Ravel/Stravinsky Double Bill in Karlsruhe

In Karlsruhe for an apparently appealing pairing of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and Stravinsky’s Rossignol. The presentation purported to find in these two works a common response to the tragedy of World War I. To see Ravel’s child and his petulant treatment of things around him in the nursery as fantasy generated by a wounded soldier’s psychological trauma had dramatic potential. But in Tobias Heyder’s production it was so poorly executed that the performance gained little from the conceit and lost much. Those wanting to surrender to the magic of a child’s dream world had to cope with hospital beds around the action throughout. It was also difficult to determine who the characters were on the stage and what they were doing. After the performance, and while waiting for the Stravinsky, an elderly lady, a complete stranger, asked me what it all meant. My response, in halting German, was more based on the account in the programme which Herr Heyder gave of his intentions than what I actually saw.

After this disaster, the Stravinsky came somewhat as a relief. Although visually a little clumsy, with ill-fitting costumes and inappropriate make-up, the production by Tim Plegge was much less ambitious. It was faithful to the Hans Christian Andersen original and worked reasonably well. Musically, the performance of both works was competent but the orchestra did not appear to have mastered the intricacies of the scores and some of the singing was unidiomatic.