Magazine article Opera Canada

Heure Espagnole

Magazine article Opera Canada

Heure Espagnole

Article excerpt

RAVEL L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE

BARBER, OLLMANN, GAUTIER, AINSLEY, JOHNSON, London Symphony Orchestra, Andre Previn, conductor. DG 457 590-2. ***

AS A COMIC OPERA, RAVEL'S 1911 WORK L'Heure Espagnole has one big problem: it isn't funny. Though adapted almost without change from a contemporary farce by Franc-Nohain and retaining most of the potentially comic material, Ravel's opera seems an elegant curiosity. True, the plot still centres upon a clockmaker's sexy wife who hides her would-be lovers in grandfather clocks and has them carried up to her bedroom by a muscular muleteer, who emerges as the true object of her libido. The action sounds like it should be comic. But Ravel somehow lacks the gusto and perhaps the vulgarity to find and ignite the knockabout humor compressed into this short, 50-minutes-plus work.

There is, undeniably, a delightful wit in the work, but it's indirect. As might be expected from Ravel, the orchestra is the star, not the singers. Seizing every opportunity to suggest the manic ticking of a clock-shop, trumped up with cuckoo-calls and other automated noise-makers, Ravel creates a wondrous, ravishing instrumental world; the orchestration is sumptuous and inventive, the rhythms and motifs infectious. …

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