November 21, 2020
Available onlineThe London Philharmonic and Vopera join forces in a virtual production of Ravel’s opera, while Philippe Sands provides rich inspiration for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields
The week in classical: Lenfant et les sortilèges; Love Lies and Justice – review
“The phantasmagoria is constant,” Ravel said – needlessly – of his magic-filled opera L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells). This short lyric fantasy, about a rude infant and the lessons of loneliness, has countless roles and many dramaturgical challenges: a duet for teapot and China cup; a mother represented by a giant skirt; a coloratura princess torn from a fairytale book. Seeing its potential as an animation, the London Philharmonic Orchestra has collaborated with Vopera, the virtual opera project, to produce an enchanting digital version, providing paid work for 135 musicians, visual artists, technicians and others.
The result, conducted and arranged by Lee Reynolds and directed by Rachael Hewer, is both visually playful and aurally assured. Colette’s libretto has been tactfully updated, and Reynolds’s deft reduction of the score retains Ravel’s sensuous textures, delicately brought to life by 27 members of the LPO. Using green-screen technology, singers’ faces are overlaid with rich, hand-drawn imagery, from 18th-century drawing room to wheelie-bin cityscape. We’ll set aside, but not without admiration, the complexities of auditioning, rehearsing and recording during lockdown.
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