Belle Hélène, La (‘The Fair Helen’)
- Andrew Lamb
Opéra bouffe in three acts by jacques Offenbach to a libretto by henri Meilhac and ludovic Halévy , after classical mythology; Paris, Théâtre des Variétés, 17 December 1864.
La belle Hélène followed Orphée aux enfers of six years earlier as a satirical treatment of the classics, and as a very thinly disguised comment on many aspects of Second Empire society life. It was one of Offenbach’s greatest successes. Above all others of his works, it was epitomized in the music he composed for Hortense Schneider in the role of Helen, and secondarily in that for José Dupuis in the role of Paris. Other members of Offenbach’s standard company of the time were Grenier (Calchas), Couder (Agamemnon) and Kopp (Menelaus). Later famous Helens have included Maria Jeritza in ...