Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ravel: L’Enfant et les Sortilèges – Digital Concert Hall

There's also an audio version available
Something cool that one might overlook when visiting the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall is the amount of opera (in concert) they present. This spring they reprised their Baden-Baden Zauberflote; and in the recent past they’ve presented Salome and Porgy and Bess. Some of the works are “semi-staged” while others are more “concerty.”

In this concert they present Ravel's L’Enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Sorcerers). I think this little opera actually works better in concert than as a stage work. Ravel envisioned it being animated, in the manner of Diznee. The craziness and poignancy of the objects that come to life is fancifully depicted by the music (a bit of a pastiche, incorporating florid coloratura arias, jazzy dance and blues numbers to name a few styles.) I think it’s more fun to imagine than to see a designer’s idea of a literal dancing tea cup, singers in cat suits, or a clock running amuck.

It’s an outstanding cast too; everyone except Mme Kožená is a native French speakers; and at least two of them have obviously sung the work on stage. This adds to the fun and “realism” too. I suppose it’s not fair to single any singers out—because everyone really does a great job—but I will anyway. Jose van Dam charms as a grumpy armchair; Annick Massis dazzles as the fire; Sophie Koch and François Le Roux are a fun, if slightly disturbing pair of cats; and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as my personal favorite character, Mr. Arithmetic.

Of course the Berliner Philharmoniker, under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, provides outstanding, fiery, jazzy, impressionistic support throughout. The opening work on this all-Ravel program is Ma Mère (or as we used to call it in college: My Mother the Goose. We were so witty back then.) I am sure it’s wonderful too, but I confess I haven’t watched that part yet. I keep going back to L’Enfant et les sortilèges.

This is a truly entertaining three-quarters of an hour. In fact it’s so much fun, I recommend seeing it at least twice. You have to pay to see the DCH programs, but I think it’s really worth it. After you watch the trailer below, go watch the whole opera. Right away.

Maurice Ravel
L’Enfant et les sortilèges

Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle
Annick Massis Soprano, Mojca Erdmann Soprano, Magdalena Kožená Mezzo-Soprano, Sophie Koch Mezzo-Soprano, Nathalie Stutzmann Contralto, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt Tenor, François Le Roux Baritone, José van Dam Baritone, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Simon Halsey Chorus Master

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