Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’



Photo by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille
25 Feb 2020

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

La Périchole in Marseille

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Samy Camps as Pedrillo, Héloīse Mas as Périchole

Photos by Christian Dresse courtesy of the Opéra de Marseille


Then there is Patrice Munsel who re-created the role for soubrette soprano for the Metropolitan Opera’s grand opera version back in the 1950’s. Never to be forgotten is Maria Ewing’s delightful Périchole in San Francisco Opera’s spring season at the Curran Theatre back in the 1970’s. And of course Stephanie d’Oustrac who triumphed in the role at the Opéra de Marseille in 2002.

It is good news indeed that Marseille may have discovered a Périchole for a new generation. Already on her way to becoming an Offenbach diva mezzo soprano Héloīse Mas recently sang stage director Laurent Pelly’s bratty Boulotte (Barbe-Bleue) on the main stages in Lyon and Marseille. Just now Mlle. Mas found herself on the Opéra de Marseille’s second stage, the Théâtre de l’Odéon de Marseille (a 1928 cinema updated to an 800 seat “boulevard” style theater) for a somewhat reduced La Périchole.

Not that the Périchole of Mlle. Mas was in any way reduced. She approaches the mold of a larger than life diva, radiating a huge personality. It is a bonus that she is a fine singer who sang the role in big, warm and confident mezzo voice. This young artist (32 years old) may be capable of finding a far greater subtlety of character in this role than she projected, though she did create a charming, big-eyed mock innocence that all too often usurped the small stage.

Pedrillo was sung by tenor Samy Camps who brought everything needed to create Perichole’s easily duped, hapless lover. He is charming, young and fun and sings well. He has carved himself a career bringing new life to long forgotten Offenbach lovers in the Opéra de Marseille’s Offenbach Project, and to delighting France’s regional operetta audience in revivals of once famed works like composer Herzé and librettist Henri Meilhac’s comédie-vaudeville, Mam’zelle Nitouche.

The balace of the cast, notably the Viceroy sung by Olivier Grand and the Old Prisoner sung by Michel Delfaud, comes from the Opéra de Marseille’s (and the south of France’s) rich treasury of operetta and character singers.

Perichole_Marseille1.pngThe Can-Can, with wigged chorus

The production was staged by Marseille born Olivier Lepelletier. Mr. Lepelletier organized a minimal set that made the most of the minimal stage space of the Odéon, erecting four steps up across the back of the state, the center of which was a tiny, curtained proscenium opening, making the scene the cabaret of the three cousins. Minimal adjustments were made to create the second act palace (the chorus was sumptuously costumed) and the third act jail (a couple of benches downstage). Director/designer Lepelletier used the conceit of weird wigs that echoed a bit the idea of the exaggerated costuming of the 1868 Théâtre des Varietés production.

It was absolutely plenty to set the stage where Offenbach’s musical antics to the charmed antics of his famous librettists, Meilhac and Halévy triumphed without distraction. It was done with an orchestra of twenty players in the Odéon’s minimal pit. Conductor Bruno Membrey gave the accomplished performers everything they needed to show off their considerable personalities. It was the pure Offenbach at his minimal, maybe maximal, indeed very pleasurable best.

Mr. Lepelletier incorporated Offfenbach's 1874 version in so much as he could in his reduction of production requirements, modifying the narrative a bit in the first act to accommodate its placement in the cabaret, gently mocking the clergy as well.

Of great amusement were the four leg-some dancers, one of whom, Esméralda Albert, was the choreographer. They were the acrobats of the first act, the high kicking legs somehow avoiding a massacre of the chorus. They then became the guards who hustled Pedrillo and Périchole off to jail in jolly synchronized steps, a very charming moment.

It all climaxed in a rip roaring can-can à la Moulin Rouge, with the contortionist dancer, Adonis Kosmadakis, joining the four propelled danseuses to blow us away (it's hard to see the legs in the photo, but they're there).

Michael Milenski

Cast and production information:

La Périchole: Héloïse Mas; 1ère Cousine / Guadalena: Kathia Blas; 2ème Cousine / Berginella Lorrie Garcia; 3ème Cousine / Mastrilla: Marie Pons; Piquillo Samy Camps; Vice-Roi Olivier Grand; Panatellas Jacques Lemaire; Hinoyosa Éric Vignau; Tarapote / Un Notaire Antoine Bonelli; Le Vieux Prisonnier / Un Notaire Michel Delfaud. Chœur Phocéen; Orchestre de l’Odéon. Direction musicale Bruno Membrey; Mise en scène Olivier Lepelletier; 
Chorégraphe Esméralda Albert. Théâtre de l’Odéon de Marseille, February 23, 2020.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):