18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This opera was new to me -- previously the only Prokofiev operas I knew were "War & Peace" and "The Betrothal in a Monastery" -- and I was delighted with it from start to finish. It takes Prokofiev's touches of Commedia dell'Arte and expands them to encompass the entire production, chorus, leads, staging and all. The enormous size of the Bastille stage allows the director, Gilbert Deflo, to place the opposing choruses on opposite sides of the pit and to keep them in view throughout the piece, so that the audience is drawn in through the chorus. The stage tricks are delightful and suited to the pace of the production, including abundant fireworks, some good tumbling and juggling, and two 'flying changes' for the Princess turned into a rat and back again.
The music of the opera is declamatory rather than lyrical: it proceeds as a drama more than as a conventional opera with arias and duets and so forth. Nevertheless, the music is brilliant and serves the story admirably, and the orchestral score positively crackles. The famous March is used to finish off the evening as well as in its more usual places, which means that the audience does have a good tune to whistle on the way home.
The singers, with the exception of the wonderful Jose van Dam as the magician, were not familiar to me, but I was deeply impressed with Charles Workman as the Prince, a fine lyric tenor with a sweet tone and enough power for heavier roles should he move to them. (At the moment his repertoire is largely Mozart, Rossini, and Rameau, but he also has Strauss (Arabella), Janacek (The Makropoulos Case) and Hindemith (Cardillac) so he may widen his scope even further.)
If you like Prokofiev, modern opera, theatricality at its best, commedia, or just sheer enjoyment, this is for you. As a postscript, if you want the lyric and more highly dramatic side of Prokofiev I strongly recommend the Paris Opera production of "War and Peace" on TDK.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Dr. John W. Rippon
- Published on Amazon.com
Sorry about the pun but it certainly fits in this parody of all high art (drama, romance) low art (comedy) and everything in between. The story is a satire by 18th century Italian critic Carlo Gozzi as a means to deflate the overblown tragedy and realism of dramatists Goldoni and Chiari and all the idealist hero and rescue plays. Thus it is an "anti-drama" and with Prokofiev handling of the revised story done by colleague V. Meyerhold it becomes an "anti-opera" in French. Here the hero is a hypochondriac wimp (superbly done by Charles Workman)who has to go through many silly things in order to unpeel the right orange and get the girl. Certainly no hero to the rescue opera. The whole concept of setting this as a circus with "Comedia del'arte" characters plus various other folk tale characters gives us lots of action and things to look at. The stage is huge (at the Opera Bastille) so that people who are drama lovers, people who are comedy lovers, people who want romance and long kisses all can be scattered around the stage and comment now and then. It would seem like utter confusion and it is but it all works. The music is pure Prokofiev with constant action and agitation (we all know the famous march used in "The FBI in Peace and War") The vocal line is a vocal line unburdened by melody and follows speech patterns as is Prokofiev's wont. However when wimp and princess finally get it together there actually is some late Italian ottocento opera melody discernable. It takes several viewings to "get" all the wit and humor but it is a masterpiece and a terrific production of Gilbert Deflo with a cast of dozens and dozens conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.