Offenbach – La Périchole

Jacques Offenbach is best known for his comical operas, and this is one like that. La Périchole tells a light footed story about a street singer who is loved by three men: two bums and a viceroy. The libretto is written by Ludovic Halévy, the same librettist that worked with Bizet for his opera Carmen. This is a bit like Carmen, but without the drama: everyone is happy in the end, and all is forgiven.

This is a prime example of opéra bouffe. A French genre of comical opera, or operetta. Light in story, but also in its staging and orchestration. I found however that it is not to be confused for the Italian opera buffa. Both are comical forms of the established opera practice, but slightly different. And where these differences are, I don’t know. The distinction between the two has led to a veritable pamphlet war (the Querelle des Bouffons) between 1752 and 1754 though.

When I was young, my parents used to watch these comical shows on tv. Mostly comedy of errors: many doors everyone running after each other, silly humour about love and lust. That is what Offenbachs works make me think of. This opera is no exception.

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