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The Lyric Stage February 23, Simon Rattle, Maurice Ravel and Colette in "L'Enfant et les Sortileges"

This week on The Lyric Stage (2/23 at 8 pm) we present Maurice Ravel’s opera, L’enfant et les Sortileges, the Child and the Spells, a "lyric fantasy" in one act, with a libretto by Colette.

The Paris  Opera asked Colette  to write the scenario for a fairy ballet during WW1, and her choice to compose the music was Ravel.  Progress was slow due to Ravel’s health and his other work, but he turned his full attention to it in 1924, and finally completed it in early 1925 with the premiere in Monte Carlo conducted by Victor de Sabata and choreographed by George Ballanchine.

Ravel said of the premiere production:

"Our work requires an extraordinary production: the roles are numerous, and the phantasmagoria is constant. Following the principles of American operetta, dancing is continually and intimately intermingled with the action. (The idea started as a ballet, but Ravel suggested it be an opera). Now the Monte Carlo Opera possesses a wonderful troupe of Russian dancers, marvelously directed by a prodigious ballet master, M. Balanchine. ... And let's not forget an essential element, the orchestra."

The finished version arrived in Paris at the Opera Comique in February of 1926, with one of those wonderfully chaotic audiences that seemed a Paris specialty during this time.  Colette wrote that it was “playing twice a week before a packed but turbulent house… The modernists applaud, and shout down the others, and during the meowed duet there’s a fearful uproar.”

Sir Simon Rattle leads a distinguished set of soloists and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. 

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.