Major Operas | L’enfant et les sortilèges by Maurice Ravel | Modern Era

Composed: 1920–25
Premiered: 1925, Monte Carlo
Libretto by Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette)

The child has been naughty. His mother does not think he deserves more than tea without sugar and dry bread. He must think about how sad he has made her. He shouts after her, ‘I don’t love anybody! I’m naughty!’ He starts smashing and ill-treating everything in the room. Suddenly the armchair comes to life and dances off with a Louis-Quinze chair, happy to be free of that awful child. The grandfather clock is disorientated. The Wedgwood teapot and Chinese cup also dance away together, singing. The fire warms good children but burns naughty ones. The child is frightened. Shepherds and shepherdesses emerge from the wallpaper, separated now that the child has torn it. The princess has no idea what will happen to her, since the child has ripped out pages from her picture book. The only pages he can find summon up the exhausting ‘arithmetic man’. He follows two noisily amorous cats into the garden, but even there everything has something bad to say about the child. The squirrel has not forgotten being imprisoned in a cage and prodded. The child says it was only to admire his eyes. He realizes that all the creatures are now ignoring him. He is alone and cries out, ‘Maman!’ Suddenly the creatures turn on him. Soon they are fighting among themselves and a squirrel is hurt. The child binds its injured paw with a ribbon and then collapses. The creatures are amazed that the dreadful child should have helped one of them. He is good and kind after all. They cannot help him themselves. Repeating the cry of ‘Maman!’, they carry him to the house. Recovered, he calls out to ‘Maman!’

Recommended Recording:
L’enfant et les sortilèges, French Radio National Chorus and Orchestra; Ernest Bour, conductor; Testament SBT1044; Soloists: Nadine Sautereau (L’enfant), Denise Scharley (Maman), Solange Michel (La bergère Louis XV), Odette Turba-Rabier (Le feu), André Vessières (La fauteuil), Yvon le Marc’Hadour (L’horloge comtoise), Joseph Peyron (La théière), Martha Angelici (La princesse), Maurice Prigent (Le petit vieillard)

Personalities | Maurice Ravel | Modern Era | Opera


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