L'oiseau bleu (opera)

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Albert Wolff and Boris Anisfeld at a rehearsal for L'Oiseau Bleu at the Metropolitan Opera in 1919
Going to rehearsal of L'Oiseau Bleu in 1919

L'oiseau bleu (The Blue Bird) is an opera in four acts (eight tableaux) by the French composer and conductor Albert Wolff. The libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck is based on his 1908 play of the same name. Boris Anisfeld designed the sets.

Performance history[edit]

It was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City on 27 December 1919.[1]

Maeterlinck, the playwright and Nobel laureate, was present at the premiere, which, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, was a benefit for four charities: the Queen of the Belgians Fund, the Millerand Fund for French Orphans, the Three Big Sister Organizations (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish), and the Milk for the Children of America Fund. [2]

The first Belgian performance was on 21 April 1920,[3] and it was revived at the Théâtre de la Monnaie on 14 February 1956, conducted by the composer.[4]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 27 December 1919
Conductor: Albert Wolff
Tyltyl mezzo-soprano Raymonde Delaunois
Mytyl soprano Mary Ellis
Mother Tyl soprano Florence Easton
Father Tyl baritone Paolo Ananian
Grandmother Tyl mezzo-soprano Louise Berat
Grandfather Tyl bass Léon Rothier
Maternal Love soprano Florence Easton
Joy of Understanding soprano Gladys Axman
Light mezzo-soprano Flora Perini
Father Time bass Leon Rothier
Bread baritone Mario Laurenti
Milk sorpano Marie Tiffany
The little girl soprano Edna Kellogg
Two little lovers mezzo-soprano, contralto Minnie Egener, Helena Marsh
Joy of Being Just - Margaret Farnham
Joy of Seeing What is Beautiful mezzo-soprano Cecil Arden
The fairy contralto Jeanne Gordon
Night mezzo-soprano Frances Ingram
The cat soprano Margaret Romaine
The dog - Robert Cousinou
Mme Berlingot contralto Jeanne Gordon
Happiness soprano Mary Mellish
The child - Ada Vosari
Sugar tenor Octave Dua
Fire tenor Angelo Badà
Another child - Miss Kennedy
First child - Miss Belleri
Second child - Miss Florence
Third child - Miss Borniggia
Fourth child soprano Phyllis White
Fifth child - Miss Manetti

Synopsis[edit]

Tyltyl and Mytyl are the children of a poor wood-chopper. At Christmas there is no tree or Christmas stocking for them. When the parents believe them safely tucked up in bed, the children creep out and watch through the window the preparations being made for the holiday in a wealthy neighbour’s home across the way.

While they are absorbed in this, Fairy Berylune enters. She is a witch who demands from the children that they bring her the grass that sings, and the bird that is blue so that her own little child who is sick may be restored to health and happiness. Upon agreeing to find the bird, the fairy crowns Tyltyl with a magic cap set with a wonderful diamond, which has power to disclose the past and future, and to turn inanimate objects and animals into speaking creatures. Everything around the children begins to take life and voice: milk, sugar, light, bread, the fire, cat and dog.

Suddenly the window opens and the children set off on their quest. They go first to the Land of Memory, then the Palace of the Night, Garden of Happiness, the Cemetery and then the Kingdom of the Future, but cannot capture the blue bird. They return home to bed.

When morning comes, a neighbour who looks like the Fairy enters to beg for a blue bird so that her sick child may be cured by the sight of it. Looking around, the children are amazed to see that their own turtle dove has turned blue. They gladly offer it for the sick child, and with the gift the invalid’s spirits return. When Tyltyl asks for its return and the child shows reluctance to give it back, the blue bird escapes from both and flies off.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Spieth-Weissenbacher, C. "Albert Wolff" in: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. S. Sadie. London & New York, Macmillan, 1997.
  2. ^ Kobbé, G. The Complete Opera Book, p. 851.
  3. ^ Loewenberg, A. Annals of Opera. London: John Calder, 1978.
  4. ^ 'Computerised Archival Retrieval in Multimedia Enhanced Networking' - The digital opera archives of La Monnaie. http://carmen.demunt.be/ accessed 11 September 2008.