Saturday Opera: The Day The Parrot Died!
Classical 101′s Saturday afternoon opera broadcasts continue this weekend with a new recording (okay, the only recording) of Offenbach’s delightful operetta, Vert-Vert.
Opera and death. Soap and water. Corned beef and cabbage. They go together.
Whether it’s poison, beheading, burning (expensive to stage these days) drowning, death in opera affords ravishing and dramatic finales – usually for soprano.
The only death in Jacques Offenbach’s opera-bouffe Vert-Vert is that of the title character and it comes atypically at the beginning of the work.
Tenor? Soprano? Nope.
Vert-Vert (Green-Green) is the name of a parrot, the beloved pet at a convent school outside Paris.
The ladies mourn and cry and sing at the death of their darling mascot. The only solution to their grief is to find a replacement.
Enter Valentin, a rather hapless young man who lives near the convent. He’ll do. He’s to be petted and kissed and fussed over. Not a bad life.
There are dragoons who vault over the convent walls. There are plenty of secret marriages and drunken, horny villagers. Dancing girls? Check.
Vert-Vert is a dramatic mashed potato that’s devilish good fun. It’s been ignored for years. (Offenbach wrote 98 operettas). Opera Rara has just published the first recording of Vert-Vert’s. There’s not a French singer in the cast but its still a honey.
Jacques Offenbach (1819-188
10) was a German, born in Frankfurt, the son of a cantor. He arrived in Paris in time for the Franco-Prussian War. Within a few years he was king of the Parisian musical theater.
Vert-Vert may have been a stop along the way, but it ran for a few times at the Opera-comique. I suspect that with 98 such works the composer forgot all about half of them. Opera Rara remembers and give us all a naughty good time.