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L'enfant et les sortileges

Peter and the Wolf

ARTHAUS 100 102
[82 mins]

A combination which looks good in prospect - and I recall having enjoyed each of these (separately) as videos shown on TV - but the pleasant-enough, rather twee, London ballet school version of Peter and the Wolf, choreographed by Matthew Hart, cannot hold a candle to the genius of Jiri Kylian, whose Black & White was the single release which persuaded us that purchasing a DVD machine really was worth-while. (The cover montage gives less than a quarter of the picture space to the Ravel/Collette/Kylian as against its much shorter companion!)

So I concentrate on L'enfant et les sortileges, which creates real magic as a visual accompaniment to Lorin Maazel's recorded performance with prestigious soloists and the Paris Orchestre National with the Choeur & Maitrise of RTF. The sound is well balanced and the texts by Collette are available in subtitles in the language of your choice, which is a real bonus of the new system.

At first the dancing is attractive, but seems not so inventive as in Kylian's Black & White, but gradually we come under the spell of this tale about the chastisement of a naughty boy who finally shows his good side by tending an injured squirrel, and the likelihood to develop into a sympathetic, sensitive grown-up. There are complicated, athletic movements to characterise pieces of furniture and tableware and the representation of the mother is quite a coup de theatre. As with Kylian's other DVD, the amount of fascinating detail in his staging and choreography encourages re-viewing and there is no visual redudancy, as is inevitable in concerts on video & DVD, of which I am still sceptical. Messiah, by forces from King's College, Cambridge cond. Stephen Cleobury, from a church in Leiden (in the same batch, Arthaus 100 114) failed to captivate us, with the predictable and repetitive shots of musicians and church.

For readers of S&H some DVDs will be disappointing in their presentation, displaying minimal regard for the music, even though this generally sounds well enough, given their dates of recording. Space is poorly allocated in this booklet, given that the stories are printed in full there, as well as to be followed on screen, even though it is suggested that the Peter & the Wolf narration is actually unnecessary and Jiri Kylian also gives a delightful spoken introduction to L'enfant et les sortileges, which is substantially duplicated, about its origin as a projected children's ballet and transformation into opera over a ten year span; he tells us what it has meant to him and to his dancers in terms of their (and our) childhoods. Recommendable despite short measure - even with the Prokofiev too.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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