La Vie Parisienne Complete

La Vie Parisienne isn’t my favourite work by Offenbach by a long shot.  The plot is absurd and the music, while not without wit (for example Bobinet;’s entrance in Act 5 is signalled by the Commendatore’s theme from Don Giovanni) and invention, mostly sounds like stuff one has heard before.  I was intrigued though by a recent production in Paris that used an attempt to reconstruct the score as Offenbach and his librettists Meilhac and Halévy might have wished it in1866.  As it happened a combination of censorship and the inability/reluctance of the cast (singing actors rather than opera singers) to tackle the more challenging music led to cuts throughout the rehearsal process and the virtual evisceration of acts 4 and 5.  Now scholars at that most interesting organisation the Palazetto Bru Zane have gone back to the autograph materials used in that first run to try and reconstruct a “complete” version.


This version, which runs three hours, was presented at the Théâtre des Champs Élysée in December 2021 where it was recorded for video.  I’m still not sure it makes much more sense than the truncated version but it’s interesting.  The production was designed and directed by Christian Lacroix and it has a very distinct look and feel.  I might call it “parody second empire”.  The costumes are clearly rooted in the period though much exaggerated with very short skirts over flouncy petticoats for the ladies much of the time.  There’s also heavy use of almost clown like pancake make-up and wigs.  The blocking and acting style is of a piece with the designs.  It’s stylized and exaggerated with a lot of synchronised movement.  There’s good use of dance.  The dancers themselves are excellent and some of Gyslein’s Lefever’s choreography is intriguing.  It’s often gender bending with, for example, male dancers parading in vestigial female costumes.  Overall, it’s fast paced, colourful, extremely silly but quite good fun and very French.


Musically it’s excellent.  There are no “singing actors” here.  The cast is mostly made up of young French singers who you might find singing Mozart or Donizetti in Lyon or Toulouse.  They aren’t (yet at least) opera singers of the first rank but they are more than adequate for this music and there’s eye candy for all tastes.  They also throw themselves into the craziness with splendid abandon.  I’m not going to name check the singers but they are all praise worthy.  There’s a full cast listing at the end of the post.  I am going to single out though conductor Romain Dumas who gets really good playing from his orchestra, made up of members of Les Musiciens du Louvre, their academy and Jeaune Orchestre Atlantique.  He also keeps everything co-ordinated and fast moving even when there are loads of people on stage going crazy.  The Choeur de Chambre de Namur also play their part as a very committed chorus.


Video direction is by François Roussillon and I can’t fault it.  I think it showcases what this production is all about and it’s backed up by excellent sound (stereo and DTS-HD-MA) on Blu-ray.  The booklet has a synopsis and track listing and more useful information on the “reconstruction” process than I have provided here.  Subtitle options are French English, German, Japanese and Korean.


I’m still not a huge fan of this piece butI find it hard to imagine it getting a significantly better or more idiomatic production.


Catalogue number: Naxos Blu-ray NBD0163V



1 thought on “La Vie Parisienne Complete

  1. Pingback: La Vie Parisienne Complete — operaramblings | Mon site officiel / My official website

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