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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) L'heure espagnole- Opera in one act (1911) [53:00]
Elliot Madore - Ramiro; François Piolino - Torquemada; Stéphanie d'Oustrac - Concepción; Alek Shrader - Gonzalve; Don Iñigo Gómez - Paul Gay L'enfant et les sortilèges- Opera in one act (1925) [50:00]
Khatouna Gadelia; Elodie Méchain; Elliot Madore; Paul Gay; Julie Pasturad; François Piolino; Kathleen Kim; Natalia Brzezinska; Hila Fahima; Stéphanie d'Oustrac; Kirsty Stokes
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kazushi Ono
rec. Glyndebourne, Sussex, England, August 2012
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
Picture Format 16:9, 1080i
Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Reviewed in surround. Note: the disc provides DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround but is wrongly labelled as DTS 5.1 FRA MUSICA FRA 508
So beautiful is the music and staging here that one quickly overlooks the odd quirk of video-production. These include the placing of subtitles over the action instead of moving them up out of the way from time to time as many companies now do. As noted above, the surround sound codec on the disc is not the lower quality lossy DTS 5.1 which it says on the label - but the lossless high-definition DTS HD MA 5.1. The picture and sound here are of the highest standard.
L'heure espagnole is presented on a stage crowded with clocks of all types and lots of other domestic knick-knacks. This allows the most imaginative of stagings with much coming and going through doors, hiding inside grandfather clocks - which also gets carried to and fro with increasing frequency as demanded by the plot. The acting of the cast is at a level of operatic perfection rarely seen. They all have comedian's as well as musician's timing, combined with marvellously fluent singing. I cannot over-praise this performance in any respect. Ravel's music demands the most detailed actions as well as virtuosity from his singers. He was well described by Stravinsky as a musical watchmaker and in this, of all his works, that characteristic is demanded at all levels. The plot involves the watchmaker's wife's attempts to meet the lover, whose visit she expects, whilst fighting off the attentions of another she does not want and a third whom she eventually chooses. It has all the elements of farce dressed up with music of the utmost beauty and imagination.
L'enfant et les sortilèges has long been a favourite of mine. I had never heard anything to match Lorin Maazel's magical 1961 recording for Deutsche Grammophon, not until this arrived for review. Here the musical qualities are a match and we have the staging also. What a staging it is. From the first moment this fantasy comes alive for the audience. The curtain goes up on a small and disobedient child sitting at a vast desk being rude to his mother. The close is wonderful as the child realises, surrounded by the creatures of the forest, how much he needs his mother. One could have waited a lifetime to see anything this good on the operatic stage. If ever I have seen a perfect opera production, this is it. The human characters, inanimate objects, the animals, insects and trees of the child's fairy-tale world are presented with humour and understanding. As these strange characters turn on him, rebelling against his petulant, destructive and selfish behaviour, they combine the beauties and terrors of such stories to both moving and comic effect. I was simply enchanted by the entire performance. It is hardly fair to pick out particulars when everything is so apt and well done, but if any moment can capture the essence it is when the fire in the child's bedroom grate flares up towards him and he cowers in the corner. Several top prizes to singer, orchestra, conductor, costume-designer and stage director for this moment alone.
The disc includes an interesting short introduction to each of the operas by the conductor, singers and stage director.