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L’Heure Espagnole/L’Enfant Et Les Sortileges

Cyrille Dubois, Danielle de Niese, Francois Piolino, Lionel Lhote and Etienne Dupuis in L'Heure Espagnole at Glyndebourne. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith Cyrille Dubois, Danielle de Niese, Francois Piolino, Lionel Lhote and Etienne Dupuis in L'Heure Espagnole at Glyndebourne. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
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The final show in this year’s Glyndebourne season – a bumper year, incidentally, in terms of overall quality – is a revival of Laurent Pelly’s 2012 production of Ravel’s two one-act operas, which make an ideal double bill. Sets and costumes perfectly match the sexy farce of L’Heure Espagnole, and the story of a naughty boy who learns wisdom from the creatures he has tormented in L’Enfant et les Sortileges. What is even more remarkable is that soprano Danielle de Niese stars in and excels in both of them.

In the first opera, she sings the role of Concepcion, unfaithful wife of the Toledan clockmaker Torquemada, who entertains her lovers while her husband is winding up the municipal clocks. The sheer brilliance of the set’s mechanics testifies to Glyndebourne’s high standards of stagecraft, but this salacious comedy is also wonderfully played by Cyrille Dubois as the poet Gonzalve, Lionel Lhote as the libidinous bank manager Don Inigo, Francois Piolino as Concepcion’s long-suffering (or complicit?) husband Torquemada, and Etienne Dupuis as the hunky muleteer, Ramiro. De Niese herself shines as the racy Concepcion.

Then, after the interval, she pulls off the trick of turning herself into the sulky 10-year-old whose empathy for his fellow-creatures is awakened by a series of magical apparitions. She’s perfect for the role, emulating the child’s physicality with precision, and singing with imagination in an immensely touching interpretation.

She is surrounded by excellent performances from the other members of the cast, notably Sabine Devieilhe, who triples up as Fire, the Princess and the Nightingale, by Elodie Mechain, as the child’s Mother, the Chinese Cup and the Dragonfly, and others too numerous to mention. In the pit, meanwhile, the London Philharmonic produces playing of flawless virtuosity under the baton of the festival’s music director, Robin Ticciati.

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Glyndebourne ends a vintage season with a revival of the Ravel double-bill, with Danielle de Niese starring in both shows
George Hall
George Hall writes widely on opera and has contributed regularly to The Stage since 2000. He has also contributed to such publications as The New Penguin Opera Guide and the Oxford Companion to Music