un-mari-a-la-porte-florence-2019Jacques Offenbach wrote and produced close to one hundred little comic operettas for his tiny three-hundred-seat Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens in the two decades during part of which France and Austria on and off waged war on each other.

The French public satiated with the grand operas of Meyerbeer and Gounod and the tragic news that filled the front pages of the Paris newspapers could find a refreshing change of pace in a couple of hours of light-hearted entertainment that unfailingly featured young and good-looking signing actors costumed and clad in the finest silks and velvets, singing the music of Offenbach, Lecocq, Délibes, Bizet, and Chabrier in one-act lyric comedies in which spoken dialogue, dancing, and antics kept everyone happy.

A Dynamic DVD in a bright-new production from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, is helmed by maestro Valerio Galli brilliantly conducting the festival’s equally superb orchestra.

The team of stage directors Luigi Di Gangi and Ugo Giacomazzi keep the action going at warp speed and never running out of inventive ideas.

The whole thing is an insanely comic romp featuring a quartet of gifted comedians endowed with major vocal chops. Soprano Francesca Benitez is a bundle of Latin charm, equipped as well with a terrific upper range, sexy looks, and comic timing.

Mezzo-soprano Marina Ogii is fully committed to the inspired silliness of the production, singing beautifully and looking like a pretty bird in an over-the-top ruffled costume – one of four created by the immensely gifted Agnese Rabatti.

The set, by the way, is a celebration of bourgeois bad-taste tastefully created by the designer Federica Parolini.

The men are both good singing clowns. As Florestan (!) tenor Matteo Mezzaro turns out a vocally and physically athletic performance. Last to join the action as the stupid cuckolded husband-at-the-door is baritone Patrizio La Placa, yet another first rate singing actor in a cast of equals.

I have two requests, one of which I usually append to my reviews of operas on CD and DVD: please include a libretto!

The other request..? More Offenbach, please, if possible with this cast!

Rafael de Acha