Author Topic: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach  (Read 15700 times)

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Offline JoshLilly

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Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« on: January 23, 2008, 11:39:49 AM »
I looked and didn't find a thread devoted to him. So... anybody else around here really, really dig his music? It wasn't until today that I realised that I have eight complete operas/operettas by him. The last few days I've been unable to get the beginning of Ba-Ta-Clan out of my head. Why? I don't really know! So I had to dig up some of his music, when I finally realised what it was that I was obsessing over. His two cello concerti are never far from my ears, but for some reason I haven't listened to his vocal music in quite some time. I find Offenbach to be a composer of real genius. Every time I listen to something of his, I feel so good and wonder "Why have I been missing out on this for so long?!" Even people who avoid operas might love his cello concerto "Concerto Militaire", which ranks up there as a contender for my favourite cello concerto ever. The "Concerto Rondo" is like a 20-minute single-movement cello concerto and also ranks way up there in my book.

Anybody else willing to confess to a liking for Offenbach? Any recording recommendations?

Offline Brewski

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2008, 11:52:37 AM »


I've mentioned this a number of times on other threads, but one of my favorite opera DVDs is this one of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.  Staged at Brussels's Théâtre de la Monnaie, the production is totally brilliant, by the late Herbert Wernicke.  Without giving away some of the spectacular effects (one in particular), the opening tableaux takes place in a huge grand cafe, which is apparently an exact replica of a restaurant some 50 yards from the theater. 

The reviews on Amazon don't seem to be too keen on this, some calling it "too slow," but I thought it was hugely entertaining.  Dale Duesing is marvelous as Jupiter, perhaps the high point of an excellent cast.

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Morigan

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2008, 11:54:55 AM »
Offenbach is pure fun, and one my guilty pleasures... I have all the operetta DVDs produced by Minkowski!

I am, however, unfamiliar with his orchestral work! I will look into these concerti.

« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 02:22:03 PM by Figaro »

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2008, 11:58:56 AM »
He's brilliant - a superb craftsman and despite the large amount of operas he wrote, every one I have heard so far (perhaps over half a dozen) has been endlessly tunefull and witty. This is one of my favourite DVDs of any opera, full-stop:



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« Last Edit: January 23, 2008, 12:02:31 PM by Lethe »
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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2008, 01:13:10 PM »
I like his Orchestral music very much so.... :)

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2008, 01:39:54 PM »
I knew Harry would not be immune to the pleasures of Offenbach!  ;D
Have you tried any of his chamber music for cello? Many say that's his "deepest" music, whatever that means. The Cours méthodique de duos are in the odd format of being two solo cellos. This isn't something I thought I'd like, but with Offenbach's talent, he makes it work.

His non-opera music ranges from the bubbly melodiousness that you'd expect, to lyrical, nostalgic beauty such as Deux âmes au ciel (gorgeous!).

Offline Brian

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2008, 02:28:32 PM »
The Cours méthodique de duos are in the odd format of being two solo cellos.
That sounds right up my alley. Added to the listening list.  8)

(Naturally I am a huge fan of the various "light music" of Offenbach, and the Gaite Parisienne.  :) )

Harry

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2008, 03:28:06 PM »
I knew Harry would not be immune to the pleasures of Offenbach!  ;D
Have you tried any of his chamber music for cello? Many say that's his "deepest" music, whatever that means. The Cours méthodique de duos are in the odd format of being two solo cellos. This isn't something I thought I'd like, but with Offenbach's talent, he makes it work.

His non-opera music ranges from the bubbly melodiousness that you'd expect, to lyrical, nostalgic beauty such as Deux âmes au ciel (gorgeous!).

I have no knowledge of his chambermusic, but in time I am sure, I find it, unless you have some recommendations for me? :)

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2009, 06:51:05 AM »
Mahler, Beethoven, Wagner, Mozart... They bow to the greatness that is Offenbach. They are as Children next to genius the like of which the world had never seen...

Ok, Ok. It's a bit over the top. But let me ask you...Why is there so little music of Offenbach actually available for listening? He wrote more than 100 works, most of which is simply not available even if you wanted to listen to it. Imagine if most of Mozart's or Verdi's works were not available for listening!! The lack of Offenbach recordings is simply a crime, in my opinion, when the music is just so good.

So this thread will be an attempt to grab your attention on Offenbach and collect information about his works. And if I am the only one who will post, then at least I know it will be a good conversation!!

I'm not really the best person for this job (I'm just the only one! lol!). I love music from the romantic period. I love opera and operrettas. In fact, I love most all music from the period. But I only recently came to love Offenbach. Quite simply, the music never fails to make me happy. His music is like a drug. Sure, sometimes he's silly, sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes just plain 'out there', but the music never fails to be less than engaging. If even one person can be converted - well, then at least there will be someone for me to talk to!! 

