98. M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le… (Jacques Offenbach)

  • Operette bouffe in 1 act
  • Composer: Jacques Offenbach and M. de Saint Rémy [pseudonym of the Duc de Morny].
  • Libretto: Ludovic Halévy, Hector Crémieux, et Ernest L’Epine
  • First performed: Salons du Corps législatif, Palais Bourbon, 31 May 1861, conducted by Offenbach, in the presence of Napoléon III. First public performance: Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, 14 September 1861

M.CHOUFLEURIBaritone – 1er comiqueM. Désiré
ERNESTINE, Choufleuri’s daughterChanteuse or 1er dugazonLise Tautin
CHRYSODULE BABYLAS, young composerTénor comique – CoudercPierre-Armand Potel
PETERMANN, Choufleuri’s servantTenor – TrialGeorges Dejon-Marchand
BALANDARD, guestTenor – comique grimeDebruille-Bache
Mme BALANDARDThe same, or Duègne ComiqueLéonce

SETTING: Paris, in the Marais, 24 January 1833. A bourgeois salon.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

M. Choufleuri (“Mr Cauliflower”), a social climber, has invited all of Parisian high society to his soirée to hear soprano Henriette Sontag, baritone Antonio Tamburini, and tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini.

Unfortunately, the singers are all ill.  He, his daughter, and her boyfriend are forced to impersonate the stars – and the wily young couple seize the opportunity to blackmail the old man into letting them marry.

“On this highly comic canvas,” Félix Clément wrote (Dictionnaire des opéras, 1869), “the composer gave himself up to some zestful musical eccentricities.”

The highlight is the Trio italien – ten of the funniest minutes in opera.

Speaking Italian is very simple, the young musician Babylas explains; just stick no onto a masculine word and na onto a feminine.  Italien, italiano!

It has to be heard to believed.  The trio is a giddily brilliant lampoon of Italian opera, apparently the work of Verdi and Rossini, complete with vocalizes, runs, trills, and an allegro vivo accompanied by a bizarre choice of brass and wind instruments.  There’s even a father cursing his daughter.

YouTube bel canto enthusiast Kirill calls it “a parody of perfect proportions … the structure is wholly faithful to the bel canto idiom: scene –andante – tempo di mezza – stretta (with a few extended cadenzas thrown in just for the fun of it)”.

“Italia la bella mia bella patria bona pasta frolla campagna di Roma,” begins the soprano. “Je suis ô Paméla – Del Dogino figlia – Nativa Montamartro questa Batignollas – Depuis l’annexione – C’est moins loin que l’Odéone ».

Towards the end, the singers launch into “patati Bellini patati Rossini patati Halévy patata Auberi, Poniatowski, Davidini, Heroldini, Wagnerini”.

The rest of the opera finds Offenbach on similarly inspired form.  The bolero “Pedro possède une guitare” is brilliant – a lively, toe-tapping tune, full of bristling drums and guitars.  WARNING: Serious earworm.

There’s also a superb comic trio which consists largely of the phrase “C’est Babylas!”

Those two pieces, Clément wrote, were heartily applauded.

Offenbach mischievously quotes other composers; Ernestine summons Babylas with the invocation of the damned nuns from Meyerbeer‘s Robert le Diable; he arrives “en galant paladin” like the hero of Boieldieu‘s Dame blanche.


Recording

Jean-Philippe Lafont (M. Choufleuri), Mady Mesplé (Ernestine), and Charles Burles (Chrysodule Babylas), with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo and the Ensemble Choral Jean Laforge conducted by Manuel Rosenthal, 1982.  EMI CDS 7 49361-2


Structure

Ouverture

  1. Couplets : J’étais vraiment très ignorante (Ernestine)
  2. Boléro à 2 voix : Pedro possède une guitare (Babylas, Ernestine)
    2bis : Le même à une voix
  3. Couplets : En naissant chaque créature (Petermann)
  4. Trio : Babylas, Babylas, Babylas (Choufleuri, Ernestine, Babylas)
  5. Ensemble : Le plaisir nous invite
  6. Trio italien de la malediction : Italia la bella, mia bella patria, bona pasta frolla
  7. Final : Vraiment votre petite fête

4 thoughts on “98. M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le… (Jacques Offenbach)

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