An enjoyable and epicurean “Auberge du Cheval Blanc”

Tyrol, an air of vacation, a bubble of escape, junk romantic idylls: it’s in a lovely outdated postcard scene – against the backdrop of yodeling melodies and Berlin cabaret from the 1930s – that takes us The White Horse Inn and Lausanne Opera. This new production, directed by Gilles Rico, brings back to life a tradition from the last century, which is well forgotten today. It revives the memory of a blessed era for this operetta by Ralph Benatzky created in Berlin in 1930, translated and adapted into several languages, with especially 1700 performances in the Châtelet in Paris!

Nothing goes further in this lyrical bluette with sulfur flavor and tasty misconceptions. We meet a Marseille entrepreneur inflated with ego, bourgeois upstart from Paris like a small staff eager for social advancement. It is that behind the love that the Maitre d’hôtel Léopold has for the distinguished hostess of an inn open to the smartest and craziest clientele, there is a conflict between social classes. This common thread underlies the entire plot, from the officers and doormen to Emperor François-Joseph, who arrives at last – and unexpectedly – in the second act.

Ingenious scenography by Bruno de Lavenère

Furthermore, was it necessary to exaggerate this point by turning this emperor into a woman with a cigarette holder who flirted with this fool Napoleon Bistagne? This is one of the rare fake tones – too much cross-dressing – in an otherwise entertaining, epicurean show with colorful costumes and ingenious scenography (Bruno de Lavenère). With danced numbers, some beautiful duets and music that has no other ambition than to please, this work fulfills its function as a closing performance.

There is a nod to the libertarian Berlin of the 1920s, to former cinemas, to the world of cabaret (one thinks of Marlene Dietrich or Liza Minnelli in Cabaret by Bob Fosse), all marked by small more contemporary obsessions, such as the blurring of gender and gender identities. The spoken dialogues – updated with references to regional patois, Vaudois geography (Tolochenaz) and current events in France (La République en Marche) – are equally important for the songs sung. The music-hall side itself and the review mood that prevails on stage distinguish this work from more deeply lyrical operettas.

Abundant decorations

There is mockery, transgression (the emperor’s bodyguards, suddenly undressed, in golden underpants), queer looseness. The magic works as soon as the curtain goes up, with a beautiful exotic yodeling number by Miss Helvetia embodying postwoman Kathi, and a visual enchantment thanks to the abundant decorations. The public gets gags and laughs heartily. We pass on humor a little greasy sometimes – and in a few lengths in the second part – to appreciate the realization in a very roaring twenties aesthetic.

The skillful video projections evoking the memory of old film strips scarred with dust spots materializing an old Art Deco-style train station, the reception at the inn matched with kitschy golden horses, the look of a grand staircase to bring up the fat Napoleon Bistagne, nacelles of all kinds, a very successful nautical ballet, the stage of the municipal council with characters with their heads cut off, evoking Georges Méliès, irrigates this stage adaptation. Some sexism crosses the necessarily dated booklet that makes you smile, the women playing minx or the fake inventions.

Crazy show with polluting humor

Under the direction of Jean-Yves Ossonce at the head of the Sinfonietta in Lausanne, the Opéra de Lausanne choir has a lot to do, alternating chamberlains and servants, tourists, merchants and merchants. In addition, extras-dancers, including a funny poodle man.

On the night of the premiere, Mathias Vidal (maître d’hôtel Léopold) lacked a bit of vocal meat in the first part to find his clues in the second (“He’s a little darling, you Léopold“). We pay tribute to his impeccable diction and his witty and lively acting. Fabienne Conrad (Josepha) perfectly personifies the slightly arrogant owner of the inn: Her barely veiled voice will undoubtedly shine over the performances. Julien Dran (Maître Guy Florès) is this sleek and eloquent preppy lawyer courting Sylvabelle (sung by Clémentine Bourgoin) Guillaume Paire embodies with talent this young show-off upstart Célestin Cubisol who manages to deceive Clara (Sophie Negoïta).

At the Grand Théâtre de Genève:
Beautifully sour “Pearl Fishers” at the Grand Théâtre

Patrick Lapp portrays a sympathetic neurasthenic and exhausted emperor. Last but not least, Patrick Rocca composes a Napoleon Bistagne with a strong Marseille accent. On his own, he fills quite a lot, in a text with sometimes well-substantiated projections, which he launches with an old rooster in a barn! Accompanied by her accordion, Barbara Klossner, aka Miss Helvetia, entertains the audience with an introduction to yodeling, to which the public responds with a good heart. A crazy show, with polluting humor to forget the Omicron variant during the holidays.

“L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc”, Lausanne Opera, until 31 December

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