Sergei Prokofiev The Love for Three Oranges opera to a libretto written by the composer based on a play by Carlo Gozzi. Directed 2005 by Laurent Pelly at De Nederlandse Opera (Muziektheater). Stars Alain Vernhes, Martial Defontaine, Natascha Petrinsky, François Le Roux, Serghei Khomov, Marcel Boone, Sir Willard White, Anna Shafajinskaja, Sylvia Kevorkian, Magali de Prelle, Sandrine Piau, Richard Angas, Alexander Vassiliev, Marianna Kulikova, Sergei Khomov, Ruud Kok, Robert Kops, Willem Korteiling, Jan Majoor, Wojtek Okraska, Jan Polak, Harry Teeuwen, Martin Vijgenboom, Bert Visser, and Arjan Wiering. Stéphane Denève conducts the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera (Chorus Master Martin Wright). Sets by Chantal Thomas; costumes by Laurent Pelly; lighting by Joël Adam; choreography by Laura Scozzi. TV direction biy Misjel Vermeiren. Released 2008, disc has PCM 5.1 sound. Grade: A
When I was a kid, we didn't have HDVD. We didn't have TV. We had radio and 8mm black and white home movies. Kids loved the serials on radio. I waited all week for "The FBI in Peace and War." I wasn't interested in the propaganda---I loved the theme song, a jaunty march that sent me careening about the kitchen. I asked my mom, "Where did the music come from?" She said, "From a modern opera about oranges. It was too crazy to perform, but people like that song."
Mom was wrong about one thing. The Love for Three Oranges wasn't modern. The 4 Ages of Opera are (1) Early Opera, (2) Age of Aria, (3) Age of Orchestration, and (4) Modern Opera. The Age of Orchestration ended and Modern Opera began in 1926 when Puccini finished Turandot. Oranges was first performed in 1921, so it came too soon to be modern. But it is crazy, because it's a parody of all opera up to 1921. In Oranges, the Age or Orchestration pulls the top down on its own coffin. Because this is a long insiders joke, you have to know a lot about opera to thoroughly enjoy Oranges. Still, for the novice there's plenty of fast action and broad strokes such as beautiful princesses released from captivity only to immediately --- well, I'll not give it away.
Because the singers in Oranges are reduced to mocking others, the folks who normally play subservient roles in opera get to run amuck--- the chorus, the orchestra, the conductor, the set designer, the costume maker, the lighting guys, etc. No better crew for this trip down the rapids than De Nederlandse Opera. The production, video take, and sound recording for this disc were praised by everyone even in DVD. So if you are an Oranges fan, you have to have this in HDVD. If you are an opera beginner, get this disc and watch it cold. Then watch it every now and then as your knowledge of opera grows---each time you will probably appreciate the Oranges more.
We still need for an opera expert to write us a detailed review pointing out, with timestamps from this disc, the specific composers, musical styles, and opera conventions that Prokofiev skewers in his score of Oranges.