Offenbach emerged in 1970 from the transformation of various bands throughout the 60's, the last being "Les Gants Blancs" lead by the Boulet brothers who were then inspired by the psychedelia of the times and artists like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. The lineup is then comprised of Gerry Boulet (keyboard & vocals), Jean Johnny Gravel (guitars), Michel "Willie" Lamothe Jr (bass) and Denis Boulet, who left the band after the first record to be replaced on drums by Roger (Wézo) Belval. That year they meet with musician, poet and filmmaker Pierre Harel whom they integrated to the band as singer and author, and would then release the soundtrack to his movie "Bulldozer" in 1973…
Everyone knows Offenbach's famous "Can-can" from the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, but how many casual listeners have heard it in its original version, as a chorus of demons(!) in Hades? In fact, the version best known is this one, as arranged for the ballet Gaîté Parisienne by the delightful French composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal. The work has been a staple of the Monte-Carlo ballet for about six decades, and Naxos has assembled the orchestra that knows it best for what amounts to a brand-new, original cast production, led by none other than the 95 years young Rosenthal.
This selection of pieces from Offenbach operettas (and one opera) raises a question: why hasn't Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova made more of a specialty of comic roles in her recordings? Her operatic discography, with very few exceptions, consists of serious characters, but the flair with which she performs these arias and ensembles demonstrates a real comic gift, and that's something of a rarity in opera stars. (Her stage roles, in fact, are pretty well balanced between serious and comic operas, with a fair number of Rossini, Mozart, and Offenbach comedies in her repertoire.) The current disc at least begins to rectify the gap in her recorded legacy.
The exceptional nature and high artistic quality of this performance justify publication of this video even though the filming was done only to preserve the performance for Teatro Regio's archives and therefore offers few close-up shots and occasionally unclear lighting.
Weather Report must have been one of the most important Jazz-Rock groups from the 1970s, founded by his two major instrumentalists Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter 40 years ago. Late 1970s Weather Report was at the very height of its success and featured, except Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, guitar legend Jaco Pastorius and drummer Peter Erskine. In September - October 1978 they toured along Europe and were scheduled for a dozen concerts; the live concert at the Stadthalle in Offenbach was recorded and is now available on a 2cd album and a DVD, which offers this complete concert. A must-have for all Weather Report fans. Keep Swinging loves to point you to this kind of historical concerts.
Bregenzs Tales of Hoffmann is different from everything you saw before. The New York Times praised the thoughtfulness and creativity of Stefan Herheims new production, devised by the director as a search for ones own self in a sparkling drag show. A shining-toned (NYT) Hoffmann is embodied by tenor Daniel Johansson in the title role. He is supported by a fantastic cast: Rachel Frenkel is positively ideal as Muse and Niklausse (Kurier), Kerstin Avemo as Olympia is endowed with brilliant, cheekily extemporized coloraturas (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), Michael Volle sings the parts of Lindorf, Coppelius, Dr. Miracle and Dappertutto, the works four villains, with warmth and intensity (NYT) and Mandy Fredrich is a finelyphrased Antonia (Kurier).
By Jacques Offenbach. Seeking to exorcise the failure of his current love affair, the poet Hoffmann tells the story of his three past loves - the doll-like Olympia, the high-class courtesan Giulietta, and the ambitious but delicate Antonia - and recalls how each was thwarted by the evil influence of his rival. In this production by the distinguished film director, John Schlesinger, with spectacular designs by Maria Björnson and William Dudley, Offenbach's nightmare world is brought to life. The all-star cast is headed by Placido Domingo as Hoffmann: his three loves are Ileana Cotrubas, Agnes Baltsa and Luciana Serra and the manifestations of his rival are sung by Geraint Evans, Robert Lloyd, Siegmund Nimsgern and Nicola Ghiuselev. The score, which includes such favorites as the "Barcarolle" and the "Doll's Song", is conducted by Georges Prêtre.
After La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein, and La Fille du régiment, Virgin Classics develops its DVD catalogue with yet a new stage production by renowned director Laurent Pelly (his 3rd for the label) accompanied by his assistant Agathe Mélinand who again adapted the dialogues as in the other productions. Filmed in Lyons during the performances (18th December – 1st January 2008) the production and the cast re-enacted in our moderns times the satirical portrayal of Parisian life in the Second Empire. The performances were a hit: Laurent Pelly brought to Offenbach’s operetta all the gusto and humour the subject calls for – his staging is wild and frenzied. La Vie parisienne was Offenbach's first full-length piece to portray contemporary Parisian life, unlike his earlier period pieces and mythological subjects. It became one of Offenbach's most popular operettas.
Warner Classics & Erato DVD catalogue already contains several characteristically stylish and imaginative productions by the French opera director Laurent Pelly: Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Handel’s Giulio Cesare. The last three all star Natalie Dessay, and now she and Pelly are reunited once again, this time for Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, staged at Barcelona’s Liceu opera house in early 2013.