Foss: Griffelkin

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Griffelkin
PERFORMER: Kendra Colton, Marion Dry, Elizabeth Keusch, Yeghishe Manucharyan; Back Bay Chorale, Boston Children’s Opera, Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
A ten-year-old devil, graduating from Hell’s Nursery, is let loose on the world for a day with a magic potion which can turn ‘stone to life and life to stone’. After creating satisfactory havoc, he befriends two children and brings their dead mother back to life. For this forbidden good deed he is thrown out of Hell and exiled to earth – to his delight. You might suspect that Lukas Foss’s 1955 television opera Griffelkin had been released now on the coat-tails of Harry Potter. But in fact it was Foss’s expressed wish to hear this of all his works in his 80th birthday year, 2002, which resulted in the Boston production on which Chandos’s recording is based.


Foss’s affection for the piece is understandable: it has a neatly turned libretto by Alastair Reid, and a score of cheerful, tuneful eclecticism. A lively cast is led by Kendra Colton as Griffelkin: a bright, sympathetic performance, though her adult voice and those of the Girl and Boy create some confusion in ensembles. The choirs and orchestra are admirably rhythmic. The recording might ideally have been tighter on the voices, for maximum comprehensibility. But this still makes delightful listening for young and old. Anthony Burton