Despite a thin to non-existent plot and music that sounds like a remix of all the other Offenbach operettas, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, performed by largely French forces and recorded at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 2004 is a highly enjoyable romp. The plot centres on the susceptibility of the Grand-Duchess to fall rather hard for younger men. This makes it a perfect vehicle for Felicity Lott who rather seems to specialise in such roles; whether Strauss’ Marschallin or La Belle Hélène. She’s brilliant. She sings gorgeously except where she doesn’t want to and her comic timing is impeccable. She’s well backed up by Yann Beuron as the young soldier Fritz who she promotes from private to général-en-chef without swaying his affections for his sweetheart Wanda sung by the irrepressible and cute Sandrine Piau. The slapstick element is provided by François Le Roux, as Le Général Boum, Franck Leguérinet as Le Baron Puck and Eric Huchet as Le Prince Paul who are set on getting the Grand-Duchess to marry Paul even if it means murdering Fritz. They get lots of up tempo numbers that sound as if they are singing a Korean restaurant menu.
The production is by Laurent Pelly with choreography by Laura Scozzi. It’s high energy; so much so that one wonders how the singers manage it. The sets (by Chantal Thomas) are very clever and it all works very well visually. There’s a wonderful dance scene where male dancers play married couples with the brides several sizes larger than their soldier husbands. It’s mad and very funny. The overall effect is that all the energetic goings on carry one through the rather ridiculous plot twists without it dragging. Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble are in the pit and play with suitable verve.
Video direction is by François Roussillon and it’s very good indeed. It’s a nice balance of shots and one never feels that one is missing out on stage action. Technically it’s pretty decent with a good quality picture and DTS sound that’s good but not quite top drawer. The Dolby surround and stereo options are not an improvement. There are no extras, documentation is minimal and subtitle options are English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.