La Vie Parisienne
This 1991 production by the Lyon National Opera presents a welcome opportunity to revel in a uniquely Gallic confection rarely seen outside France. It's also a chance to enjoy one of Offenbach's most inventive, melodic scores in which the starring musical role and many of the best tunes go to the orchestra, here conducted by Jean-Yves Ossonce. This is no accident: the operetta was originally created for a company of actors who relied on pastiche and the composer's help to get them through their "numbers". Not so these singers, of course. As Metella, the languorous courtesan who is responsible for the unravelling debacle, Helene Delavault is in meltingly good voice for her show-stopping rondeau, "A minuit sonnant commence la fete". Her sparring suitors Gardefeu (Jean-Francois Sivadier) and, particularly, Bobinet (Jacques Verzier) combine marvellous visual comedy with fluid singing and there is some dazzling vocal work from the supporting cast. It's a long piece, but hugely enjoyable.