Enchanting Glyndebourne Ravel

The last Glyndebourne offering this year was a revival of their 2012 Ravel double bill – L’heure Espagnole and L’enfant et les sortilèges. I wrote about them in 2012 having had a thoroughly enjoyable time and it was a no-brainer to go back this time round with some friends.  We went on 26th August.

Pelly was back to rehearse and they came up as good as new. I can understand why some people find his production of L’heure a bit heavy-handed but I suspect this is inevitable if you’re playing to an English audience that, even with surtitles, isn’t going to get all the double entendres. Maybe the set is a bit too busy – all the whirling clocks mean that you miss things. On the other hand, it’s very funny and the humour comes from characters.

We had a wonderful Concepcion in Danielle de Niese, oozing sex and frustration and being obviously the most intelligent person on the stage. Etienne Dupuis was a strongly built Ramiro with a nice strong baritone and a good way with the audience, Cyrille Dubois was a silly, over-the-top, very funny Gonsalve with rather a nice tenor, Lionel Lhote was very funny as Don Inigo and Francois Piolino, back again, got Torquemada spot on. It was a confident cast that seemed to be having quite a lot of fun.

L’enfant is simply one of the greatest pieces of stage craft that I’ve seen and is in a different league. It’s among the most enchanting three quarters of an hour that I’ve ever spent in the opera house. The designs by Barbara de Limberg are outstanding – placing the child, like the animals, in a world where everything is bigger than feasible. They move easily, fluidly, like magic or a dream. The beautifully designed and executed costumes get exactly the right level of caricature – animals that are people also. It’s believable, funny and touching

.And Pelly manages to make this much more than simply a procession of theatrical tricks. He allows stillness – the princess’s song, that for the chorus of shepherds and shepherdesses and that beautiful final chorus. The story was moving. You did not want it to stop.

Nobody in the cast put a foot wrong. Ms De Niese was back. This time as the child. Has anyone else done the double before? Anyway, it was a virtuoso performance. She created an entirely convincing, dumpy, truculent boy and sang beautifully. Sabine Devieilhe sang her coloratura as Fire astonishingly well while being whizzed about all over the stage and was a very touching Princess. Piolino as the teapot and schoolmaster, sang both nicely. Dupuis was a super cat and the chorus sang really beautifully.

Robin Ticciati conducted very well indeed. These aren’t operas that I listen to a lot and so I was hugely impressed by the sheer clarity that he brought, together with wit and beauty. The LPO played marvellously.

This was a gem of an evening and one that I could revisit frequently. It doesn’t strike me as a piece that sells easily for Glyndebourne, but I do hope that they bring it back. It’s too good to be revived just the once.

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