PREVIEW: L’enfant by Samling Opera at Saltburn Community Theatre on 28th July and Sage, Gateshead on 30th/31st July 2015

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Returning to Hall Two on 30th and 31st July will be Samling Academy Opera, who blew this reviewer away with their extremely skilful ‘Albert Herring’, Benjamin Britten’s comic opera, in 2013.

Samling Academy Opera is an innovative development by Samling, which until 2012 was primarily known for its work in developing the potential of young professional singers and accompanists at the start of their careers. In 2012 they started Samling Academy, a series of intensive coaching sessions with young musicians aged 14-21, and out of this in 2013 came the first Samling Academy Opera. It is with great excitement, therefore, that I approach their second opera, a staging of ‘L’enfant et les sortilèges’ music by Maurice Ravel, libretto by Colette. 

L’enfant, as it is tenderly known by those in the know, is a one-act fantastic work involving singing objects, plants and animals in a child’s home. Quite a challenge for any company to stage, Samling have brought on-board Dena Lague as movement director and lighting designer Matt Haskins to bring that added extra to the performance. It will be a fully-staged production in costume, although the score is reduced to piano duet, cello and flute.

The picture above shows the performers in rehearsal. So what are we to expect? Local Samling Artist (i.e. graduate of their esteemed masterclass programme) Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson sings the dual parts of Fire and Nightingale, and she will bring sparkle to these coloratura soprano roles. All the other parts are filled by Samling Academy singers – so those who saw Albert Herring will recognise Alex Banfield returning as Teapot and Tree-frog, as well as many other rising stars.

And why should you go and see this production at the Sage or Saltburn Community Theatre? I think I’ll leave those words to the rehearsal pianist/one half of the piano duet, Ian Tindale: “Ravel’s magical soundworld brings every character vividly to life. Like all good films there is good and evil, but light and dark, real and unreal are all blurred together in a fantastically compelling and mysterious way. Also, there are more talking objects and singing animals than in a Disney movie. What more could you want?”

Previewer: Katie Lodge

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