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Review: L’enfant et les sortileges

L’enfant et les sortileges in a one-act opera written by Maurice Ravel. The translation is “The Child and the Book of Spells”. I am particularly fond of this opera because I played the part of the squirrel when I was in college, but I bring it to the foreground today because it is especially good for children.The opera is about a young boy who has been very naughty, and is shocked when inanimate objects he had abused come to life. The chairs, the clock, the numbers in his math book, a princess from a story book, and others all scold him for his misbehavior. In a second part, he goes to the garden, and finds the animals to be likewise unhappy to see him. In the end, the boy learns his lesson and the animals forgive him.
This is a good opera for children not only for the storyline, but also for the dynamic nature of the opera. There is always something new happening, and the total opera takes place in less than 45 minutes, appropriate for a child’s attention span.
I have seen two versions of this opera on video, both of which are available at ArkivMusic. Catalogue number 4536 is a ballet, with the characters being played by dancers, and the singers off-stage. The costumes, dancing, set, and orchestration are fantastic. However, I do not believe that there are subtitles for this version, performed in French. I have seen the performance of Peter and the Wolf that is on this DVD. It was masterfully done, and was performed by children. The L’enfant et les sortileges on catalogue number 4461 has subtitles, and was performed by the singers, although it may have been lip-synced. I enjoyed both editions.

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