Listening to this stunning recording of Philip Glass' chamber opera 'Les Infants Terribles' is not only a wholly satisfying musical and dramatic experience, it makes one long to see the opera in performance. This is the third work in the Jean Cocteau triptych ('La Belle et la Bete', 'Orphee', 'Les Infants Terribles') and if ever there was a perfect match between author/concept and music, this is it. Those familiar with the Cocteau films will remember the bizarre, surreal symbolism he managed to make visual and it is that same surreal atmosphere that Glass captures in this final work.
Scored for three pianos, four singers/speakers, and eight dancers, this opera has some of Glass' finest writing. The 'orchestra' of pianos (brilliantly played here by Philip Glass, Nelson Padgett and Eleanor Sandresky) is just the right counterpart for the small cast who recreate the strange tale of Paul and Lise, the characters who dwell in a world so imagined that the real world is far outside of their 'game'. Singers Christine Arand, soprano, Philip Cutlip, bass-baritone, Hal Cazalet, tenor and Valerie Komar, mezzo soprano both speak and sing, the spoken word is in English and serves as a Greek Chorus and the singing is in French: they are superb. Apparently in performance the dancers interact with the singers to create an action tableaux, but that of course is left to the imagination in a recording.
The fault some find with Glass' music is one of becoming tired because of the minimalist repetition of the music. That fault is simply not an issue in this brilliant piece; every note, every word both sung and spoken is so terse and correct with the beauty of the piano orchestra that the 100 minute opera seems to speed by. This is a brilliant little work. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, October 05