Mr Harmon said he saw a "fluffy" Etoile and a "banal" Figaro which left
little impression. I trust he was referring to the productions and not the
works themselves. "Figaro" certainly does not need me to defend it but
maybe "Etoile" does, and the last word I would apply to this enchanting
operetta it is "fluffy", even for the single reason that it is musically a
good deal more substantial than a bit of fluff. Some years ago, in the
80s, I saw the Lyon Opera production on transfer to the Opera-Comique in
Paris and was bowled over by the joie de vivre of the production, its
interpreters and the piece itself. It contains some of the wittiest music
ever penned - who can fail to amused by the Green Chatreuse duet, or the
kisses quartet, or the Colporteur's rondo, or the couplets concerning the
painful method of death suffered by anyone who insulted the king?
And the Romance sung by Lazuli, the pedlar, must be one of the most charming
melodies Chabrier ever wrote.
This work represents one of Chabrier's two musical personalities, the other
being the "French Wagnerian" of such works as 'Gwendoline' and 'Briseis'.
'L'Etoile' is a work of such comic genius that I have never understood why
it is not performed more often - its melodies are every bit as memorable,
varied, interesting and subtle as anything written by Offenbach or Johann
Strauss, and Chabrier's mastery of orchestration is matchless and a great
deal better than anything either of those two attempted. Perhaps it is his
harmonies that puzzle people, for they are new, bold and adventurous with
dissonances arising out of his ever-changing melodic patterns. The work as
a whole has something quite unique running through it with its mixture of
outrageous comedy and touching tenderness blended with moments that touch on
I don't think it is any accident or element of false praise in that nearly
every French composer in the next generations following on admitted an
enormous debt to Chabrier, even the grudging Debussy, though I imagine
grumpy old Saint-Saens wouldn't admit it, not publicly anyway.
I came home clutching the LPs of this Lyon performance performance and have
since got hold of the CDs - and they are a constant companion on the car CD
player and a never-ending source of delight. I have been a devoted fan of
Chabrier ever since.
Michael Tuffin [log in to unmask]
La Ferte-St Fiacre
----- Original Message -----
From: Andy Harmon <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 6:07 PM
Subject: Glimmerglass "Lucretia"
> Until seeing "The Rape of Lucretia" this weekend I thought the
> Glimmerglass 2001 Season a little lightweight: I saw a fluffy "Etoile"
> and a banal "Figaro" which left little real impression,