Operetta Research Center
6 August, 2020
Since opera was first performed at the Glyndebourne country house in West Sussex in 1934, only one operetta has ever been staged: Die Fledermaus. It has taken the Covid-19 pandemic for an Offenbach operetta to be staged there, and then not in the opera house itself, but in the extensive gardens, weather permitting.
The work chosen is the one-act “opérette bouffe” Mesdames de la Halle, first staged in March 1858, predating the original Orphée aux enfers by six months. Kurt Gänzl calls it “a delicious bit of Parisienne bouffonnerie”, the plot concerning three ageing market-ladies, played by male comedians, all lusting after the pretty little kitchen lad Croûte-au-pot, also played in travesty. “He”, in turn, only has eyes for the young fruit seller Ciboulette.
The new Glyndebourne production opening on 12 August will not only be the work’s British premiere, it will also be sung in a specially commissioned translation by Stephen Plaice and re-titled In The Market For Love, or Onions are Forever.
It is directed by Glyndebourne’s director Stephen Langridge and conducted by Robin Ticciati. The cast includes Nicky Spence, Brenden Gunnell and Michael Wallace as Mesdames Poiretapée, Madou and Beurrefondue, and Kate Lindsey as Croûte-au-pot. Danielle de Niese will sing Ciboulette.
The first half of the proceedings will be a concert of Gabrieli, Mahler and Wagner given by the “socially distanced” London Philharmonic Orchestra under Robin Ticciati, after which the Offenbach should come as much-needed light relief.
Outdoor seating will be organised around well-spaced tables of four – unless it rains, in which case 48 hours notice of cancellation will be given! Glyndebourne obviously has great faith in weather forecasting.
Before those who live within driving distance of Glyndebourne get too excited, be aware that all £100 tickets for every performance sold within a few minutes of being put on sale and, certainly at present, no more performances are planned. It seems there will also not be a live stream for those staying at home.
And as a little reminder: EMI has a superb recording of Mesdames de la Halle with the great Mady Mesple as Ciboulette. It’s a performance conducted by Manuel Rosenthal, combined as a triple bill with Pomme d’Api and Monsieur Choufleuri.