Ouf the First, King of the Thirty-Six Realms is looking for an unsuspecting subject to execute, and just when he thinks he’s found his candidate, Siroco, the royal astrologer warns him that the stars have revealed that, once the sacrifice takes place, the monarch himself will die within 24 hours.
It’s all very complicated in Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’étoile, a chaotic comedy of confusions tempered by one of those impossible love affairs between the high-born and the humble, as Princess Laoula falls in love crowned-head-over-heels with poor Lazuli, an itinerant peddler of beauty products.
Instead of getting impaled or put to death in some horrid fashion, Lazuli gets wined and dined into a stupor until, satiated with the high life, he begs to be returned to the real world.
The King, eager to father an heir to the throne tries to woo Princess Laoula to no avail. A last-moment development occurs when Ouf, coming to his senses cries “ouf!” and all young lovers, wherever they are in his silly kingdom, are united in marriage.
Other than an occasional production of this opéra bouffe—a hybrid of spoken theatre and French comic opera—L’étoile has lingered on for more than a century in neglectful near-oblivion after its 1877 premiere in Offenbach’s intimate and still-operating Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens.
Thankfully NAXOS has issued a DVD of a live performance recorded at the Dutch National Theater in Amsterdam in 2014.
The cast boats a fine group of singing comic actors utterly comfortable in the style of this piece of fluff. Buffo Christopher Mortagne is a riot as King Ouf, and Stéphanie d’Oustrac shines in the dugazon role of Lazuli, along with soprano Helene Guilmétte a visual and vocal delight as Princess Laoula
Patrick Fournillier conducts with gallic élan and Laurent Pelly is the master or the scenic revels in this lovingly designed production with sets by Chantal Thomas and costumes by Pelly himself.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com