Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne at Manchester RNCM

Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne is a good choice for a student production with its many solo parts and scenes for chorus, and its witty, racy content. And – no surprise – the RNCM did it proud. This was the Opera School’s first production after the retirement of long-serving director Stefan Janski and, on this evidence, there is every likelihood that the high standard which he set will be maintained. The production of Stuart Barker, as guest director, was lively and humorous, without being exaggerated or vulgar; and as usual the students entered into the spirit of it with energy and enthusiasm. Simone Romaniuk’s rich and colourful sets and costumes, most successfully transposed to the 1930s, created a vivid background to the proceedings and avoided fussiness.

The plot of La Vie Parisienne is, to put it mildly, trivial and the work does have its longeurs but Alistair Beaton’s witty rhyming translation does much to sharpen the libretto; full marks to the soloists for their clear articulation of it. We were privileged to have Andrew Greenwood as guest conductor. He and the orchestra brought freshness and spirit to Offenbach’s jaunty score. With double casting for all roles, the piece may have stretched somewhat the College’s vocal resources, especially the tenors. But there was a forthright Lord Ellington from baritone John Ieuan Jones and all the girls performed creditably. The star of the evening was Charlotte Trepess as Gabrielle. She has all the makings of a fine coloratura soprano with high notes which pinged deliciously and with a lilt to the phrasing of the vocal line entirely appropriate for French operetta.