This stylish production from Paris Chatelet has a First World War setting. It opens with bodies strewn across a battlefield but, as the overture proceeds, it becomes clear that they are either sleeping or dead-drunk. What follows is something like Joan Littlewood's Oh What a Lovely War, but without that work's satirical bite. The generals declare war just to keep their duchess entertained. The Grand Duchess, played by Felicity Lott, promotes a handsome young private to the rank of field marshal. He leads her army to victory but, then, rejects her in favour of his village sweetheart. Thwarted in love, the Grand Duchess plans to kill him aided by her disgruntled generals. Felicity Lott sends herself up mercilessly in the unsympathetic role of a duchess who is amusing but as shallow as a pantomime dame. The First World War setting brings home to us the fact that declaring war just for the hell of it is not a good idea. There were terrible wars in Offenbach's time too but maybe fashionable Paris society was insulated from them. Offenbach's score is uninspired and, at nearly three hours in length, the jokes wear very thin.
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