Stage Door News

Cambridge: Vera Causa Opera presents Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les sortilèges” November 15-17

Monday, October 14, 2019

L'Enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells) is a scintillating bite-size opera, clocking in at a run time of only 45 minutes. The opera was commissioned by Opéra de Paris and was completed in 1925. Though short in length, the opera is certainly not lacking in scope: with a cast of 25 characters and challenging choral and orchestral demands, L'Enfant et les sortilèges is a fantastical romp that is enjoyable for both children and adults alike.

The composer, Maurice Ravel, is one of France's most cherished composers, and L'Enfant et les sortilèges is his second completed opera. The first, often programmed together with L'Enfant et les sortilèges, is the equally eccentric L'heure espagnole. Ravel is known for his impressionistic style of composition and whimsical aesthetic. Things to listen for in the opera are his unique ability to build dramatic tension through harmony and musical texture, and his illustrative melodies that express the unique traits and personalities of each character.

The plot centres around a mischievous child who refuses to do his homework, and is thus reprimanded by his mother and forced to stay is his room. In the fit of a tantrum, the child starts destroying the objects in his room and attacking the animals from the garden. Much to the child's surprise and horror, the objects come to life one by one in order to punish the child for his wrath and recklessness. After being pursued by the damaged furniture and tea set, as well as an enraged fire from the fireplace, the child begins to feel some regret as he is confronted by the beautiful princess from one of his favourite storybooks he destroyed. 

The moment is interrupted and the punishments continue as the child's homework comes to life the form of an angry old man and torments the child. The child's cats appear, and lead him into the garden, where he observes the laments of the woodland animals, the trees, and a broken-hearted dragonfly. When the wildlife notice the child's presence, they attack, seeking revenge for the child's wrongdoings. In fear and remorse, the child goes to the aid of an injured squirrel, and the animals, now seeing the child's ability to be good and caring, take pity on him and allow him to return to his mother.

When the opera was commissioned, it was intended as a theatrical ballet. Though the opera is often staged today without dancers, we are partnering with Waterloo's The Contemporary School of Dance (CSD) to pay homage to the original production. The CSD dancers, along with Vera Causa Opera's incredible chorus, orchestra, and principal singers will all be in top form, and The Child and the Spells is a show you will not want to miss!

For tickets to performances in Cambridge, Waterloo and Guelph, visit

Photo: Scene from L'Enfant et les sortilèges. © 2019 VCO.