L'enfant et les sortilèges: Fantaisie lyrique en deux parties
(The Child and the Spells: A Lyric Fantasy in Two Parts
) is an opera
in one act, with music by Maurice Ravel
to a libretto
. It is the second Ravel opera, the first being L'heure espagnole
. Written from 1917 to 1925, the opera was first performed in Monte Carlo
in 1925 under the baton of Victor de Sabata
After being offered the opportunity to write a musical work, Colette wrote the text in eight days. Several composers were proposed to Colette to write the music, but she only was enthused with the prospect of Ravel.
During World War I
, the Opéra de Paris director Jacques Rouché
asked Colette to provide the text for a fairy ballet. Colette originally wrote the story under the title Divertissements pour ma fille
. After Colette chose Ravel to set the text to music, a copy was sent to him during the time he was serving in the war in 1916; however, the mailed script was lost. In 1917, Ravel finally had received a copy and agreed to complete the score, humorously replying to Collette, "I would like to compose this, but I have no daughter." Due to contractual obligations, Ravel finally was compelled to complete the work by 1924. Colette, believing that the work would never be complete, later expressed her extreme pleasure that the work was done, believing that her modest writing had been raised beyond its initial scope. Now officially under the title of L'enfant et les sortilèges
, the first performance took place March 21
in Monte Carlo as conducted by Victor de Sabata
with ballet sequences choreographed by George Balanchine
. Ravel said of the premiere production:
- "Our work required 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 [...and] 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."
- Woodwind: 3 flutes, piccolo, 3 oboes, English horn, 4 clarinets (1 E-flat clarinet), 1 bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, double bassoon
- Brass: 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
- Percussion: 5perc, timpani, xylophone
- Other: celesta, piano (or luthéal), harp, strings
The opera calls for a large orchestra
, a mixed chorus
, a chorus of children
and eight soloists most of whom play a number of characters. The scale of the cast and fantastic setting make the opera often difficult to stage, which helps to explain why the work is not performed often. Ravel uses various subtle leitmotifs
throughout the work. The melodies were emphasized with the orchestra being considered secondary by Ravel, who said this was modelled after Gershwin
and American operettas
of the time. Still, the composition doesn't avoid virtuosity in the instrumental writing. Ravel contrasted the work to his previous opera, L’heure espagnole
- "More than ever, I am for melody. Yes, melody, bel canto, vocalises, vocal virtuosity – this is for me a point of departure. If, in L’heure espagnole the theatrical action itself demanded that the music be only the commentary on each word and gesture, here, on the contrary, this lyric fantasy calls for melody, nothing but melody.... The score of L'enfant et les sortilèges is a very smooth blending of all styles from all epochs, from Bach up to ... Ravel"[proper citation needed]
The opera was initially well received in Monte Carlo, but in a Paris showing the following year it was less successful. André Messager criticized the purposely imitative nature of the music, but Francis Poulenc and Les Six were impressed. His cat screech duet Duo miaulé is often seen as a parody of Wagner which was quite controversial, although Arthur Honegger praised this piece in particular. The use of pentatonic music and parallel fourths in the depiction of the Chinese tea cup is an example of use of "orientalism" in orchestral music.
- Maman, the mother represented by a huge skirt (mezzo-soprano)
- Le fauteuil (bass) & La bergère (mezzo-soprano), two chairs
- L'horloge comtoise, a clock broken by the child (baritone)
- Le théière, Wedgwood teapot (tenor)
- La tasse, a broken china cup (mezzo-soprano)
- Le feu, the fire in the fireplace (coloratura soprano)
- Le pâtre (mezzo-soprano). La pastourelle (soprano). pâtres and pastoures (chorus), torn figures from the decorative wallpaper.
- La princesse, the princess torn out of a storybook (soprano)
- Le petit vieillard, the small old man representing the torn math book (tenor)
- Le chat (baritone). La chatte (mezzo-soprano), the male and female cats sing entirely in cat sounds.
