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August 5, 2012 6:28 pm
Never mind the new wind turbine that provides Glyndebourne with renewable energy. In artistic terms this must be the greenest festival Glyndebourne has ever seen. It opened with Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, in which foxes, chickens and other wildlife sing about the renewal of nature, and now it ends with Ravel’s delightful double-bill, which closes with a feel-good chorus for singing trees, birds and animals.
It is 25 years since Ravel’s one-act operas – L’Heure espagnole and L’Enfant et les sortilèges – were first performed together at the Glyndebourne Festival. Those much-loved productions were designed by Maurice Sendak, the children’s author and illustrator who died in May, but a quarter of a century later it is natural to want a new look at the operas.
This time round director Laurent Pelly gives us striking images and broader comedy. There have been subtler productions of L’Heure espagnole. The fastidious Ravel would probably have recoiled from Pelly’s erotic frankness (Concepción, the frustrated housewife, drops her knickers in the first 10 minutes) but he would have enjoyed the intricate, clock-like mechanics of the set.
The big advantage here is having native French-speakers in the cast, including Stéphanie d’Oustrac’s lively Concepción, and François Piolino and Paul Gay as the put-upon husband and elderly suitor.
In L’Enfant et les sortilèges Pelly takes us into a fabulous child’s wonderland. In the eyes of this pint-sized Enfant everything in the adult world is of gigantic size.
His eyes open wide in wonder – so do ours – as the Chinese Cup and Teapot dance on a giant table and the shepherds painted on the wallpaper come alive. The magical transformations in the child’s home can never have been done better and, though the second half of the production, set in the garden, is less original in its conjuring of singing trees and animals, Pelly does not lose his charm or wit. Khatouna Gadelia, indistinguishable from the short-trousered boys’ chorus, is perfectly cast as the Enfant.
There is a good ensemble of singers, led by Kathleen Kim in the glittering high soprano roles of Fire and the Princess, and the enchantment on stage is matched by the glinting detail of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing under the ever-attentive eye of conductor Kazushi Ono.
Pure magic, no carbon footprint to be seen.
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