New York Philharmonic
Dillon, Patrick, Opera Canada
Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortileges is one of those exceptional operas that don't need to be staged to hit their mark--in fact, it's one that can even prosper from the absence of someone else's limiting vision. I grew up with Ernest Ansermet's magical 1954 recreation of the score in equally magical Decca early stereo, and had no trouble conjuring up Colette's enchanted chairs and teapots, birds, cats, bats and squirrels; and though I was an adult when I discovered Lorin Maazel's version of 1960, it evoked its own distinctive altered state of imaginative delight. No staging I've seen has provided commensurate pleasure.
But at Carnegie Hall Feb. 17, on an unadorned but very crowded stage, Maazel led his New York Philharmonic, the Westminster Symphonic Choir, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and eight top-flight singers in an Enfant that had me joyfully bouncing in my seat and even dabbing away at a sentimental tear or two. It's been nearly 50 years since his DG recording, and yet there's the same spring in Maazel's musical step, the same terpsichorean swing, the same keen ear catching every timbral nuance of Ravel's cornucopia of wondrous sounds. …