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Isabel Leonard shines with SFO in magical performance of Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortileges / OPERAwire

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Fantasy. Enchantment. The Land of Dreams. So it was in San Francisco on the last day of June with Ravel's "L' Enfant et des Sortileges" at Davies Symphony Hall and the Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

Just getting to the concert hall was a multi-colored, multi-media challenge, long-before the audience was presented with the anime-enhanced multi-chorus semi-staged opera. And indoors, it was all French. First performed in 1925, Ravel's creation is thoughtful as well as ravishing. The story of a child rebelling against the social strictures imposed on his far-flying imagination and energy is hardly new, though Ravel's somewhat quaint "crimes" delights – i.e., spilling ink on the floor, or breaking a Chinese Tea Cup, tame compared to today's rebellious actings-out.

The performance featured three choruses – the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Symphony Boys' and Girls' Choruses, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – as well as a cast of wonderful singers, of different fachs and playing anthropomorphized animals led by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as The Child. These were led by Martyn Brabbins, Music Director of the English National Opera. Brabbins had become a substitute for Michael Tilson Thomas, withdrawing for medical reasons.

Leonard's performance was outstanding. "That's Isabel Leonard?" was heard when the "young boy" appeared in his backwards cap, shorts and shirt.  S/he moved flexibly across the stage, complete with feisty childlike-expression and whiny rebellious tones a boy with a true parental challenge. A resonant, full-bodied, rich, sonorous, palate of colors and communication was at her vocal command. In addition to her musical and dramatic skill, Leonard's brought great joy to the role, which totally infectious. No question this role rounds out her current repertoire with another plum part.        PHOTO: (Credit: Brandon Patoc)

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