So I thought the obvious antidote to Robert Carsen’s Dialogues des Carmélites would be the recording of Ollie Knussen’s Where The Wild Things Are and Higglety, Pigglety, Pop that was sitting in my ‘to watch’ pile. It’s a 1985 Glyndebourne recording and the Associate Director is one Robert Carsen, assisting Frank Corsaro. So it goes. Actually it was rather fun, if a bit irritating in the way that children’s literature written for kids with ADD seems to be. The music is terrific and not at all dumbed down. The sets and designs, as well as the libretto, are by Maurice Sendak himself and there’s some pretty neat lighting by Robert Bryan. The Wild Things are really cool and almost make up for the fact that Max (played here by Karen Beardsley) is an appalling little s$%t who needs a good kick in the backside. HHP is a bit more restrained and simultaneously manages to be less fun but also less annoying. It has a rather splendid lion and Cynthia Buchan does rather well as, to the best of my knowledge, the only Sealyham terrier in opera. Knussen conducts the London Sinfonietta and they sound really good.
The disc definitely reveals its origins as a 1980s TV recording. The picture is far from shiny 4:3 though the LPCM sound is actually pretty decent. The video direction, by Christopher Swann, though is actually quite good. One advantage of the small, old Glyndebourne stage is that it was easy to get close in without losing the not very big picture. It’s a Kultur release so no extras, English only subtitles and minimal documentation. All in all not a bad way to spend an hour and a half on a cold Saturday.