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This record presents the esteemed opera singer and French music specialist Susan Graham in a new light. French operetta began with Jacques Offenbach (creator of The Tales of Hoffmann
) in the 1850s; his ability to blend sweet lovely melodies with bitter political satire made him and the form famous, and composers all over the world have emulated him ever since, including those represented on this disc. Most of them, though popular during their lifetime, are hardly known today. The most familiar are Arthur Honegger and Reynaldo Hahn, though not primarily as operetta composers; the latter contributes some of the loveliest music.
The arias on this program are thoroughly appealing and very different, ranging from frothy creampuffs to almost operatic dramas, from ingenuous simplicity to ironic sophistication. As one might expect, the texts, all written from a woman's point of view, focus on the relationships between men and women in all their infinite, subtle variety. Susan Graham uses her very beautiful voice and captivating charm to bring out the teasing humor, the intimacy, passion, joy, and regret in words and music. One song is a trio, but since no other singers are mentioned, one assumes that she covers all three parts! The first song is the only one in which the singing is artificial and exaggerated, as if Graham were feeling her way into the style. The orchestra is very good, but some of the arrangements are overloaded. --Edith Eisler
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