Prokofiev’s The Love of Three Oranges comes to Deutsche Oper in an elegantly grinning staging from Robert Carsen. The Canadian director’s previous outings at the house have been mixed (an overly grim Macbeth and an Ariande auf Naxos that descended into a hopeless mise en abyme), but here he dishes up a wonderfully clever, at times wacky, staging.
Sung in French, this production isn’t so much guided by a single concept as it is merely outfitted with arresting visual and directorial touches. There are the ten hecklers as a bunch of Kalashnikov-wielding terrorists. There are the deep, luxuriant saffron curtains, carpets and costumes. There are the kooky sets (courtesy of Paul Steinberg) for the hypochondriac Prince’s bedroom, with everything (costumes, linen, wallpaper) covered with a pill motif, and the filthy kitchen of Creonte’s cook, littered with severed body parts. To add to this, Carsen vaguely sets the show in Berlin, inserting logos of this city’s famous cultural institutions and video of celebrities walking the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival. For the most part, these local references only added an extra dose of silliness. One exception was how the oranges expand into miniature versions of Berlin’s three opera houses. The princess that popped out of the orange labeled “Komische Oper” even sang her few lines in German, a nod to that company’s tradition of performing in translation.