Reviewed by Ann Durrell
Opera North have brought Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells) and Janacek’s rarely performed Osud to The Lowry in Manchester as part of their ‘Little Greats’ series.
L’Enfant et les Sortilèges tells the tale of a naughty school boy, more interested in causing trouble than doing his homework. Confined to his room by his mother he has an epic tantrum, and takes his anger out on everything in his room, breaking the clock, pulling the cats tail and ripping pages from his books. As the opera ensues, all of the things he has attacked come to life seeking revenge on the naughty boy who has upset them. Wallis Giunta, fronting the opera as the child gives a great performance and has perfected the body language of a sulky pre-teen. A number of the company portray several roles and each show great flexibility in doing so. I particularly enjoyed the performance of John Graham Hall as the tea pot with a slightly phallic spout and Ann Taylor as the Chinese cup, rather childish but very funny. Also, Quirijn De Lang and Katie Bray’s love scene as the cats, meowing along to the score was equally as capturing. The set and costumes were very clever, I especially enjoyed the frogs during the garden scenes, it was really very cleverly thought out. Of the two operas on the bill this was definitely my favourite.
After the Interval the tone was a total change for Janacek’s Osud, a semi auto biographical piece set in the acts. Osud tells the tale of Zivny a composer and his wife Mila. Years before the two had an affair and Mila bore a child much to the dismay of her mother. After meeting again, the two marry but it is short lived, fifteen years later and Zivny is a professor whose students realise he is in fact the composer Lensky and the work they have been studying is his own tale which upsets Doubek, the professor’s son. John Graham Hall as Zivny and Giselle Allen as Mila both give outstanding performances both vocally and physically. John Graham Hall is convincing as the tortured composer fraught with regrets over his past. I would say that the most memorable vocal performance of the opera had to be from Rosalind Plowright as Mila’s mother, her voice really is memorising.
The main vocalists in both operas are supported by a fine chorus from Opera North and of course by their orchestra conducted by Martin Andrew. Personally, I would have preferred two more light hearted pieces, but I appreciate the diversity between the two would work. For those new to opera, or who simply cannot sit through the traditional length of some. The Little Greats is a fabulous idea and I will certainly look to catch any future performances.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000