COMPOSERS: film by Christian Chaudet,music by Stravinsky
LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Le Rossignol
WORKS: Le Rossignol
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay, Marie McLaughlin, Violeta Urmana, Vsevolod Grivnov, Albert Schagidullin, Laurent Naouri, Maxime Makhailov; Opéra National de Paris Choir and Orchestra/James Conlon
CATALOGUE NO: 544 2429
‘See the music’ is the essence of Stravinsky’s message at the start of this remarkable film. He would surely have been intrigued, occasionally irritated and ultimately spellbound by Christian Chaudet’s vision. Using singers from the original 1999 recording, Chaudet has drawn fine mimes from them; Dessay’s nightshirted soul of the nightingale and Marie MacLaughlin’s wide-eyed cook are especially convincing. Inevitably they’re dwarfed by the computer-generated animation: in this haunting dream of a Chinese boy, quaint processionals of fans, lanterns and porcelain vases battle with computer screens, cellphones and belligerent headsets. It works surprisingly well. The essential conflict of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale – a real nightingale versus a gilded automaton – reaches its zenith in the tacky visual overload of the opera’s central scene. On either side, there’s plenty of poetry from the animation team under Chaudet’s meticulous direction (even the animated instruments have been matched with authentic musical fingerings).
The film soundtrack, complete with real nightingale song and ring tones, clashes slightly with Stravinsky’s score; but you can always hear that separately. The extras are a prolix ‘behind the scenes’ in the studio, worth seeing for bass Maxim Mikhailov’s yogic bouncing, and a much more interesting documentary about the eight crucial months of post-production. Love it or hate it, Chaudet’s world will haunt you long after viewing. David Nice