Friday, May 12, 2017

L'heure Espagnole (Ravel)

This is my post from this week's Once or Twice a Fortnight.

Many times on OTF, I’ve tried to program one-act operas. I don’t mind monumental works (like Wagner’s Tristan we discussed last time) but since I do most of my music listening on the bus, I really like something that I can listen to from beginning to end during my commute – rather than doing it over two or three.

Ravel’s vocal output is surprisingly diverse – from settings of old Greek songs to a pair of short, one-act operas. L'heure espagnole is a one of those, best described as a musical comedy to a French libretto by Franc-Nohain, based on his 'comédie-bouffe' of the same name first staged in 1904.

Ravel was closely involved in every aspect of the production as it was prepared for its premiere at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. First performed at the Opéra-Comique on 19 May 1911 in a double-bill with Massenet’s Thérèse, it stood for nine performances and was not heard again for 10 years (5 December 1921 at the Paris Opera) when it enjoyed more success. The opera returned to the Opéra-Comique in 1945 where it entered the company’s repertoire.

Translated literally, the title in English is "The Spanish Hour", but the word "heure" more importantly means "time" – "Spanish Time", with the connotation "How They Keep Time in Spain". Time keeping, and in particular clocks, are used extensively as plot devices throughout the 21 scenes of this delightful work. Concepción, the clock-maker’s wife plans to use his weekly service rounds to entertain gentlemen at home, and her rendezvous’ are either aided or hampered by clocks that are used by her suitors to hide and get moved between her bedroom and her husband’s workshop.

Today’s musical share is from a 1965 recording supervised by Lorin Maazel, featuring local singers with varying name recognition.

Happy Listening!

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
L'Heure Espagnole, MR 52
Musical Comedy in one act for 5 voices and orchestra, French libretto by Franc-Nohain

Concepcion – Jane Berbié
Don Inigo Gomez – José van Dam
Gonzalve – Michel Sénéchal
Torquemada – Jean Giraudeau
Ramiro – Gabriel Bacquier
Orchestre National de la R.T.F
Lorin Maazel, conducting
Recording: Paris, O.R.T.F., 2/1965

Synopsis -

Libretto -

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