On music

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When you can do the can-can as well as Jacques Offenbach can, what more could you ask? Yet this Frenchified cello-playing son of a German Jewish cantor from Cologne, spiritual godfather to both the Viennese operettas of Johann Strauss and the Savoy Operas of Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan - and the man Rossini once dubbed the 'Mozart of the Champs-Elysees' - was the classic case of the clown who longed to play Hamlet. Not content with drumming a lifetime's musical doubles entendres out of the double standards of the Second Empire, and scoring a string of satirical successes from the classic, anti-Classical Orpheus in the Underworld (original home of that 'Infernal Gallop') to the topical package tour of La Vie Parisienne, Monsieur O de Cologne (as he odorously styled himself) always hankered after the respectability afforded by writing a real Grand Opera.

This week London is enjoying something of a miniature Offenbach festival. As Hoffmann ends a student run over at the Guildhall tonight, Court Opera presents an open-air performance in Holland Park of his Homeric parody, La belle Helene, in which a delectably pear-shaped Helen is seduced away from family and friends by the talent-hungry Trojan prince Paris - 'L'homme a la pomme'. Over at the Bloomsbury, meanwhile, Opera della Luna has begun a run of Robinson Crusoe (below), a comic aside on Defoe done with a little vive la difference, complete with a pantomime-style principal boy as Man Friday.

The Tales of Hoffmann: tonight 7pm Guildhall School, Barbican, EC1 (071-638 8891)

Robinson Crusoe: tonight 7.30pm Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon St, WC1 (071-388 8822)

La belle Helene: tonight to Sat 7.30pm (plus Sat mat 2.30pm) Holland Park Theatre, W8 (071-602 7856)

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