The Love for Three Oranges (L'Amour des Trois Oranges) - Sergei Prokofiev
Information about the opera The Love for Three Oranges by Sergei Prokofiev, and the best recordings available on CD or DVD, or for download.
Prokofiev's surreal fantasy, based on a play of the same name by Carlo Gozzi, is closer to street theatre than traditional opera. There are no memorable tunes or arias, but it's a compelling and enchanting work.
The king is worried because his son, the Prince, is ill and depressed, suffering from hyperchondria. He summons his Jester, Trouffaldino, to arrange a series of entertainments in an attempt to make his son laugh, but Léandre, the Prime Minister, is scornful of the plan. In fact he is plotting with the King's niece, Princess Clarissa, to kill the Prince so she will be next in line to the throne.
The entertainments fail to make the Prince laugh because Léandre's protector, Fata Morgana, is present, but when the crowd knocks Fata Morgana down the Prince finally begins to laugh. She is so incensed that she casts a curse on him that he will fall in love with three oranges. With Trouffaldino he rushes off to the cook's kitchen where the oranges are.
Tchélio, the King's protector, gives Trouffaldino an enchanted ribbon to protect them from the cook, and warns him not to open the oranges until they are near water. When he and the Prince arrive at the cook's kitchen he distracts the cook by giving her the ribbon, and the Prince takes the three oranges.
As they cross the desert the oranges grow in size, and tired of dragging them along the Prince insists on having a sleep. While he is sleeping Trouffaldino becomes thirsty and decides to open one of the oranges, but is surprised to find a princess inside. She says that she'll die unless he gives her water soon, so in desperation he opens the second orange. It contains a second princess who also demands water, and the Prince awakes to see the two princesses, both having died of thirst.
The Prince opens the last orange, and with help from the onlookers who give him a bottle of water, he saves the third princess and pledges to marry her. After a final attempt to thwart him by Fata Morgana, the Prince and princess are married to the joy of the King and his courtiers.
Recommended recordings on CD
Nagano/Bacquier/Viala (Virgin Classics VCD7 59566-2)
An excellent recording, sung in French, of a uniformly strong cast and winner of a 1990 Gramophone award.
Lyon Opera Chorus, Lyon Opera Orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano, 1989.
Cast: Gabriel Bacquier (King of Clubs), Jean-Luc Viala (Prince), Hélène Perraguin (Princess Clarissa), Vincent Le Texier (Léandre).
Virgin Classics VCD7 59566-2
Recommended recordings on DVD
Denève/Vernhes/Defontaine (Opus Arte OA 0957 D)
An enchanting performance, recorded live at the Amsterdam Muziektheater, with excellent performances. Recommended.
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, conducted by Stéphane Denève, 2005.
Cast: Alain Vernhes (King of Clubs), Martial Defontaine (Prince), Natascha Petrinsky (Princess Clarissa), François Le Roux (Léandre), Serghei Khomov (Trouffaldino).
Opus Arte OA 0957 D