If you have ever wondered why a slapstick comedy is so called then look no further than Gilbert Deflo’s production of Prokofiev’s L’Amour des trois oranges recorded by L’Opéra de Paris in 2005. There’s a great deal of smacking with sticks; most of it by Barry Banks who gleefully whacks just about any bottom, male or female, that comes within range. The production is also slapstick in the generally understood sense of broad physical comedy. There are elements of commedia del arte and lots of circus; jugglers, clowns, fire swallowers, all wrapped up in a sort of 20s vamp aesthetic. It’s wildly chaotic in a rather fun way though it’s all a bit overwhelming and probably worked better in the theatre than on DVD.
At the heart of the piece are some very fine singing and acting performances. The afore mentioned Banks is a hyper kinetic Trouffaldino nicely balanced by Charles Workman as the lugubrious Prince, here played as Pierrot. There’s some very good work from the ladies too; especially Lucia Cirillo’s rather puzzled Smeraldina and Hannah Esther Minutillo’s leggy vamp version of Princess Clarice. Sylvain Cambreling conducts and manages to balance the bombastic and the tender sides of the score rather well. A special word too for the stage crew who double as supers and pull off some really rather good pieces of stagecraft.
Thomas Grimm directs for video and he does a very decent job of capturing a performance that probably wasn’t at all easy to film. The picture and sound (DTS and PCM stereo) are quite good and present the piece in a good light. There are English, French, Spanish, German and Italian subtitles. The documentation is nothing special but there’s a half hour Reiner Moritz film; How to Fall in Love with Three Oranges, which is worth a look.
Overall I wasn’t as impressed with this as with Laurent Pelly’s Amsterdam production but it has its own charms and is definitely worth a look. And that, gentle readers, is my 200th DVD review.