Leonard Slatkin is an exceptionally versatile conductor, but it is perhaps in French repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries that he feels most comfortable. The singers in Ravel's exquisitely formed little comic opera L'Heure espagnole, complete with cheating lovers hidden inside grandfather's clocks carried up and down stairs, are all entirely appropriate and admirably clear, but it is really Slatkin who's the star here, right from the "Introduction" that's so artfully linked to what follows. Ravel here cultivates a kind of updated accompanied recitative, well matched to his stated goal of reviving the old tradition of Italian opera buffa. The dialogue seems straightforward, but it is subtly and considerably heightened by the music in ways that may be clear to the listener only in retrospect. Sample the sly "Salut à la belle Horlogère!" (track eight) for a taste of how Slatkin holds the entire scene, orchestra and singing of mezzo-soprano Isabelle Druet, in the palm of his hand, and of the light sexiness in the opera embodied in the afternoon-delight-seeking Concepción. A bonus is the set of three Don Quichotte à Dulcinée songs, the last work Ravel completed. Highly recommended and absolutely delightful.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Don Quichotte à Dulcinée|