John Terauds("From “Stunning Opera is a True Feast")
, October 2006
I'm one of those people who gets as big a thrill from a strong opera chorus as from a well-turned aria. And this week's operas on DVD offer a healthy kick of musical crowd action.
THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES By Sergei Prokofiev. De Nederlandse Opera. (OpusArte)
If only we could see more productions like this stunning 2005 Dutch effort presented at the Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam. This is opera at its most vital and compelling.
Young director (and costume designer) Laurent Pelly and set designer Chantal Thomas let their imaginations run riot, emphasizing the slapsticky commedia dell'arte themes in the opera about the King of Clubs and his hypochondriac son, whose life is manipulated by a bad witch and a good wizard.
The design is dominated by the motif of playing cards. The three fruit of the title are big foam creations from which spring three thirsty princesses — one of whom will finally help the Prince grow up.
Inspired by an 18th-century play by Carlo Gozzi, Sergei Prokofiev created a particularly punchy score where the music and words mock theatrical conventions, including the role of critics and the audience.
Young French conductor Stéphane Denève (who has recently been a guest of the Toronto Symphony) works wonders with the score and all of the singers deliver strong performances.
Better yet, the audio and visuals are excellent and there is a good (if unfocused) background featurette on one of the two discs. The booklet contains interesting excerpts from Prokofiev's diary concerning the difficult first production in Chicago in 1921. It's sung in French, but with ample language choices for the subtitles.