Maurice Ravel: L’Enfant et les sortilèges, M.71 – Ma mère l’Oye, M.62
Hélène Hébrard (The Child), Delphine Galou (Mother, The Dragonfly, The Chinese Cup), Julie Pastauraud (The Louis XV Chair, The White Cat, The Squirrel, A Herdsman), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (The Teapot, Arithmetic Man, The Tree Frog), Marc Barrard (The Grandfather Clock, The Black Cat), Nicolas Courjal (The Armchair, A Tree), Ingrid Perruche (The Bat, The Screech-Owl, A Shepherdess), Annick Massis (The Fire, The Princess, The Nightingale), Children’s Chorus (The Country People, The Shepherds, The Tree Frogs, The Animals, The Trees), Chœur Britten and Jeune chœur symphonique, Nicole Corti (Chorus Master), Maîtrise de l’Opéra de Lyon, Karine Locatell (Director), Orchestre National de Lyon, Leonard Slatkin (Conductor)
Recording: Auditorium Maurice Ravel, Lyon, France (September 2011 and January 22-26, 2013) – 71’ 52
Naxos # 8.660336 – Booklet in English and French
Evocation and provocation of the senses is what matters most when it comes to compositions by Maurice Ravel. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, that daring and avant-garde turn-of-the-century writer, strengthens musical eccentricities penned by Maurice Ravel in L’Enfant et les sortilèges. The common bond? Cats. These creatures are two of the many animate and inanimate ingredients that concoct a delicious recipe in this fantaisie lyrique...if done right.
Sortilèges, though in repertoire, has been lightly listed as a volumetric recording in the past. Leonard Slatkin can be added to a list of credited interpreters with just cause. Mother Goose, on the other hand, is a better known commodity. Suffice to say, however, the connection between the two compositions is childhood, and it is with that aspect that Slatkin delves into both willingly and ambitiously. As a child, Slatkin was fascinated by practicing l’oye on the piano. His grounded vision permeates the score, and intimacy is the compelling factor within this Naxos recording.
L’Enfant et les sortilèges poses challenging production obstacles while the same holds true in concert format: rôles are evenly parceled with voicing stylization matching the multitudinous objets d’intérêt. Eliciting a balanced brand characterization is what opens the door inside this rapidly developing fire of mini tableaux vivants. Ravel’s quirky, striking dialogues are rendered delightfully revealing.
Influenced by Gershwin and American “pop” music of the time, the feline duet (a personal favorite), features Julie Pasturaud’s meow equations that are genuine, especially when coming into contact with baritone musings by Marc Barrard as the Tom Cat. This is realism at its best.
The opera couldn’t exist without the child, sung with pouty attitude by Hélène Hébrard while Delphine Galou’s smooth, earthy tones as Mamam conjur just the right image as the matron guardian. Character articulations of those and other principals by Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Annick Massis, Ingrid Perruche and Nicolas Courjal are sharp and crisp around the edges, especially when set against Ravel’s interesting use of varying and eclectic instruments.
Under direction of Nicole Corti, the children’s choruses embrace radiance and energy. A great deal of credit goes to Ms. Corti’s regimented display, balance and ensemble professionalism that plays such an important factor in bringing the work to its final conclusion. Simply listening to the score will impress and enchant.
Naxos’ second feature unleashes Charles Perrault’s tales in this expanded version of ballet music for Mother Goose. The Lyon National Orchestra flows magically through each of the seven movements although the pacing is languid. Ravel kept the orchestra busy in all sectionals.
Whether child or adult, Leonard Slatkin’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges will leave you spellbound with less of an indelible footprint inside Mother Goose.