Philip Glass' 1995 opera-ballet was created for Teatro alla Scala in collaboration with illustrator and stage designer Beni Montresor, who adapted the libretto from his 1989 children's book The Witches of Venice. The story is a fantastic tale of a boy grown from a plant in the King's garden, who passes through many trials in search of a soulmate, the plant girl. The beautifully produced CD book (it's more than a booklet) contains illustrations from Montresor's storybook, in his characteristic style of dense pen and ink crosshatching overlaid with glowing watercolor. In the tradition of Menotti's The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore, the music contains songs and choruses that advance the plot, performed by singers who are not part of the stage action. Glass' music is written largely in the effectively melodramatic and colorful style of La Belle et la bête, but with atypical interpolations of sampled sound effects. The evocative music is ideally suited for a narrative ballet and contains more broad humor than is typical for a Glass score. The singers sound like they thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to interject some camp into the more absurd moments in the story, such as the witches' preparation for their ball. No instrumental ensemble is credited, but it could safely be assumed to be the Philip Glass Ensemble. Although it is not stated explicitly in the credits, it could probably also be assumed that the recording was a result of the La Scala production, since it employs all the same singers. The recorded sound is crisp and bright.
Philip Glass: The Witches of Venice Review
by Stephen Eddins
|Witches of Venice, ballet|