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You understand the importance of the role of Boulotte when you learn that it was first performed by the great Hortense Schneider, whose other roles for Offenbach included Helen of Troy, La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein and La Perichole. Elena Ferrari was dazzling in the role, embracing both the comedy and Offenbach's brilliant music. The whole cast was strong, but Ferrari stood out as the diva just as she should, dominating the stage but without ever overbalancing the ensemble.

Philip Langridge as Bluebeard and Elena Ferrari as his sixth wife, Boulotte. Photo © 2008 Alastair Muir
Philip Langridge as Bluebeard and Elena Ferrari as his sixth wife, Boulotte. Photo © 2008 Alastair Muir

Stephen Langridge understands that in order for such satiric pieces to work best, the audience needs a common point of contact. Bluebeard is, perhaps, not such an archetypal figure as he was in the 19th century and in order to provide a more modern (and perhaps less threatening) context, Langridge re-cast Bluebeard as James Bond. His side-kick Popolani (Robert Poulton) becomes a mad scientist and his dead wives (who are not actually dead, just sleeping) become Bond girls.

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Copyright © 9 June 2008 Robert Hugill, London UK

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