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Warner Classics have reached into their copious back catalogue to off er us Offenbach’s operas and operettas (though no libretti), a veritable Melchizedek of champagne, one litre per disc. There is probably something for everyone here, ranging from the early exuberance of Ba-ta-clan to the unfi nished Les contes d’Hoffmann. Offenbach often tinkered with his own compositions and different versions abound – so here, for example, is the 1874 opera-féerie version of Orphée aux Enfers as well as the original 1858 version. In German. No explanation is given as to why the non-French items are included, but don’t dismiss them as they offer much pleasure. In particular, listen to Hoffmann’s Erzählungen, recorded in 1979, in which Siegfried Jerusalem sings a surprisingly smooth and ardent protagonist, alongside such luxuries as Julia Varady’s searing Antonia and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s subtle villains, under Heinz Wallberg’s baton. But there are many joys en route, offering a variety of styles – Mady Mesplé, Adolpf Dallapozza, Jessye Norman, Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, Neil Shicoff, Michel Plasson – it’s a roll call of excellence, not least the bonus of Jane Rhodes’ juicy solo disc of airs célèbres, worth the price of the box alone.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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