Add to that, many of his stories about politics and stuff are still completely relevent today! I find that pretty remarkable as most operas or operrettas simply do not have that quality.

SO here we go. First, perhaps a  little background:

Previous link to Offenbach (they were ahead of their times!): http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,5572.0.html
Wikipedia on Offenbach's life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Offenbach
List of Works on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_operettas_by_Offenbach

It appears that wikipedia has missed at least one work: Christopher Columbus. Offenbach didn't actually write this per se, but another person collected bits and pieces to create this whacko story about nymphomaniac queens (among other things). Well, more on this another time (I have not heard it, but it sounds fun). That was just to get your interest (sex sells, or so I hear).

My recent kick on Offenbach started with a disc I actually purchased last year. Let me step back. I have always adored the Tales of Hoffman - beautiful music, entertaining, strange story - has everything. Well, I then purchsed some of his piano music on CPO. While not the best music, I really enjoyed it anyway. That led me to Gaite Parisienne. And that led me to the disc I couldn't put down last night.

Here it is:


This is a marvelous disc. The production elements are great. It has this enormous 200+ page book that I have barely cracked open (but looks great). The music is 150+ minutes, meaning fully loaded! And the choices included are music I have never heard before for the most part. There is a song where they quack and other odd stuff. The singing has high notes, low notes, choral strength, etc. The one constant is the brilliant writing of Mr. Offenbach. And they choose from an array of operettas. It makes you wonder why you have not heard it before. I have yet to see a bad review of this disc, and I see why. The only downside is that it is quite expensive. But if this sort of music is of any interest, I don't think it would disappoint.

Ultimately, I would like to get together a list of all the operas/operettas that are currently availble for purchase (mostly the rarer ones), but I have taken enough of your precious time for now. Vive Offenbach (minor detail that he has long since passed)!
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2009, 11:47:33 PM »
I did not expect that I would indeed be having a conversation with myself. Perhaps my sense of humor put people off? I hope the Offenbachian (is that a word) nature of my post was appreciated.

So would anyone recommend an Offenbach recording? I'd love to hear if the Christopher Columbus on Opera Rara is any good.

From my side, I re-listened to the Minkowski 'Offenbach Romantique'. It has some very nice pieces. It's starts with a version of Orpheus. Then it has the full cello concerto. This is a very episodic piece, but there is a lot to like. It reminds me of Elgar on occassion, although they really are quite different. The third movement starts out in typcial Offenbachian style (and the cello with it). It's like the cello is laughing. It then settles into some wonderful music. I'm surprised it isn't played more often.  This is followed with music from two of his operettas, both of which are tuneful and foot tapping music.

Here is a picture of the cover...


I cannot compare to other versions. I know Harnoy has done one, but it is apparently a different version, as this one is a 'rescued' original, taken in part from Richard Bonynge's personal collection.

 

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Offline Lethevich

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2009, 12:55:35 AM »
I was expecting this to be moved to the opera section - glad it wasn't, as he didn't only write those. That said, I am only going to write about operetta in this post -_- I have limited exposure to Offenbach, but am a great fan of the following production. The cast and production are simply frighteningly good, combined with one of the finest operettas I have yet seen.



I have been moderately intrigued by the cello music, but thus far have avoided it - unsure whether the positive reviews are simply through finding something not completely awful from this composer renowned in other styles, or whether they are genuinely great.
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2009, 02:09:07 AM »
I was expecting this to be moved to the opera section - glad it wasn't, as he didn't only write those. That said, I am only going to write about operetta in this post -_- I have limited exposure to Offenbach, but am a great fan of the following production. The cast and production are simply frighteningly good, combined with one of the finest operettas I have yet seen.



I have been moderately intrigued by the cello music, but thus far have avoided it - unsure whether the positive reviews are simply through finding something not completely awful from this composer renowned in other styles, or whether they are genuinely great.

I have what I assume is this same version on CD with Minkowski. Cover looks the same too:


I agree that it is very good. I have not heard other verisons, but I understand this has additional music not contained in all versions? Perhaps someone who knows would be able to comment on this. Or I could read the booklet, except I don't remember where it is!

Having looked through Amazon and other sites, it looks like only about a dozen or so of his operas are actually available for purchase. Sometime over the next few days, I'll try to put together a post that sumamrizes what IS available for purchase for those of us that are interested.
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Morigan

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2009, 02:28:57 PM »
If you liked the Grande Duchesse DVD (and/or CD) you should look for Minkowski's other recordings and staging with the talented modern stage director Laurent Pelly. He did Orphée aux enfers (with Dessay) and La Belle Hélène... oh and Pelly recently staged La Vie Parisienne, but with a different conductor. It's still very good, in the same style.

I must say that La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein is my favourite Offenbach score...

Offline Guido

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2009, 02:15:57 PM »
Even people who avoid operas might love his cello concerto "Concerto Militaire", which ranks up there as a contender for my favourite cello concerto ever. The "Concerto Rondo" is like a 20-minute single-movement cello concerto and also ranks way up there in my book.

