Beware of llamas

Offenbach’s La Périchole is one of his less often performed works and I think I can see why.  It really isn’t as good as La Belle Hélène or Orphée aux Enfers but it has its moment and in the completely mad, over the top, utterly French treatment it got at the Opéra Comique in 2022 it’s really quite enjoyable.


La Périchole is a street singer in Lima, Peru along with her lover Piquillon but they are dead broke.  The Viceroy, Don Andrès de Ribeira falls madly in love with her and intends her to be his mistress but for that to happen she must be presented at Court so she needs a husband.  After some serious drinking she agrees to marry whoever the Viceroy’s people can find, who turns out to be an even drunker Piquillo.  The next morning he rather ungraciously presents her at Court incurring the wrath of the Viceroy who has him thrown in a dungeon.  La Périchole goes to rescue him but the Viceroy disguises himself as the jailer and foils the plot.  But then another prisoner, who has just dug his way out of his cell after twelve years, helps them trap the Viceroy and escape.  They are recaptured but the Viceroy forgives them and their is a happy ending.


Valérie Lesort’s production guys every stereotype about Spain and Peru  and adds in some elements that are almost a parody of what people think Offenbach productions are like.  The costumes, by Vanessa Sannino are brightly coloured and cartoonish; perhaps like Els Comediants on LSD.  There’s lots of fast paced movement and some very good dancers.  The cast and chorus are no mean movers either so it’s all highly kinetic.  There are even llamas in Act 3.


The cast, led by Stéphanie d’Oustrac are are all experts in this kind of French comedy and gobble it up.  D’Oustrac is hilarious and sings beautifully.  She’s well partnered by Philippe Talbot as Piquillo.  He’s a proper tenor with all the high notes.  Tassis Christoyannis is very funny indeed as the hapless and pompous Viceroy, not least when appearing on a llama in Act 1.  His sidekicks; the governor of Lima and the Chamberlain are very well portrayed by Lionel Peintre and Eric Huchet.  The former in particular comes off wonderfully like a diminutive, dyspeptic and rather useless French general.


The three cousins who keep a bar and the ladies of the court are well taken by Julie Goussot, Marie Lenormand, Lucie Peyramaure and Julia Wischniewski.  The other minor roles are all well done.  The chorus is Les éléments who not only sing very well but are extremely energetic participants in the shenanigans.  Julien Leroy conducts with vigour and momentum and gets a thoroughly French sound from the Orchestre de chambre de Paris.


It’s not a complicated show to film and François Roussillon captures it to video nicely, backed up by excellent (DTS-HD-MA and hi-res stereo) sound and video on Blu-ray.  There’s a useful essay and synopsis plus a full track listing in the booklet.  Subtitle options are English, French, German, Korean and Japanese.


Overall it’s lots of fun and makes the most of not-quite-first-rate Offenbach as only a first rate French team could.


Catalogue number: Naxos Blu-ray NBD0168V


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