Conductor Marc Minkowski and director Laurent Pelly collaborated in two other highly successful Offenbach productions that are preserved on DVD: La belle Helene (2000) and Orphée aux Enfers (1997). This new production of La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein is the latest Minkowski / Pelly collaboration, and it is as brilliant as the two that preceded it.
Felicity Lott is outstanding as La Grande Duchesse. The voice has lost some of its past quality, mainly in the lower register, but the high notes are impressive as ever. Lott 2000 production of Offenbach's La Belle Helene with Minkowski revealed a great ability and talent as a comic actress. She speaks excellent French with a little bit of a "foreign" pronunciation, which makes her performance funnier. The athletic tenor, Yan Beuron is very good as Fritz, the common soldier, both musically and as an actor. The talented Sandrine Piau is luxury casting as Fritz fiancée, Wanda.
Décor and costumes are beautiful and effective, but the lighting is too dark in several places during Act II. Laurent Pelly, the director and designer, is inspired and brilliant as usual. The ballet sequences are original and great fun too.
Minkowski shapes the music with a great deal of charm and wit. I have in my collection the excellent Plasson recording (1975) with Regine Crespin, Alain Vanzo and Mady Mesple. But Minkowski offers us a more complete text, extra half an hour of beautiful and scintillating music: this is the new Offenbach Edition Keck version of La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein and it includes numbers like the stunning finale of act II (La Carillon de ma grand-mère and the Couplets de la plume) that were not available before.
Technical quality (picture and sound) is first class.