French opera and operatic comedies in general.

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