Not ripping on Offenbach, but just out of interest what other cello concertos have you heard?

A lot of his cello works are delightful - I particularly like les larmes de Jacqueline (which I guess must be culled from one of his operatic works, thinking about it) which is just lovely from start to finish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1G5qz8OVxw
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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2010, 05:12:26 AM »
Offenbach is a composer that takes a dominant place in my collection now. I recognize in him a musical greatness that is addictive.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2010, 06:52:40 AM »
Offenbach is a composer that takes a dominant place in my collection now. I recognize in him a musical greatness that is addictive.

It is! It is!

I am eagerly anticipating a new opera from Opera Rara that is supposed to come out this month, called Vert Vert. Their production values are high, so I just hope it is a good performance.
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2010, 03:10:51 AM »
Okay, you guys have finally convinced me to give Offenbach a shot: ordered Hoffman, Orpheus and the Minkowski disc with the Cello Concerto.

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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2010, 03:14:37 AM »
Okay, you guys have finally convinced me to give Offenbach a shot: ordered Hoffman, Orpheus and the Minkowski disc with the Cello Concerto.

Sarge
Ooooooh! A convert?

Which version did you order on Hoffman and Orpheus?
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2010, 03:28:40 AM »
Ooooooh! A convert?

Which version did you order on Hoffman and Orpheus?

Hoffman: Cluytens 1948 (this review convinced me). Choosing a modern version is very confusing. Do you have a recommendation?

Orpheus: Dessay/Minkowski. The DVD looks delicious but I opted for the CD.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Jacques (Jacob) Offenbach
« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2010, 04:52:03 AM »
Hoffman: Cluytens 1948 (this review convinced me). Choosing a modern version is very confusing. Do you have a recommendation?

Orpheus: Dessay/Minkowski. The DVD looks delicious but I opted for the CD.

Sarge

Let me start with Orpheus, which by virtue of fewer choices is easier - The one you got is probably the best modern version there is.  The only other one I would consider is Plasson, who is on my list to buy. It is now in the EMI opera series - so much cheaper. This is the later version (1874 v '58 if I have the dates down right), so it is a bit different from the Minkowski. In the end, these two are the ones to choose from and both generally well received.

Hoffman is a bit more complicated. First, the soprano roles are often played by one singer, though there are some where up to four roles are split (these roles are Olympia, Giuletta, Antonia, and Stella). In the end, not really a big deal if all the roles are sung well (though many prefer one singer to match the one male singer throughout). The original intended for one singer (as the villain is), but the roles as a group are challenging since each is different in range and style (which is why it is sometimes split). Second, the order of the episodes is sometimes switched. This also has no practical impact as the stories are independent with only a brief mention of one of the episodes in the other (and on CD, one can always program a different order). There is also the question of dialog / recitativ and other smaller changes in the story. But the first two typically have the biggest impact on the performance. Since Hoffman died before the premiere, there is no definitive version (I think he had completed the piano score and some of the orchestration) and so I would not let that confuse the issue. 

I am not familair with the one you ordered (not preferring older sound like that, though have heard it is as French as can be), but have heard several others. My favorite to date is the version with Domingo and Sutherland conducted by Bonynge (on Decca). The singers are strong.  Sutherland is not my favorite, but she certainly has the chops for the wide range of roles (she sings all four) and sounds very good here (and in 1971/2 - she was in excellent form, and you can hear that here). Domingo is in fine voice, and so is Bacquier, who is also excellent. Huguette Tourangeau, who plays the Nicklausse/The Muse, is also very good indeed.  The orchesta sounds great. There is dialog and no recitativ. The booklet explains all the choices that were made. The bottom line is that this is (in my opinion) the best sung version out there. The recording is generally good, although occassionally strained by some of the highs.

The rest (and from memory, so forgive me if I shoudl mix them up):
Cluytens (later stereo version): I think this is the one which has the Nicklausse role cast by a baritone (and not to my taste), includes Gedda, Schwarzkopf and de los Angeles
Sills/Burrows/Treigle conducted by Rudel - Also a decent choice. Sills seems to bring out passions one way or the other.
DVD version  - Domingo again with three different singers (Baltsa, Serra and Cotrubus) and Pretre conducting - have never seen it, but seems well liked
Tate with Araiza, Ramey and Norman/van Otter/Studer - Haven't heard this - Despite a great looking cast, this usually gets bad reviews (I am generally leary of Araiza in any case)
Nagano conducting Dessay and Alagna - Dessay is pretty good and this isn't a bad recording, but I thought is lacked a bit of flair and Alagna is not as good as Domingo (haven't heard this in a while though)

The bottom line is that they are all a bit different, since there is no difinitive version. But as I said, I wouldn't really worry too much about that. So hopefully this was helpful. Perhaps others who are familiar with some of the performances will chime in as well.
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