Operetta Research Center
25 December, 2014
Did anyone ever wonder what happened to Rodolfo after Mimi’s death? Truth be told, I did not. At least not until I suddenly bumped into Rodolfo again. In an operetta entitled Ciboulette (1923) by Reynaldo Hahn. The former Puccini hero has meanwhile renounced love and poetry, started working as a state official, has taken on the name of “Duparquet” and has become controller of the market Les Halles in Paris. Like a fairy godmother he helps the vegetable vendors find the loves of their lives. Or rather, just one in this case. He plays matchmaker between the young farm-girl Ciboulette and Antonin, a young spoiled aristocrat. Here, now, is a live recorded DVD from the Opera Comique, in a production by Michel Fau.
The first act is all black-and-white (plus a bit of grey) and looks like it comes straight from the early years of cinema. Only when Cibolette enters does the scene become more colorful. In every sense of the word. This makes for a stunning effect. It’s as if a grey veil is lifted and you see a magical world previously hidden.
Jean-François Lapointe is an irresistable Duparquet. He effortlessly switches from his mad-cap dialogue scenes and a cheerful duet with Ciboulette (the infectuous “Nous avons fait un beau voyage”) to the touching “C’est tout ce qui me reste d’elle” where he remembers Mimi. I am not sure if I misheard, but it seems like there are some faint echos of Puccini in the background.
Tenor Julien Behr, as rich and spoiled Antonin de Mourmelon, does not really have a pretty voice, and he’s also somewhat stiff on stage, but that fits the role rather well. Eva Ganizate is a wonderful grisette called Zénobie who dumps Antonin for a dashing huzzar (in a very dashing uniform), and Bernadette Lafont delivers the part of Madame Pingret with an extra dose of humor.
The title role is sung by the young French soprano Julie Fuchs. She has a fresh, almost spring-like voice, portraying a girl who doesn’t yet know what she wants – until she walks right into it. Or him rather.
In the end, she gets one of catchiest tunes from the score, that will burn itself deep into your memory. That the audiences loves Miss Fuchs, too, is clear from the final round of applause.
If you are suffering from a “winter blues,” feeling stressed out because of the holiday season or have just been left by a lover: get this DVD and let yourself be transported. It’s a real treat and vintage operetta.