There are many classical concerts aimed specifically at children but Opera written specifically for children is rare. Iris Theatre is putting on 4 performances in Central London later this month and I would like to bring them to your attention.

Ravel composed “L'Enfant et les Sortilèges” with a libretto that started life as a ballet score written by the celebrated writer Colette in 1914. Jacques Rouché, head of the Paris Opera had commissioned it, and with her permission Ravel was chosen as composer. However he wasn't interested in doing a ballet and told her that he would do a children's opera instead if she cared to rewrite it as a libretto (with a boy as the central character, because he didn't know any girls!) The first World War intervened with Ravel in service as an ambulance driver so he didn't see the finished libretto until 1918. Even then he put off the job until contractually forced to complete it, which he eventually did in 1924 and the finished work was premiered in 1925. Early audiences were most disconcerted by the work whose subject matter is that of a small boy, scolded by his mother and sent to bed with dry bread who proceeds to throw a giant tantrum destroying his room in the process. Finally the objects in the room rebel with the clock chiming uncontrollably (audible in the music) and a Wedgwood teapot and Chinese cup start a conversation in pidgin English, then dance a foxtrot together. After many more exciting events and an extraordinary and memorable duet between two cats, the boy is taught an important lesson...

Ravel's conception of the piece was: “Here it is song that dominates. Without disdaining instrumental virtuosity, the orchestra nevertheless remains in the background.” In this production this will certainly be the case with the orchestra shrunk to two pianos, one cello and one flute.

The second half of the evening will be filled by a half-hour piece of musical theatre (a play with actors backed by music, rather like Peter and the Wolf) written and composed by Brazilian-American composer Miguel Kertsman. The storyline brings together a Welsh water-sprite and a well known Brazilian fairytale character “Saci” an ex-slave descendant from Brazil: a one-legged, black prankster with a magical red cap and a glowing pipe who likes to juggle embers! Who knows what will happen when these two get together...

If you listen to Kertsman's music online from his website you can get a good idea of the dramatic nature of his music which should provide a wonderfully colourful background to his children's tale. His Brazilian roots show up clearly in his music and this particular work uses the samba as a strong motif throughout.

Alexander Medem, director of the Children's Opera project commissioned the piece by Kertsman scored with the same instruments as were being used for the Ravel, to create a companion piece which could join the classical repertoire for the future.

Medem, born in 1981 is half Peruvian, half German and has already accumulated experience as a Director in Paris, Pittsburg, London and Vienna,. He now works full-time as an Assistant Director at the renowned Burgtheater in Vienna.

You can see L'Enfant et les sortilèges and O Saci at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden on 27th - 29th August with two performances on the Saturday for £15 (£10 children and concessions.) To book tickets click here.