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This is pure delight – Offenbach’s 1872 dry-run for Hoffmann, with a similar atmosphere of dreamy Romantic Germany seen through a prism of airy French orchestration, and a hero who might be the composer himself – a bourgeois dipso masquerading as a jester to woo his beloved. In Opera Rara’s latest release, conducted with love by Mark Elder, the first act is most successful, a beautifully sustained exercise in building a world and peopling it with real characters, full of charm and melancholy. As things go on we veer closer to French operetta with couplets and patter ensembles, and though it hurts to complain – after all we should be proud it took an English company to make this disc – the singers’ spoken French is mostly pretty fifth-form and the dialogue can feel laborious. Sarah Connolly is the soulful hero, singing with warmth, depth and feeling; Brenda Rae is the light and charming Elsbeth, also beset by sadness, and there is nice character-work from Victoria Simmonds, Russell Braun, Robert Murray and more. Lovely, sweet and moving.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica

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