The Children Are Terrible, the Audience Missing: Spanish Glass Premiere

SpainSpain Philip Glass, Les enfants Terribles: Soloists, ‘orchestra’ of three pianos, Emmanuel Olivier (conductor, piano), Bilbao’s Teatro Arriaga, 2.12.2012 (JMI)
Coproduction Bilbao’s Teatro Arriaga, Opera National de Bordeaux, and Colisées de Roubaix.

Direction: Stéphane Vérité
Sets and Lighting: Stephane Vérité
Costumes: Hervé Poeydomengue

Elizabeth: Chloé Briot
Paul: Guillaume Andrieux
Gerard: Olivier Dumait
Agathe: Amaya Domínguez

Photo courtesy Teatro Arriaga, © F. Desmesure

Teatro Arriaga opened its season with the Spanish premiere Philip Glass’ Les enfants Terribles to a small, but grateful audience that filled perhaps a third of the theater in Bilbao. The opera is the concluding part of Glass’ so-called Cocteau triptych, after Orpheus and The Beauty and the Beast. Les enfants Terribles is adapted from the novel of the same title by Jean Cocteau, which Cocteau later took to stage and the cinema. Philip Glass wrote this opera in collaboration with the choreographer Susan Marshall who also wrote the libretto. In Bilbao, alas, we got no dance in what was designed as an opera-ballet hybrid.

The plot revolves around two siblings (Elizabeth and Paul) who live isolated from the outside world in a room where they develop a strange and incestuous relationship. Thanks to the children’s twisted mind the story naturally ends in tragedy with the death of the protagonists. The usual role of the orchestra transferred to just three pianos.

available at Amazon
P.Glass, Les enfants Terribles
(Children of the Game)
K.Kemensek / P.Glass, N.Padgett, E.Sandresky
C.Arand, P.Cutlip, H.Cazalet, V.Koma
Orange Mountain

Stéphane Vérité’s production had its premiere a couple of weeks back in Bordeaux. Despite the lack of dance, this is a job well done. At the bottom of the stage we find a screen where we can see images of snow, which is quite important to the story. Behind that is enough room for some props, inclding the beds where the children sleep and… play. The stage direction is good and the production comes very well rehearsed from Bordeaux.

Emmanuel Olivier oversaw the musical end of the production and also played one of the three pianos. Capably performing his duties, there were no coordination-problems between stage.

The four soloists stood out more for their stage skills than for their vocal qualities. The most grateful character is Elisabeth, interpreted by the excellent Chloe Briot, with a rather limited soprano voice. His brother Paul was more modestly performed by baritone Guillaume Andrieux. Tenor Olivier Dumait doubled as Narrator and Gerard, a friend of the young couple, and was better suited to the former than the latter rôle. Amaya Dominguez was Agathe; neither offensive nor rewarding.

Jose Mª Irurzun