Singing furniture, animals, a princess and household objects come to life, as Maurice Ravel’s rarely-performed opera L’Enfant et les sortileges (The Child and the Magic Spells). There are semi-staged performances tonight and this weekend at Davies Symphony Hall with guest conductor Martyn Brabbins leading the San Francisco Symphony.

There’s more information about the performances at the San Francisco Symphony website.

The plot of the opera is simple: “This naughty little boy who won’t do his homework, and makes a mess on the carpet, and then everything turns against him. Absolutely everything turns against him, until he does a good deed. And then we realize that even in the naughtiest of children, there’s a heart of gold… The thread of consistency is the child, Isabel Leonard in this particular production. And then all the other creatures and items of furniture that come alive, all revolve around her. The clock, and the armchair and the sofa, and the Chinese cup and the teapot, and then all the animals come to life. It’s just a kaleidoscopic visual and aural journey.” Martyn Brabbins has conducted this particular production before – it has projected animations which the singers interact with. He says the piece is a delight before you even get to the drama. “It’s one of the most extraordinary orchestral pieces, let alone the fact that it’s a wonderful opera. Ravel is one of those composers whose every note is a gem, is a jewel. And in L’Enfant et les sortileges, you get some of the most exquisite orchestral writing.  As an orchestral conductor alone, it’s a joyful journey. And then combined with the fact that it’s an absolutely exquisite, magical, kind of fairy tale of a piece.”