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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) 
L’heure espagnole [53:00]
Concepción - Stéphanie d’Oustrac
Ramiro - Elliot Madore
Torquemada - François Piolino
Gonzalve - Alek Shrader
Don Ìñigo Gómez - Paul Gay
L’enfant et les sortilèges [50:00]
Child - Khatouna Gadelia
Mother, Chinese Cup, Dragonfly - Elodie Méchain
Grandfather clock, Tom cat - Elliot Madore
Armchair, Tree - Paul Gay
Chair, Bat - Julie Pasturaud
Teapot, Arithmetic, Frog - François Piolino
Fire, Princess, Nightingale - Kathleen Kim
Shepherd - Natalia Brzezinska
Shepherdess - Hila Fahima
Cat, Squirrel - Stéphanie d’Oustrac
Owl - Kirsty Stokes
Laurent Pelly (stage director)
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Kazushi Ono
rec. live, Glyndebourne, August 2012
Region Code: 0; Aspect Ratio: 16:9; PCM Stereo; DTS 5.1
FRA MUSICA FRA008 [103:00 (operas) + 23:00 (extras)]

Kazushi Ono and Laurent Pelly made an auspicious debut at Glyndebourne with Hansel and Gretel in 2008. This Ravel pairing is even more successful. These operas, with their wry wit and sense of a sly wink, suit Pelly’s talents particularly well, and far better than the spectacle of his 2012 Robert le Diable for Covent Garden. He taps into the good humour of each piece and brings it out very well indeed, with good direction of his singers and perfectly tailored sets.
 
Torquemada’s workshop may well look a little too overcrowded in L’heure espagnole - why on earth is there a car hiding in the corner? - but it gives plenty of opportunities for well-observed attention to detail. The garish colour scheme (a Pelly trademark) plays up to the sunburnt Spanish setting and the myriad of clocks, none of which tells the right time, points to the chaos at the heart of Concepción’s crazy day, not to mention Torquemada’s private life. All the singers approach the work with bluff good humour and inhabit their characters very distinctively. Stéphanie d’Oustrac is a sultry, frustrated Concepción, becoming ever more frazzled as the opera progresses. Her colourful mezzo skilfully conveys both the sexuality and the fun of the character. Alek Shrader hams it up brilliantly as a greasy, self-obsessed Gonzalve, too concerned with his poetry to satisfy Concepción. Paul Gay’s Gómez is suitably gauche, and François Piolino plays Torquemada with just the right mix of brightness and weediness. Elliot Madore is an appealingly blunt Ramiro, who clearly enjoys coming out on top - as it were - in the end.
 
The staging for L’Enfant et les sortilèges is even finer. Pelly is in his element here, and seems to revel in each new opportunity to bring Ravel’s fantasy world alive, from the massively oversized table and chair that dwarf the child in the opening scene through to the baroque figures that leap out of the wallpaper. The costumes are also exceptional, from the chairs and the crockery to the animals and the trees, and it’s probably the most purely believable L’Enfant that I’ve seen. The singing is excellent too, particularly from Khatouna Gadelia’s child who undergoes the transition from menace to innocent very convincingly. In the uniformly excellent ensemble - all of whom also feature in L’heure espagnole - Kathleen Kim deserves special mention for her coloratura. The banter between the cup and the teapot is very winning too.
 
Complementing Pelly’s staging is the orchestral sound, captured beautifully in the intimate Glyndebourne acoustic. Kazushi Ono, who was just about the only person to escape from the EIF’s disastrous Fidelio with his dignity intact, crafts the sound from the pit brilliantly so that Ravel’s exquisite orchestration is allowed not only to breathe but to flourish. It’s particularly beguiling in the opening bars of L’heure espagnole, but each scene of L’enfant sounds distinctly crafted too. The frequent laughs from the audience confirm that they were having a great time, and I’m pretty sure any home viewer will too. As with their Turn of the Screw, FRA Musica’s packaging is beautiful, with a lavishly illustrated booklet and two bonus films, but I still find it immensely irritating that the booklet is stapled into the DVD case, making it impossible to take it out to read it.
 
Simon Thompson 


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