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date: 14 July 2020

Vie parisienne, La (‘Parisian Life’)locked

  • Andrew Lamb

Extract

(‘Parisian Life’)

Opéra bouffe in five (later four) acts by Jacques Offenbach to a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy; Paris, Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 31 October 1866.

The work was written in anticipation of the crowds visiting Paris for the 1867 Exhibition and proved one of the hits of the season. It was composed not for Offenbach’s usual company, but for that of the Palais-Royal, which comprised actors as much as singers – strengthened for the occasion by one of Offenbach’s favourite players, Zulma Bouffar, as the glovemaker Gabrielle. The piece recognizes the company’s limitations with music that is vocally less extensive and demanding than that Offenbach wrote for the Théâtre de la Gaîté. The musical strength lies rather in the sparkling orchestral melodies – above all, waltzes, galops and can-cans which, allied to a humorous libretto that was Meilhac and Halévy at their best, has made the work a perpetual favourite as a symbol of Second Empire gaiety. By the time the piece was revived at the Théâtre des Variétés on ...

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