La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein, Châtelet, Paris
By Francis Carlin
Published: October 11 2004 03:00 | Last updated: October 11 2004 03:00
Were the Brits in the audience the only ones to get the allusion? Felicity Lott's Grand Duchess is a carbon copy of Maggie Smith in Travels with my Aunt, a saucy, slightly dotty spinster with a thing about men in uniform.
It's not an easy vocal ride for her - the tessitura is awkwardly low and you feel she's pining to jump an octave - but her acting carries the entire show. Command of gesture, timing, she has it all. And then there's her deliciously enunciated French which sounds here like a rich dowager from snobby Bordeaux. Utterly priceless.
Inevitably, Laurent Pelly's production revolves around Lott. He ignores contemporary references in this satire on war and arbitrary power, nor does he pinpoint the contrast between the effete incompetence of the court and the simple romance of Wanda and the intellectually challenged Fritz. Wanda, especially with the vocally discreet Sandrine Piau, is a laughable country bumpkin in green wellies who doesn't get our sympathy.
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