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Opera Daily 🎶 — What Happens When Fire Finds Its Voice
This week's Opera Daily features Soprano Sabine Devieilhe singing "Air de Feu" from Maurice Ravel’s "L'Enfant et les Sortilèges"
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Today we’re listening to…
“Air de Feu”, a soprano aria from L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (The Child and the Spells) by Maurice Ravel.
Amidst the whimsy and wonder of the opera L'Enfant et les Sortilèges lies this aria where the very element of fire comes alive with song.
What is this 🔥 fiery aria all about?
In a room brought to life by a child’s misbehaving, each object and element becomes personified, bearing its own emotions, grievances, and character. The Fire, provoked by the child’s cold hands seeking warmth, bursts into song.
The aria captures the essence of a fire’s unpredictable dance — its leaps, flutters, and fervor.
While being a source of comfort, the flames also chastise the boy for his thoughtlessness, reminding us of nature's duality: its ability to comfort and admonish.
🌟 Spotlight on Sabine Devieilhe: French Soprano Sabine Devieilhe’s voice embodies the fiery spirit Ravel intended for this aria.
Known for her coloratura technique and her ability to handle intricate and demanding vocal passages with ease, Devieilhe is a modern-day testament to the grand tradition of French operatic singing. In “Air de Feu”, she brilliantly navigates the rapid, sparkling runs, evoking the unpredictable nature of flames.
🎧 Treat Your Ears: (2 minute listen): Soprano Sabine Devieilhe singing“Air de Feu”, a soprano aria from L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells) by Maurice Ravel
A Glimpse into L'Enfant et les sortilèges:
Premiere: Monte Carlo, March 21, 1925.
What’s it about? tl;dr: a badly behaved boy is taught a lesson by his possessions that come to life and animals that can talk.
Everything with which the little boy has been careless — from the teacup he chipped to the injured squirrel — comes to life! Even the wallpaper, the clock, and the fire in the fireplace start talking and singing (“Air de Feu” - the aria we are listening to today). They’re upset with the boy for being careless and want to teach him a lesson.
In this magical world, the boy goes on an adventure. He meets singing cats, a dancing teapot, and even a tree that’s mad at him for ripping its leaves. Every character he meets has a story and a lesson to share.
By the end of the opera, the boy learns about kindness, understanding, and caring for others. He realizes that every action has consequences and that treating everyone and everything with respect is essential.
Inspiration: With a libretto written by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (known as Colette), the narrative portrays a mischievous child's encounters with anthropomorphic objects and animals. Each character, from the Fire to the Princess, brings a lesson about understanding and compassion. It took Ravel around nine years to compose the music for L’enfant et les Sortileges. Colette, on the other hand, completed the libretto in around eight days! Ravel’s score follows the style of Gershwin and American operettas, incorporating jazz, polkas, and waltzes. L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, said Maurice Ravel, “was written in the spirit of an American operetta.”
🎼 Craving More? While finding a (free) full recording online was difficult, you can listen to one here!
Grateful for your time and ears,
PS. Missed our last edition? We featured “Bel raggio lusingier,” a soprano aria from Act I of the Italian opera Semiramide.
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