COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
ALBUM TITLE: The Love for Three Oranges
PERFORMER: Alexey Tanovitsky, Andrey Ilyushnikov, Nadezhda Sersjuk, Eduard Tsanga, Kirill Dushechkin, Pavel Schmulevich, Ekaterina Shimanovitch, Sophie Tellier, Natalia Yevstafieva, Julia Smorodina, Yuriy Vorobiev, Alexander Gerasimov, Ekaterina Tsenter; Europa Chor
These two newcomers bring the number of Oranges on DVD up to four. The hypochondriachal prince of the fairy-tale would not, one suspects, find either laugh-out-loud funny; that distinction remains to Richard Jones’s Opera North production, languishing in TV archives and surely destined for DVD release some day. Both, though, have their visual pleasures. The outdoor romp of Philippe Calvario’s Aix Festival production is dominated by the outlandish costumes of Aurore Popineau, including a festish-queen Fata Morgana who is flanked by bondage-boy devils, while the giant ring at the Bastille becomes more magical as the adventure progresses.


Gilbert Deflo’s elegant staging seems more thought-through than Calvario’s free-for-all. His melancholic prince is Pierrot as played by Baptiste in Les Enfants du Paradis; elsewhere his production mixes commedia dell’arte with Chinese circus and manneristic 1920s types. Deflo takes the fairy-tale very seriously, turning the bucket of water with which the stage-managing eccentrics rescue the dehydrated third princess into a lake of blue silk; and stars fall from the roof as she waits for her prince to return.

Calvario narrates the hard-to-stage card game between Chelio and Fata Morgano more clearly than does Deflo’s ballet – shunted to the end of the first Act – but his gags lose focus and the pleasures come mostly from the performers. Young Tugan Sokhiev enjoys a much closer relationship with his singers than he ever did during his ill-fated time at Welsh National Opera; he’s both deft and definite with the many fluctuations of tempo and character. His mostly Russian cast deliver the opera’s original text with easy conviction (the other three DVD performances use the French text prepared for the Chicago premiere by Prokofiev and Vera Janacopoulos).

The Aix hero and his sidekick are two stalwart heavyweights; Deflo’s Truffaldino, Barry Banks, is a ringing tenor and a brilliant actor, while his Prince, Charles Workman, is sometimes overstretched but a touching Pierrot. Both Clarices nearly steal the show – Hannah Esther Minutillo on TDK is a slinky vision in green – but the Paris lead princess, Alexandra Zamoyska, makes some lovely sounds. What a shame Sylvain Cambreling’s musical direction at the Bastille is so heavy-going.


David Nice