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Ravel Operas
Maurice Ravel: L'Enfant et les Sortilèges,
Ma Mère l'Oye

Andrée Aubery Luchini, Geneviève Macaux, Colette Herzog, Derrick Olsen, Pierre Mollet, Michel Sénéchal, Mady Mesplé
Coro di Voci Bianchi "Magnificat", Coro RAI di Roma, Orchestra Sinfonica RAI di Roma/Peter Maag

Arts Music Archives 43039-2
[March 1963 TT: 61.29]

Maurice Ravel: L'Heure espagnole; Valses nobles et sentimentales

Andrée Aubery Luchini, Pierre Mollet, Derrick Olsen, Michel Sénéchal, Eric Tappy
Orchestra: Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI di Torino, Orchestra Sinfonica RAI di Milano/Peter Maag

Arts Music Archives 43040-2

[1962-1969 TT: 63.13]


Italian radio broadcasts of Ravel's operas from 1962/63 - why should these be of interest?

Peter Maag is best known and revered as a Mozart conductor, but he studied with Ernest Ansermet, and these Italian recordings reflect his exceptional feel for this music. In the 1950s and '60s, RAI organised great concerts with all of the important soloists and conductors of the time. The two Ravel operas were entrusted to Maag, who could already look back on an extensive collaboration with the orchestras of the Italian broadcasting company. The occasions of these Ravel recordings, we are told, are warmly recalled by those who participated and were present.

The singers are great names of the period, all on top form; Ravel specialists such as Michel Sénéchal, Colette Herzog and Philippe Mollet, and other younger singers beginning brilliant careers, such as Mady Mesplé and Andrée Aubery Luchini. A special stereo recording technique was used for both L’Heure espagnole in Turin, and L’enfant et les Sortilèges in Rome. New tape machines and tube-microphones were utilised with excellent results for recordings of that time.

Heard now, forty years on, there is a vivid immediacy, with unforgettable virtuosity from Mady Mesplé taking several parts in L’enfant and Michel Sénéchal excelling as Arithmetic, very upsetting to Andrée Aubery Luchini's touching Child.

The fun of L'Heure espagnole - men hiding in clocks and being carried up and down stairs by the strong arms of the muleteer, whose domestic duties go further towards the end - really demands to be seen as well as heard, and the words to be understood in detail as well as in outline.

No translations are provided for either opera, but I found my school French adequate to follow L’enfant et les Sortilèges well enough; for full texts and translations, consider the Netherlands DVD.

Ravel/Kylian: L'Enfant et les Sortilèges
Netherlands Dance Theater
Soloists with Paris Orchestre National & Choeur & Maitrise of RTF/Lorin Maazel

I recommend those historic performances (and the orchestral fill-ups) but do not overlook an entrancing DVD of Jiri Kylian's dance work to L'enfant et les sortileges, in which the Netherlands Dance Theater creates real magic with their visual accompaniment to Lorin Maazel 's recorded performance with prestigious soloists and the Paris Orchestre National. The sound is well balanced and translations of the Collette texts, in the language of your choice, are supplied in subtitles - a real bonus.

Whether on CD or DVDwe are drawn into the spell of this tale about the chastisement of a naughty boy who finally shows his good side by tending an injured squirrel, and seems likely to develop into a sympathetic, sensitive grown-up. There are complicated, athletic movements and numerous fascinating details to characterise pieces of furniture and tableware etc; the representation of the mother is quite a coup de theatre.

Jiri Kylian also gives a delightful spoken introduction to L'enfant et les sortileges, about its origin as a projected children's ballet and transformation into opera over a ten year span; he tells us what it has meant to him, and to his dancers of the Netherlands Dance Theater in terms of their (and our) childhoods.

(There are two DVD versions - the UK release (Arthaus DVD 100 102) has also a Peter & the Wolf about which I am less able to enthuse.)


© Peter Grahame Woolf