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Performances

Photo by Brandon Patoc
05 Jun 2017

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

A review by Roger Downey

Photos by Brandon Patoc

 

With its feeble libretto by an uninspired Colette, the work survives entirely due to Ravel’s extraordinary score, which creates tension and drama through almost purely musical means. I suspect that a full “realization” of the mise-en-scène specified in the printed score is almost certain to detract from the work’s power. It certainly did in my former encounters with the piece.

The SSO’s presentation employed some projections on vestigial ropelike screens and a scrim, but the best thing about them was their unobtrusiveness. Every ounce of our attention was focused on the performers.

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The singers in plain concert gear move with unaffected dignity among the instrumentalists in dazzlingly elaborate ivory papier-maché head-dresses, wittily suggesting their personae but leaving most of the characterization to the orchestra: the individual players  were fleetingly but vividly illuminated by the spill from the singers’ follow-spots: it was enough to render them active presences Everyone of stage, from conductor to boys’ chorus, became equal participants in a common enterprise, supporting Ravel’s unexampled marvel of a score.

Conductor Ludovic Morlot came to Seattle in 2011 from Belgium’s la Monnaie; he departs again after next season, having fulfilled his mandate: to bring a capable but troubled ensemble to a new level of polish and professionalism, and to open the audience to a new kind of participation in the living orchestra repertory.

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He is a fine all-round conductor; he is exceptional in his sensitivity for and dedication to 20th and 21st century French music. He will be sorely missed on the podium, but is too gifted to spend the bulk of his career with a provincial band, no matter how virtuosic. We have spent far too many years in Seattle with conductors essentially “retired in place,” to the severe detriment of imaginative music-making and orchestral morale.

Roger Downey


Cast and production information:

Michèle Losier: The Child; Delphine Haidan; (Mother, The Chinese Teacup, The Dragonfly); Rachele Gilmore: (The Fire,. The Princess, The Nightingale); Jean=Paul Fouchéfort: {The Black Wedgewood Teapot, The Little Old Man, The Frog); Allyson McHardy (The Female Cat, The Squirrel, A Shepherd); Soraya Mafi (A Shepherdess, The Bat, The Owl); Alexandre Duhamel (The Grandfather Clock, The Male Cat); Alexandre Sylvestre (The Armchair, A Tree); Northwest Boychoir (Bench, Sofa, Ottoman, Wicker Chair, Numbers); Seattle Symphony Chorale (Shepherds, Shepherdesses, Animals. Insects, Trees)

Anne Patterson, stage director & production designer; Adam Larsen, projection design; Zane Pihlstrom, head sculptures; Kina Park: associate to Ms. Patterson

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