Words failed me watching this "children's opera." This is an inspired and astoundingly profound work - not necessarily just for children. Faithfully based on the classic French children's tale, Rachel Portman has crafted what feels - and sounds - like a dream come to life. Musically, the score is firmly based in mid to late 20th century "classical" music (indeed, portions sound as though they could have been penned by Benjamin Britten), yet remain highly accessible to the casual listener. Portman's score is clear and concise emphasizing the text through the narratives which link the various scenes together. This leaves one unprepared for the experience of being hit full on with some truly remarkable choral music that creates the aural illusion of expanding into space - a truly remarkable experience
While the opera sounds and feels good - delightful even - all the way through, its final 20-30 minutes - beginning with the Pilot's carrying the Prince through the night in the desert in search of a well - have magic writ on every page. One cannot help but feel the influence of Janacek and the "nature" music of his operas.
The cast is inspired with Australian baritone Teddy Tahu-Rhodes as the Pilot in an ever blooming voice that captures the tale's narrative with a wistful, dreamlike quality. He is, in a single word: sensational.
As the Prince, Joseph McManners escapes the cloying saccharine too easily on display in talented children - his unaffected, natural ease made me assume the role had been written for him. Like Saint-Exupery's "Petit Prince" McManners understands this role and the music and like Saint-Exupery's original "Petit Prince" exudes a sweet mixture of melancholy, naiveté and wisdom that makes this character so special.
Leslie Garrett, the inestimable Willard White, Tom Randle and Tom Robinson (with exquisite music as the Lamplighter) all contribute beautifully and fit into Francesca Zambello's unique vision of this most beautiful of children's stories.
A most remarkable work that should be enjoyed by children and adults alike
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