WORKS: Peter and the Wolf; The Story of Babar; The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
PERFORMER: Dame Edna Everage, Barry Humphries (narrator)Melbourne SO/John Lanchbery
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554170
There comes a time in the life of every megastar with cultural pretensions when they feel the urge to narrate Prokofiev’s ‘musical tale’ Peter and the Wolf. Dame Edna Everage, the inimitable comic creation of Australian wit Barry Humphries, has claimed a closer call than most in her belief that she is the reincarnation of Prokofiev’s mother. But be that as it may, how does she stand up against competition from the likes of Gielgud, Bernstein and Sting? Very well, in fact. Some might find the approach over-motherly, but she has at least resisted the temptation to ‘Australise’ the menagerie of animals in the story, though some ‘possums’ inevitably creep into the text. She also provides the narration for Britten’s Young Person’s Guide in a manner about as far from the pompous didacticism of Malcolm Sargent as would be possible.
Humphries himself (Dame Edna’s ‘manager’) tells the tale of Poulenc’s endearing Babar with just the right degree of poignancy and sentimentality.
The success of all these works depends on the spoken part, but there is little to criticise in the Melbourne Symphony’s full-blooded, warmly recorded contributions. At budget price, this would make an ideal Christmas stocking-filler for children and susceptible adults alike. Matthew Rye