The operetta by Jacques Offenbach is based on Homer’s “Iliad”. But the composer was far from being interested in the epic Trojan War. In his musical comedy gods and kings became parodic characters (but easily recognized by the contemporaries!) who are full of all those ineradicable human vices: stupidity, greed, envy, vanity, love of power and sensuality. Only the love story of Paris and Helen was expressed in the beautiful arias, duets and ensembles that require high vocal skills.
“La belle Hélène” is one of many Offenbach operettas created to a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy - genuine co-authors of the composer (and, incidentally, future librettists “Carmen”). Just two years after the Paris premiere “La belle Hélène” was performed in St. Petersburg Mikhailovsky Theatre by the French troupe. After another two years the Offenbach characters began singing in Russian at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in translation by Viktor Krylov.
Afterwards different translations of the immortal comedy have appeared on the Russian scene in different years. They included versions created by Abram Argo, Vadim Shershenevich and Mikhail Galperin. The St. Petersburg Chamber Opera performance is based of the translation of Vladimir Konstantinov and Boris Ratzer.