Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Operatic High

All through July and August there is wonderful music going on throughout the region. One of the best music festivals is the Offenbach Operetta held in the beautiful village of Bruniquel. Founded by a local man Frank T'Hezan it is a wonderful opportunity to hear world class singers having fun in a relaxed and lovely setting. M. Hezan is a highly accomplished and professional tenor who specialises in operetta and especially Offenbach. He gets some friends together and every year they perform an Offenbach operetta in the grounds of the castle at Bruniquel. Normally you'd have to go to opera houses like La Scala or the Opera Bastille or Sydney to hear these folks sing but this is their summer holiday and although they are completely professional there is a real sense of holiday joy about the proceedings. Learn more about the festival at

The first thing that usually happens is a concert in the near by town of Caussade. This kind of introduces the singers and lets them perform some party pieces. Its always amazing.

The concert was supposed to start at 6.30 and at 6.40 the man arrived to tune the piano. He did it with considerable aplomb in front of a full audience. Also we got to admire his legs.

By 7pm we were ready to begin with the wonderful Till Fechner, one of the top Rossini basses in the world. He sang from Faust and was a gorgeously devilish Mephistopheles.

John-Louis Meunier followed up, he's a tenor...can you tell? He's also a wonderful, talented singer and actor.

Philippe Ermelier sang General Boum's song from the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein which was this year's production. He has a fab baritone sound and is hilariously funny. I think you can see here that he was having a good time. The children are from a local music school and some are also the children of the performers they helped to form a chorus and were pretty good. Great to see children being involved.

The guy in the white is Frank T'Hezan the powerhouse behind it all, an all round star, singer, actor, comedian, producer of the show and a bout a zillion other things. Here with Maryline Fallot singing from La Perichole. She played the Grand Duchess and blimey she was good. The concert was very enjoyable with some fine singing and lots of fun. The next pix are from the show itself.

Here is Maryline Fallot with Frédéric Mazzotta another tenor, (another gorgeous voice.) He is playing Fritz the soldier whom the Grand Duchess fancies, and who is promoted from Private to General in about 2 minutes flat!
Maryline Fallot, giving it some welly on top of the wooden canon which formed a vital part of the set and which was made especially for the event.

Recognise these three? Philippe Ermelier, Jean-Louis Meunier and Frank T'Hezan plotting Fritz's downfall. That really is M. Meunier behind those glasses, he also affected an hilarious lisp for the occasion.
Voici le sabre de mon pere. Excuse my French but these words form a refrain which runs through the entire opera, here is my father's sabre. The duchess gives the sabre to Fritz (we all know why), as she sends him off to fight. It's one of the best known songs from the show, and is often heard in France in concerts of light music when we got to this bit some members of the audience were even trying to join in. Offenbach is a bit like G and S in France. Actually La Perichole was being played at a theatre in London where they needed a curtain raiser and a certain Trial By Jury was written to fulfill that role. It went on to become the first of a long Gilbert and Sullivan tradition and was more popular in England than La Perichole!

Fritz ends up in his undies, don't ask why, you know what opera plots are like. It was all highly amusing. We had a joyful and diverting evening and it was rounded off with a late supper at which all the singers, as if they hadn't already done enough, performed cabaret style party pieces. Even the conductor sang and he has a great voice. We came home dazed with fun and good humour which stayed with us for days. We didn't get home until 3am. What a privilege to be able to take part in such a great event.

1 comment:

JoeyJoJo said...

Wow Salleeeee, this looks absolutely fantastic. I love your comments alongside the proceedings. You can tell they're all having a great time. I thought the children looked just ever so slightly bored though. You and your camera have done a great job I feel like I'm really there.