L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILEGES L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILEGES L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILEGES
by Maurice Ravel, and CASTOR ET POLLUX (PROLOGUE) by Jean-Philippe Rameau, directed by Michael Patrick Albano, conducted by Sandra Horst, with Andrea Ludwig, Megan Latham, Michael Sproule, Peter Collins, Ariana Chris, Tina Winter and Colin Ainsworth. Presented by the U of T Opera Division at the Macmillan Theatre (80 Queen's Park). March 16-17 at 8 pm. $25, stu/srs $15. 416-978-3744. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
ravel's one-act 1920s opera l'en- fant Et Les Sortilèges (The Child And The Spells) is a French Alice In Wonderland, a trip into a nightmare world of enchanted household objects and childhood fantasies. Its central figure (Andrea Ludwig, heading one of two alternate casts) is a mischievous child who -- chastened by various pieces of anthropomorphic furniture, garden animals and wallpaper figures he's damaged -- learns compassion.
It's a tricky piece, with several dozen performers getting only a few minutes each to shine. Under director Michael Patrick Albano and conductor Sandra Horst, the U of T's Opera Division brings charm, strong singing and good deal of comedy to the shimmering score, with its exotic orchestration and nods to 18th-century melodies and 20th-century popular tunes.
Ludwig revels believably in the child's initial wickedness, while others in the cast -- notably Peter Collins as a teapot with a phallic spout, Ariana Chris as a red Chinese teacup, Keith Klassen's personified Arithmetic and Mehgan Atchison as a fairy-tale princess -- provide delightful vignettes.
Diane McCann-Davis's costumes and headdresses are sometimes as entertaining as the performers.
Albano's direction can go astray -- the wallpaper shepherds are dull -- but he and choreographer Allison Grant score with an athletic team made up of cardinal numbers and tutued female frogs performing like the cygnets from Swan Lake.
Filling out the evening is the prologue to another French opera, Jean- Philippe Rameau's Castor Et Pollux, written, and here set, nearly two centuries earlier.
In it, a marquis induces his guests to play party games dressed as mythological figures.
Although this short prologue has its problems, including a chorus used uninventively, Colin Ainsworth's sweet-voiced Amour is a treat and Tina Winter skilfully handles Minerve's long vocal lines.