Offenbach, Jacques: Robinson Crusoë
Act 2: Grande valse, “Conduisez-moi vers celui que j’adore” (Edwige)
Aria Talk •
Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
Are you tired of playing a certain mechanical doll, who shall remain nameless? Do you want more fun in your chosen French coloratura number without being judged on how amusing you are when that doll’s motor runs down? If so, try Edwige, heroine of Robinson Crusoë, as irresistible a light soprano as you’ll find in the French repertoire. A work from the peak of Offenbach’s career (1867), this opéracomique involves not just the hero of the title and Man Friday (a mezzo, if you can believe it!), but also Edwige, the spirited girl Robinson wishes to marry; she finds her way to that famous desert island, with servants in tow. Unfortunately, she gets herself into a real mess involving a chorus of cannibals. They’re looking forward to doing what cannibals do, but she interrupts them, bravely declaring, “Lead me to the one I love. Give me my jewels — he’s waiting for me, calling for me, and I want to be beautiful for him. I’m queen of the ball and the waltz carries me away in his arms.”
This is one of Offenbach’s most effervescent waltz songs, needing a wonderful swing almost throughout. The main theme is terrifically catchy and there is an equally bouncy middle section
involving some challenging arpeggio passages. The coloratura becomes more demanding toward the end of the piece, but if you’re confident in your high C#, you’ll be in good shape. In the final cadence, there’s also a perfect opportunity for an interpolated high E — that’s “E” for “Enjoy!”
Recording: Natalie Dessay in “Airs d’opéras français,” Virgin Classics #54561023; Dame Joan Sutherland in “The World of Offenbach,” Decca # 452942; Yvonne Kenny in the complete opera (in English), Opera Rara #ORC 7