vineri, 19 martie 2010

Love (and Arias) With a Proper Swine

Music Review | 'The Enchanted Pig'
Published: February 7, 2010, in NY Times

The British composer Jonathan Dove has written theater and film scores, orchestral and chamber works, and operas: most notably operas for children. He had a solid success in London in 2006 with “The Enchanted Pig,” a children’s opera based on a Romanian folk tale (in fact, by Petre Ispirescu), with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton.
The New Victory Theater in Times Square is now presenting a staging of “The Enchanted Pig” that originated in December at the Linbury Studio Theater of the Royal Opera House in London, a co-production of the Opera Group, ROH2 and the Young Vic. The New Victory was nearly full for the matinee on Saturday, and children were everywhere. The young operagoers were impressively attentive, which says a lot about this fanciful opera with its modest, appealing and lively score and wittily poetic libretto.
The story tells of King Hildebrand, who warns his three marriageable daughters not to enter a secret room in the castle that contains the Book of Fate. Curious beyond endurance, the daughters defy him. The book predicts that the older two will marry kings but the youngest, Flora, will wed a pig. Naturally, she is horrified.

The predictions come true. Yet on her wedding night Flora is strangely drawn to her snorting, muddy husband. And every night, when the sun goes down, the pig becomes a handsome prince. He has been cursed by a witch, who wants him for her own daughter.

The witch, in the guise of a jolly old woman, captures the prince. For the rest of the two-hour opera we follow Flora as she travels to the ends of the earth, the Moon and the Milky Way, wearing down three pairs of iron shoes in search of her husband. In the end true love frees him from the curse.

Mr. Dove’s music deftly mixes tenderly lyrical flights, jaunty tunes, waltzing duets, song-and-dance numbers and elaborate ensembles. Although not highly original, the music is skillfully written and personal. Mr. Dove does not play down to young listeners. The entire score is sung.

During patter songs and ensembles, which come often, it is not really possible to catch all the words. But there was so much banter and comic staging during these ensembles that the young audience listened and laughed anyway.

If anything, Mr. Dove errs by making his score too operatic. For long stretches the extended vocal lines encourage singers (at least some in this cast) into exaggerated, booming operatic vocalism. Simon Wilding makes a wonderful snorting, hairy pig who, in a quick-change flash, becomes a handsome, brooding prince. But too often he sings with a bellowing basso wobble that renders his words mushy. Imagine Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion singing “If I Were King of the Forest.” Karina Lucas, the brave and self-effacing Flora in this performance, sang her lines sensitively yet managed to make each word clear.

Mr. Dove is an eminently practical theater composer. Each of the eight singers plays multiple roles (except for the lead of Flora, a role that is double cast). The work is imaginatively orchestrated for a small ensemble, with striking and subtle touches for percussion, accordion and harp. Brad Cohen is the assured conductor. The director, John Fulljames, makes clever use of Dick Bird’s rotating set and stylized, sometimes sci-fi costumes.

For a music theater piece drawn from fairy tales, “The Enchanted Pig” is no match for Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” Still, Mr. Dove knows his target audience, and his opera wins you over. It is a charming idea to present the Moon as a man with a silver crescent hat atop a lighthouse, and the North Wind as a crotchety married man in a rickety house with a complaining wife, a bickering couple who are nevertheless happy together.

here is a link to a text about this event in romanian language:

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