L'oiseau bleu (opera)
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.
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. 
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 27 December 1919 |
Conductor: Albert Wolff
|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|
|Father Time||bass||Leon Rothier|
|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|
|The cat||soprano||Margaret Romaine|
|The dog||-||Robert Cousinou|
|Mme Berlingot||contralto||Jeanne Gordon|
|The child||-||Ada Vosari|
|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|
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.
- Spieth-Weissenbacher, C. "Albert Wolff" in: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. S. Sadie. London & New York, Macmillan, 1997.
- Kobbé, G. The Complete Opera Book, p. 851.
- Loewenberg, A. Annals of Opera. London: John Calder, 1978.
- 'Computerised Archival Retrieval in Multimedia Enhanced Networking' - The digital opera archives of La Monnaie. http://carmen.demunt.be/ accessed 11 September 2008.