Prokofiev

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: The Love for Three Oranges
WORKS: The Love for Three Oranges
PERFORMER: Alain Vernhes, Martial Defontaine, François Le Roux, Serghei Khomov, Sandrine Piau, Anna Shafajinskaja, Willard White; Netherlands Opera Chorus; Rotterdam PO/Stéphane Denève; dir. Laurent Pelly (Amsterdam 2005)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 9057 D

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PRESENTATION: ****

Director-designer Laurent Pelly’s quirkily stylish costumes and Chantal Thomas’s mobile giant playing-cards rule this lavish Amsterdam production of Prokofiev’s fairy-tale satire. As the gallery of oddballs lurches across the stage during the first two Acts, the action could certainly be more focused along the lines of the Lyon Three Oranges elegantly shaped by Kent Nagano (now available on Arthaus).

But like the much weightier and more multifaceted conductor here, Stéphane Denève, Pelly can be involving once his prince sets out in search of three oranges. The spectacle of the first two princesses drooping on the point of death from their citric prisons is briefly horrifying; the love duet between the third, sung with affecting simplicity by Sandrine Piau, and her fast-maturing prince has a surprising truthfulness.

Most of the gags are design-led, and certainly don’t pall in the long-term combat between Anna Shafajinskaja’s Leigh Boweryesque witch and Willard White’s topknotted wizard (one of several nice offstage touches is his supervision of the orchestra during his Act III invocation). A reliable ensemble of singers yields the palm, though, to the astonishingly full-blooded playing of the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Denève; Prokofiev’s score dons and drops its masks with startling adroitness and panache.

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The introductory interviews, laced with perfunctory background information, beat around the bush, but you may be happy enough to bask for a while in the charm of the personalities involved. Along with first-rate sound recording and camerawork which shows us the details we need, they contribute to a fruity packaging of an entertainment which clearly wowed the Dutch audience in 2005.