Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller



Splendid Ideas

Stravinsky's 'Le Rossignol'


Whilst the staging of the first opera in the 2010 Aix Festival (Don Giovanni) has had a mixed reception (see Nearly a Male Lulu, 10 July 2010), the festival's second opera (Stravinsky's Le Rossignol) enchanted the audience both dramatically and musically: on 7 July 2010, when I saw the performance on which this account is based, the curtains calls included a fifteen minute standing ovation.

It is a rare opportunity to see a staging of Le Rossignol for several reasons: its duration (three Acts within a total of fifty minutes) makes it difficult to fill an opera evening; based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, it involves a large number of characters with a bird -- a nightingale -- as its protagonist; the music, composed between 1907 and 1914, encompasses several styles with the second and the third Acts fundamentally different from the first Act. In 1910 (with L'Oiseau de Feu) and more forcefully in 1913 (with Le Sacre du Printemps), the composer had changed style drastically: the gentle Russian fairy tale atmosphere had been replaced by the evocation of wild and wide primitive Russian dances. Also, he had become more interested in ballet and acrobatic expressions.

Stravinsky was himself conscious of such a divergence, but left things unchanged, even when in 1962 he reviewed the score once more: he felt that his earlier 1907 style, bound as it was to lyrical impressionism, seemed to him well suited to the delicate poetic atmosphere of the first Act...

Copyright © 12 July 2010 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy









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