- La chouette, an owl (soprano)
- L'arbre, a tree (bass) and Les arbres, the trees (chorus)
- La libellule, a dragon fly (mezzo-soprano)
- Le rossignol, a nightingale (soprano)
- La chauve-souris, widower bat (soprano)
- L'écureuil, a squirrel (mezzo-soprano)
- La rainette, the tree frog (tenor)
- Les bêtes, all of the animals (chorus)
Set in an old-fashioned Normandy
country home, the opera tells the story of a rude child who is reprimanded by the objects in his room which he has been destroying. After being scolded by his mother in the beginning of the opera, the child throws a tantrum destroying the room around him. He is then surprised to find that the unhappy objects in his room come to life. The furniture and decorations begin to talk; even his homework takes shape as it becomes an old man and a chorus of numbers.
In the second part, the bedroom becomes a garden filled with singing animals and plants which have been tortured by the child as well. The child attempts to make friends with the animals and plants, but they shun him because of the damage he did to them earlier when they were inanimate. They leave him aside, and in his loneliness, he eventually cries out "Maman". At this, the animals turn on him and attack him, but the animals wind up jostling among each other as the child is tossed aside. At the culmination, a squirrel is hurt, which causes the other animals to stop fighting. The child bandages the squirrel, then collapses exhausted. The animals have a change of heart toward the child, and decide to try to help him home. They carry the child back to his house, and sing in praise of the child. The opera ends with the child singing "Maman", as he greets his mother, in the very last measure of the score.
- "J'ai pas envie de faire ma page"
- "Bébé a été sage?"
- "Ça m'est égal!"
- "Votre serviteur humble, Bergère"
- "Ding, ding, ding, ding"
- "How's your mug?"
- "Keng-ça-fou, mah-jong"
- "Oh! Ma belle tasse chinoise!"
- "Arrière ! Je réchauffe les bons"
- "Adieu, Pastourelles!"
- "Ah! C'est elle! C'est elle!"
- "Toi, le coeur de la rose"
- "Deux robinets coulent dans un réservoir!"
- "Oh! Ma tête!"
- "Duo miaulé"
- "Musique d'insectes, de rainettes, etc."
- "Ah! Quelle joie de te retrouver, Jardin!"
- "Où es-tu, je te cherche...' - Ronde des chauves-souris"
- "Ronde des chauves-souris": 'Rends-la moi... Tsk, Tsk..."
- "Danse des rainettes"
- "Sauve-toi, sotte! Et la cage? La cage?"
- "La cage, c'était pour mieux voir ta prestesse"
- "Ah ! C'est l'enfant au couteau!"
- "Il a pansé la plaie..."
- "Il est bon, l'enfant, il est sage"
Opera House and Orchestra
||Nadine Sautereau, Denise Scharley,|
Solange Michel, Odette Turba-Rabier,
Martha Angelici, Claudine Verneuil,
Joseph Peyron, André Vessières,
Yvon le Marc'Hadour, Radio France Chorus
French National Radio Orchestra
|Testament SBT1044 |
||Flore Wend, Marie-Luise de Montmollin,|
Geneviève Touraine, Adrienne Migliette,
Suzanne Danco, Juliette Bise,
Gisèle Bobillier, Hugues Cuénod,
Pierre Mollet, Lucien Lovano,
Motet Choir of Geneva
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
|Decca 433400 |
||Françoise Ogéas, Jeannine Collard,|
Jane Berbié, Sylvaine Gilma,
Colette Herzog, Heinz Rehfuss,
Camille Maurane, Michel Sénéchal,
Radio France Chorus
French National Radio Orchestra
||Susan Davenny Wyner, Jocelyne Taillon,|
Arleen Auger, Jane Berbié,
Linda Finnie, Linda Richardson,
Philip Langridge, Philippe Huttenlocher,
Jules Bastin, Ambrosian Singers
London Symphony Orchestra
|EMI EMX2241 |
||Colette Alliot-Lugaz, Claudine Carlson,|
Catherine Dubosc, Marie-Françoise Lefort,
Georges Guatier, Didier Henry,
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
|Decca 440333 |
||Martine Mahé, Arlette Chedel,|
Elisabeth Vidal, Michèle Lagrange,
Léonardo Pezzino, Vincent le Texier,
Marc Barrard, Bordeaux Theatre Chorus
Bordeaux-Aquitaine National Orchestra
|Auvidis V4670 |
||Pamela Helen Stephen, Anne-Marie Owens,|
Elizabeth Futral, Juanita Lascarro,
Mary Plazas, Rimat Shaham,
Mark Tucker, David Wilson-Johnson,
Robert Lloyd, London Symphony Chorus,
New London Children's Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
|DG 457589 |