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Offenbach: La Belle Helene -- Paris/Minkowski [DVD] [2001]

Felicity Lott , Yann Beuron , Ross MacGibbon    Exempt   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Felicity Lott, Yann Beuron, Michel Sénéchal, Laurent Naouri, François Le Roux
  • Directors: Ross MacGibbon
  • Writers: Agathe Mélinand, Henri Meilhac, Ludovic Halévy, Robert Didion
  • Producers: Colin Wilson, Jacques Hédouin, Jane Seymour
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Tdk Mediactive
  • DVD Release Date: 3 Dec 2001
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005QJGE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,690 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Jacques Offenbach's 19th century parody of life under the yoke of Napoleon III, La Belle Hélène, has always seemed as tongue-in-cheek as the material could go. This new staging from the Théâtre Musical de Paris' 2000 season proves you can always go further. As if the social comment and knowing musical allusions (eg: Wagner's Tannhäuser) weren't enough, now via director Lauren Pelly's imagination Helen (Dame Felicity Lott) becomes a modern sexually frustrated woman dreaming the entire scenario. In her dream she is singled out as the most beautiful woman on Earth (prompting vain delusions to rival Snow White's wicked stepmother) as reward for Pâris (Yann Beuron) choosing Venus as most beautiful Goddess off Earth. Act 1 takes place in the bedroom and bed of Helen and ineffectual husband/king Ménélas (Michel Sénéchal). Here the fusion of costumes worn by High Priest Calchas (François Le Roux) seems incongruous until the archaeological dig setting of Act 2 turns everything into a dream. From then on, the analogy of bed as throne, the sheep costumes and male and female swimsuit parade followed by synchronised stage "swimming" of Act 3 all take on greater significance. Les Musicians du Louvre give a tremendous performance under Marc Minkowski's baton (which you often see popping into frame), particularly in the centrepiece duet between Lott and Beuron for their "Dream of Love". Contemporary makeovers of opera often lose sight of the original's intentions, but this update certainly preserves the spirit of Offenbach's vision.

On the DVD: A choice of Stereo, Dolby 5.1 or DTS is a testament to the careful staging of this production, as is the video's multi-camera edit. In fact, the 25-minute behind-the-scenes documentary reveals the DVD was conceived as part of the staging. Four interviews make this a most welcome supplement, with Dame Lott having the most to say. --Paul Tonks

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly fabulous experiece 14 Mar 2003
This one of the rare disks in which everything is perfect, or as near perfect as can be. The fact that Helen is supposed to be the most beautiful woman on earth poses something of a challenge to the producers. Felicity Lott is a superb singer and a charismatic actress with a fair share of glamour, but presenting her as the most beautiful woman on earth raises some credibility issues. The producers solved this problem in an elegant manner by presenting the story in Ms Lott's dream. Ms Lott is absolutely perfect as a love-deprived wife of a boorish husband who has already dozed off as Ms Lott enters the bed. The rest of the cast is well-picked too. Yann Beuron as Paris is good, both as a singer and Ms Lott's toyboy. Granted, you can bear better yodelling in Austria, but Beuron has Elvis-like charm that invokes "lust at first sight" in Ms Lott. Michel Sénéchal, being 20 cm shorter than Ms Lott and dressed in a bathrobe, is a perfect choice for Menelaus, Helen's perfectly unexciting husband. The staging is splendidly imaginative in all acts.
There are three sound tracks and subtitles in several languages, including English and French. There is ample amount of laughing from the audience to convey a feeling of presence, but fortunately nobody is coughing their lungs out.
The secret of good comedy is timing, timing and timing, and this is where this performance excels. Instead of alternating play and music, I have the feeling of seeing good theatre and hearing splendid music at the same time. Minkowski does an admirable job in the pit. I don't know how this disk could be improved.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacularly witty! 27 Nov 2004
What can I say? I'm an opera fan of the highest passion, but nothing could prepare me for the unalloyed joy I've just experienced watching this production. It is faultless. The great Michel Senechal is perfect and Yann Beuron (who I'd never heard of) is utterly superb. This is one of those occasions where you are either smiling uncontrollably or laughing out loud. If you're sad or it's raining outside, put this on and you won't be blue for long. The entire cast look as though they enjoy every minute too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Region-1 DVD Also available... 28 Jan 2008
By J. C. Roth - Published on
This is a wonderful production. Please note this is available as a Region-1 DVD Offenbach - La Belle Helene / Minkowski, Lott, Beuron, Senechal, Naouri, Le Roux, Torodovitch, Chatelet Opera for a lot less money. I Sure wish that Orphee aux Enfers was available as well!
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