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RCM Benjamin Britten Theatre

30 June 2006


Jean Claude Auvray’s RCM productions linked these very different works by staging them as dreamt by the central characters, the beds ascending to the ceiling for most of the duration, coming down at the end for Concepción (Pumeza Matshikiza) and The Child (Patricia Helen Orr) to return to the waking world.


Dedicated preparatory work was put into this double bill by all concerned (q.v. Music Web's preview), with most of the singers in L’enfant et les sortilèges taking multiple parts. The orchestra is a large one, but there was a tendency for the singers sometimes to belt it out unnecessarily loudly, unnecessary especially towards the beginning when the accompaniment was delicate. To our eyes the child was not well cast, and some of the character parts (e.g. the Teapot and Chinese Cup) disappointingly conceived compared with other student productions (q.v Anna Sweeny's at RAM).

For another take on Collete's scenario 'Ballet pour ma fille', do see Jiri Kylian's marvellous Nederlands Dans Theater version [ARTHAUS 100 102].


With its smaller cast and straightforward little story, L’heure espagnole was a total success in Auvray's production for this intimate theatre on an uncluttered staging by Num Stibbe. Its star Pumeza Matshikiza (hailed by Musical Pointers as the best reason for going to see RCM's Cosi a year ago) had everyone in the palm of her hands. Dressed in bright red, all eyes were on her and she had us in thrall as well as the men she manipulated in and out of clocks carried up and down by her willing Muleteer, Huw Llywelyn. The visiting putative lovers, Shaun Dixon and Philip Shakesby, were well characterised and sung, as was Ben Johnson as Torquemada, the inevitably to-be-cuckolded clockmaker husband (but by whom), who spent most of the opera's Thursday afternoon duration going about his regular municipal duties (echo of the due alle tre in Falstaff).


Musical standards at RCM were generally high, and the orchestra provided the greatest pleasures of the evening .



© Peter Grahame Woolf