Not a mini Mozart but a lit­tle Lloyd Web­ber


The Daily Telegraph - Review - - FILM -

Opera San José, cond. Jane Glover Sony Clas­si­cal

The case of the “child prodigy” com­poser Alma Deutscher gives cause for con­cern. Now 13, home­schooled by her aca­demic par­ents and liv­ing in Sur­rey, she has been in the pub­lic eye ever since she was seven and Stephen Fry, a friend of her fa­ther, pub­li­cised her tal­ent via Twit­ter. She has re­ceived great ac­claim from the likes of Si­mon Rat­tle and Daniel Baren­boim and the press keeps mak­ing the in­evitable com­par­i­son to Mozart.

Her full-length opera Cin­derella – per­haps more ac­cu­rately de­scribed as a pseudo-Vi­en­nese op­eretta – has re­ceived sev­eral pro­duc­tions and has now been re­leased on DVD in a mod­estly staged but per­fectly pleas­ant per­for­mance from Opera San José in Cal­i­for­nia. Jane Glover con­ducts the score with af­fec­tion, Vanessa Be­cerra sings very sweetly in the ti­tle role and Mary Dun­leavy makes much of the Wicked Step­mother and her col­oratura fire­works.

How good is it? Well, it is cer­tainly smoothly crafted with some nice twists to the fa­mil­iar plot (Deutscher has writ­ten the li­bretto as well) that sees Cin­derella pre­sented as a com­poser and the prince as a poet. But talk of ge­nius seems mis­placed. It isn’t un­usual for chil­dren to show what to adults seems like an un­nat­u­ral fa­cil­ity in mu­sic and for all those “child prodigy” com­posers who con­tin­ued to ma­ture – Men­delssohn, Korn­gold and Brit­ten, for ex­am­ple, as well as Mozart – there are many more who daz­zled briefly, then pe­tered out and are now for­got­ten.

What Deutscher clearly has is a gift for tonal melody; she can dream up pretty, shapely tunes in sim­ple time sig­na­tures of a kind that Schu­bert or Men­delssohn wrote in their youths. There are some duets and cho­ruses here, but noth­ing is tech­ni­cally com­plex, and the or­ches­tra­tion is con­ven­tional – pre­sum­ably she had a gen­er­ous help­ing hand in this depart­ment. In other words, there is noth­ing orig­i­nal here, noth­ing that in­di­cates real in­di­vid­u­al­ity of mu­si­cal think­ing. What she is do­ing, es­sen­tially, is im­i­tat­ing ex­ist­ing mod­els in lively, re­spon­sive pas­tiche.

This is not to be­lit­tle her – at her age, Mozart was in­deed do­ing the same thing. But I would de­scribe the re­sult as ex­cep­tional rather than prodi­gious, and I feel her tal­ent might well end up ma­tur­ing on the lighter end of the scale – she is cur­rently said to be work­ing on a mu­si­cal and I can imag­ine that she could well pro­duce some­thing of real note in that genre. Per­haps the kind­est and wis­est thing, how­ever, would be to turn the me­dia spot­light off, drop the hy­per­boles and al­low her to de­velop through ado­les­cence without pres­sure.

SMOOTHLY CRAFTEDOpera San José per­form Cin­derella by 13-year-old Alma Deutscher

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