Personalities | Maurice Ravel | Modern Era | Opera

1875–1937, French

A meticulous craftsman whose constant reworking and rewriting may have accounted for his relatively small body of work, Ravel composed music that consciously moved away from the influence of Richard Wagner. Along with Claude Debussy, he invented a highly personalized French style.

Ravel also imbued his music with his love for Spanish culture (perhaps because his mother was of Basque origin), and this was very much evident in his first opera, L’heure espagnole (‘The Spanish Hour’, 1911). This one-act opera buffa comprised an exceptionally brilliant setting of text, with witty declamations and double-entendres, while the orchestration was replete with clever sound effects such as clocks, machines and a recurring cuckoo motif. In his second opera, L’enfant et les sortilèges (‘The Child and the Spells’, 1925), Ravel and his librettist, Colette, perfectly capture the innocence and wide-eyed fantasy of youth, even though the story and its more fantastic elements make this work difficult to mount on-stage.

Tragically, in 1933 Ravel began suffering from a degenerative brain disease that affected his ability to write, play the piano and take musical dictation. After four years, he finally agreed to undergo surgery, but lapsed into a coma from which he never emerged.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | L’heure espagnole by Maurice Ravel | Modern Era
Major Operas | L’enfant et les sortileges by Maurice Ravel | Modern Era
Personalities | Wolfgang Rihm | Modern Era | Opera


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