The Royal College of Music (RCM) Opera Studio is set to present a triple bill of one-act French operatic masterpieces, the south-west London-based conservatoire has announced.

The programme consists of Britten’s Les Illuminations (1940), Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Son, 1884) and Ravel’s L’heure espagnole (Spanish Time, 1911). The three works have been chosen to celebrate the French language through their elegant libretti, as well as showcase the versatility of the Royal College of Music’s talented young singers, the music school said.

Olivia Fuchs directs the varied production. She has given the three pieces a contemporary setting, drawing out the shared theme of searching for one’s identity to create a cohesive programme. Michael Rosewell, RCM’s director of opera, conducts.

Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations sets prose and verse poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud from his collection of the same name. It is written for a soprano soloist performing alongside a string orchestra. Claude Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, a Prix de Rome-winning dramatic cantata, reimagines the biblical tale of the prodigal son arriving home to mixed feelings from his parents. The young Azael has sought to find himself with drugs, sex and decadence, distancing himself from his homeland in the process.

Concluding the programme is Ravel’s popular comédie musicale L’heure espagnole. Although sung in French, the piece is set in the Spanish city of Toledo and follows a farcical plot featuring the hapless Torquemada, his mischievous wife and a host of comical characters concealed in clocks.

As is traditional for RCM opera productions, two casts will alternate performances, giving as many of the college’s young singers as possible the chance to take to the RCM’s Britten Theatre stage.

The first performance is on 16 March, continuing to 21 March. Tickets are on sale now.



The Royal College of Music presents a Britten, Debussy and Ravel triple bill this spring.