Prokofiev was thirty when his opera The Love for Three Oranges was premiered in Chicago at the end of 1931. So it was not the youngest Prkfv (his own abbreviation) but it has youth written all over it. He intended to shock and he succeeded. The music is wild, manic, brittle, ironic, fantastic, contains a lot of stimulating, marvellous music; and quite a lot of second-rate stuff, written, as he admitted, in a hurry. It is a director’s dream, giving him room and a need for invention and an ability to make Prkfv’s extravagant demands work. At the Grange, Hampshire (June 26) it gets what is required from the director/designer David Fielding, gets it in spades (some of the cast are dressed as playing cards). A Prince is wasting away: only if he can laugh will his depression leave him. There are some who would like him to die, others wish him to live.
When one nasty, Fata Morgana, pratt falls the Prince laughs. He also sets out on a search for the trio of citrus fruit that Fata Morgana has told him about, although she warns him that the girls released from their oranges will die if they are not immediately given water. No. Three Orange is the girl that the Prince decides is the one he wants to make Princess. Alas, she turns into a rat. All comes right for the final curtain, after futher adventures with a giant cook and members of the audience who express their wishes for fun and games, not tragedy ..
Before the premiere the composer made the best numbers from the opera into an orchestral suite; this proved a popular success, particuarly the tiny, dotty march that we all know and love. The bits inbetween the suite numbers are rather dry and recitativeish, devoid of melody. The rather thin invention of much of the opera, however gave the director his chance to beguile us with every mod. con.: gimmicks, tricks, amazing lighting effects (the ubiquitous Wolfgang Goebbel, of course). There are many characters and a large chorus, all well sung and effective.
The English Chamber Orchestra (not so chamber neither) is put through its paces under Leo Hussain. There is not much real singing but honours go to the Prince (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts), his dad the King (Clive Bayley) Truffaldino (Gozzi wrote the original story, hence Truffo, well played by Wynne Evans), the P.M. (Henry Waddington) and Fata Morgana (Rebecca Cooper).
The only under-par performance was that of the sur-titles, frequently late or non-existent.
This was a happy event for a summer’s evening.