This new production of L’Enfant et les Sortilèges is a direct response to what has happened in the world over the last few months.
The opera begins with a child being educated at home. The child is neglected and ignored by her parents and suddenly she is faced with a completely unexpected and unpredictable situation. The world is no longer quite what it seems; the characters she encounters are extraordinary, the environment she finds them in is unfamiliar and unsettling, and she learns that returning to a better version of her real world is something that she wants to fight for.
Each of these characters are us – practitioners from the world of opera, who have been catapulted into our own uncertain and precarious circumstances. This filmed production brings us all together - providing a creative focus, generating a company of performers and theatre makers who are working as a team to make a brand new show, reacting to and remembering the world as it is now.
We are delighted to have worked in collaboration with the Concordia Foundation, a fantastic charity who are supporting the most in-need artists who have been affected with loss of work, earnings and stability.
The film premièred at 8pm UK time on Monday 16 November 2020 on the London Philharmonic Orchestra's Youtube Channel and Marquee Arts.
L'Enfant - Emily Edmonds
Le Fauteuil - Marcus Farnsworth
Le Banc - Naomi Kilby
Le Pouf - Dalma Sinka
L'Horloge Comtoise - Kieran Rayner
La Tasse - Jane Monari
Une Pastourelle - Chloe Morgan
La Princesse - Claire Lees
Le Chat - Jerome Knox
Un Arbre - Michael Sumuel
Le Rossignol - Eleanor Penfold
La Rainette - Gavan Ring
La Chouette - Philippa Boyle
Le Papillon - Emily Rooke
Le Bourdon - Sarah Parkin
La Chenille - Maria Goso
La Taupe - Sonya Knussen
Le Triton - David Horton
Le Cerf - DeAndre Simmons
Maman - Karen Cargill
La Bergère - Alison Rose
Le Canapé - Mehreen Shah
La Chaise de Paille - Lauren Morris
La Théière - Thomas Atkins
Le Feu - Sarah Hayashi
Un Pâtre - Elizabeth Lynch
Le Petit Vieillard - Paul Hopwood
La Chatte - Shuna Scott Sendall
La Libellule - Idunnu Münch
L'Ecureuil - Marta Fontanals-Simmons
La Chauve-Souris - Elizabeth Karani
Le Hérisson - Emily Wenman
L'Escargot - Fiona Finsbury
Le Blaireau - Beth Moxon
Le Renard - Caroline Carragher
Le Lapin - Mélisande Froidure
La Loutre - Joseph Doody
Eleanor Sanderson Nash
Hannah Savignon Smythe
Ian Massa Harris
Eugene Dillon Hooper
Ashley Beauchamp &
Guest Artists -
Rosie Brooks &
New Mandarin Text
Today the world is very different from the 1920s when L'Enfant et les Sortilèges was written.
In the scene with the teacup and teapot, we took the decision to make changes the original text written by Colette. In the original text, the teacup sings almost-nonsense syllables intended to sound like Chinese, and this fake-Chinese is taken up by the teapot towards the end of the scene.
‘Below the surface’ of this nonsense text is a layer of meaning which, to French listeners, may just about be apparent; the syllables are just close enough to real French words that one can pick out the underlying message: “since you don’t understand this, it will always sound Chinese”. This hidden message from Colette, in the context of the time in which it was written (when the prosperous Parisian public was fascinated by the exoticism of all things from the East), skewers this fashionable objectification of Chinese culture.
We took the decision that, for a production in 2020, this presentation of a singer performing in nonsense-Chinese was not respectful, regardless of the fact that the original intention was not to take aim at Chinese culture, but Parisian high society's fascination with it. We wanted our production to speak to absolutely everyone, and not be seen to be belittling any culture with a phoney imitation of the language.
We commissioned a new text in Mandarin from poet Victor Fong, to be sung to the existing music. The meaning of this new text closely mirrors the hidden meaning of Colette’s original text:
Hey you - what the heck are you doing?
Since you can’t understand,
(You will never, ever, in your whole life understand)
It will always sound like Chinese.
For a copy of the new text and its setting to music, please contact VOPERA directly.
We consulted widely, with people outside our production team and from different cultural backgrounds, who brought professional expertise in this important and complicated matter of how to present different cultures in pieces of performance art written in the previous decades and centuries. In general terms, this is an ongoing matter, and we as creatives must continue to try to find the right answers to these important questions - there is always a balance to be struck between serving the authors’ original intentions and presenting productions which are a reflection of the values we hold today.