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Growing up with 'L'enfant'

Juneau's Damerval brings a French perspective to Opera to Go's presentation of the opera

Posted: Thursday, April 01, 2004

If you grow up in France, you will likely see "L'enfant et les Sortileges" when you are very young.

"It's sort of a childhood play," said Philippe Damerval, a Juneau resident and a native of France, from Normandy and the French West Indies. "They usually show it in your town when you're in primary school."

Damerval, a computer programmer and a baritone, plays a black cat, as well as the armchair that awakens in the early moments of the play and frightens L'enfant.

"I'm not an armchair or a black cat specifically," Damerval said. "I am one of the sortilege. I am an effect of the magic - some supernatural-not-accounted-for-by-regular-science happening. So I am a talking, singing armchair. I see myself as rather immobile, rather repressed, because I've been stuck in one place and made of wood and fabric for years. Suddenly, becoming alive is new, especially for this inanimate object. The animals have been used to moving all along, they just haven't been used to being able to talk. I am a static version of the opera."

Damerval speaks seven languages - French, English, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch. Though most of Opera to Go's presentation is sung in English, he helped the cast understand the inside jokes of some of Colette's libretto during some moments in rehersal.

"Colette was never really down to earth," Damerval said. "She was never really far from the clouds or far from fantasy. As many writers would do, she would live her life day-by-day, taking her own stories into her days, rather than making stories out of her days. Someone once said that all we are is a collection of stories. Colette very much fits that description.

"It's a very representative story in terms of the theater what went on in Ravel's time," he said. "It's a good mixture of morals and a good mixture of down-to-earth questions and up-in-the-clouds considerations. This is a child's world. Nothing lasts forever, and we can even imagine at the end when the child has come around and has learned his lesson, that the next day he will start again. Because that is how children are."



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