"La Belle Hélène" is one of two Offenbach parodies of Greek mythology, the other being "Orpheus in the Underworld" ("Orphée aux enfers"). Hélène is, of course, Helen of Sparta later known as Helen of Troy, whose abduction by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, was the legendary basis for the semi-legendary Trojan War.
I would recommend that the fairly short "Behind-the-Scenes" documentary be viewed before the operetta as it gives a good idea of the concepts of the creators of this production, particularly Laurent Pelly, the costume and stage director and Jean-Pierre Brossman, the Châtelet theater director. The latter is subtitled, no doubt because he speaks in heavily-accented English. (Only the British star, Dame Felicity Lott is not subtitled.) The opening scene shows Dame Felicity going to bed with her unexciting old husband Michel Sénéchal and dreaming herself into the part of Helen and her husband into Menelaus (Not Offenbach's concept, needless to say.). Talented and attractive though she may be, Felicity does not have the "face that launched a thousand ships." and this is a good way around that. Yann Beuron as Paris has a characteristic French tenor voice with very bright, almost over-sung, high notes that he takes good advantage of. Marie-Ange Torodovitch sings the "trouser-role" of the nephew Orestes who may be seen as a close relation of Nicklaus in "Tales of Hoffmann".
The third act takes place at a beach resort and this does go along with the original concept. The swim suits, no doubt, are more abbreviated than they might have been in the 19th century especially those for the men and there is "something for everybody" here.
There are many updated references originally to the Empire Period (Napoleon 3). Some oddities include the substitution of the English word "Yes" instead of the French "oui" and a comment after a character says "J'expire" (I die.) or something to that effect, the remark is "What does 'Shakespeare' have to do with this?" All the musical numbers are presented in a bright, amusing fashion and the dancing is excellent.
The music is more familiar than one might have thought since the Overture which foreshadows the various arias and choruses is often played. Marc Minkowski is the excellent conductor.
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