Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lukas Foss composed Griffelkin for the NBC television network, which broadcast the opera on 6 November 1955. Based on a children's fable, Foss wanted Griffelkin to appeal to listeners ages "8 to 80", and wrote in a very accessible, though not simplistic musical style, and the story has enough of a mature subtext to interest adults as well as children (as all good "children's" music must).
Griffelkin is the youngest of the devils-in-training under the tutelage of "Grandmother", who gives him a special surprise for his tenth birthday: he is to be sent to earth for one day to cause as much havoc as he can with his magic dust. This he does with little
skill, but much determination--mainly performing magic stunts (like animating stone lions). He soon meets a young girl who, impressed by his powers, asks Griffelkin to restore health to her gravely ill mother. When the mother dies, the young devil is so moved by the girl's and her brother's grief, that uses the last of his magic dust to resurrect her. Griffelkin is immediately returned to hell, where he is tried and convicted for committing an act of kindness. His punishment: loss of his powers, and banishment to the world of humans where, happily, he rejoins the little girl, and is welcomed into her family.
Harmonically and texturally, Foss' score owes quite a bit to Stravinsky (especially in its persistent rhythmic impetus), and to a lesser degree, Hindemith (yes, it does have tunes!). But the overall structure and style of the opera is recognizably Mozartean. The music begins simply in the opening scene which depicts the young devils' roll-call, but as the opera progresses it becomes more sophisticated and even dark towards the close of Act II, where Griffelkin has caused considerable chaos in the Town Square. For Griffelkin's change of heart scene in Act III, Foss composes music of a tenderness that becomes quite touching as the little girl and her brother sing of their love for their mother.
Overall the principals offer polished and committed performances, particularly Kendra Colton who convincingly portrays the complex mix of mirth, confusion, frustration, loneliness, and loving kindness that comprises Griffelkin. As the Girl, Misa Ann Iwama's sweet singing easily steals your heart, while Marion Dry's grandmother sounds appropriately school-marmish. Of the men, Aaron Engebreth offers a comically authoritative Policeman, while David M. Cushing and Drew Poling sound understandably bemused as the two animated Lions, but I would have liked to hear a lot more snarl and fury in their voices. Conductor Gil Rose leads the Boston Modern Orchestra Project with panache and discernable enthusiasm. Chandos' clear, immaculately balanced recording presents the score with vibrant impact in your listening room. Foss was right in his estimation: there's much to enjoy in this lively and engaging opera--no matter what your age.
--Victor Carr, Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Griffelkin by Lukas Foss
Elizabeth Keusch (Soprano),
Kendra Colton (Soprano),
Glorivy Arroyo (Mezzo Soprano),
Yeghishe Manucharyan (Tenor),
Emily Browder (Soprano),
David M. Cushing (Bass),
Drew Poling (Baritone),
Janna Baty (Soprano),
Misa Ann Iwama (Mezzo Soprano),
Aaron Engebreth (Baritone),
Lynn Torgove (Mezzo Soprano),
Anne Harley (Soprano),
Marion Dry (Alto),
Anne Carolyn Bird (Soprano)
Back Bay Chorale,
Boston Modern Orchestra Project,
Boston Children's Opera members
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1955; USA
Date of Recording: 04/2002
Venue: Mechanichs Hall, Worchester, MA
Length: 102 Minutes 35 Secs.
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