|A New Musical|
|Basis||Hans Christian Andersen story, The Nightingale|
|Productions||1982 Off West End|
Nightingale: A New Musical is a musical (described by the composer as a children's opera) in one act, with book, music and lyrics by Charles Strouse. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Nightingale, and tells the story of a Chinese emperor who learns, nearly too late, that wealth cannot buy happiness.
The work premiered at the Buxton Festival and then in London at the Lyric Hammersmith beginning on December 18, 1982 with a cast including Sarah Brightman as the title character, Nightingale. In the U.S. a staged reading of the show was given by the First All Children's Theatre in New York in May 1982. The group then gave a preview of the work in New York in March 1983 before the North American premiere at "The Barns" at Wolf Trap, Wolf Trap, Virginia, in April 1983. Since then, the show has been performed numerous times throughout the world.
A cast album was released in 1985 with the London cast.
- Prologue - Orchestra
- Perfect Harmony - Company
- Why Am I So Happy? - The Maid
- Take Us To the Forest - Company
- Who Are These People - Nightingale
- Never Speak Directly to an Emperor - Palace Guards
- Nightingale - Company
- The Emperor is a Man - The Maid
- I Was Lost - Emperor / Nightingale
- Charming - Two Peacocks
- A Singer Must Be Free - Nightingale
- The Mechanical Bird - The Company / Mechanical Bird
- Please Don't Make Me Hear That Song Again - Company / Mechanical Bird
- Rivers Cannot Flow Upwards - The Maid, Nightingale
- Death Duet - Death, Emperor, Maid and Nightingale
- We Are China - Company
The Emperor of China is powerful and wealthy, but isolated from the world around him. He hears that the most beautiful thing in his country is the song of the nightingale (though a dull-looking bird), and he has a beautiful maid bring the bird to him. The nightingale becomes popular, and when the Emperor almost dies, the nightingale's song brings him back to life. Soon, the nightingale and the Emperor become good friends, but the nightingale is unhappy at her captivity. Meanwhile the Emperor is sent a gift of a mechanical bird that can sing and is covered in beautiful jewels. The new toy becomes the star at the palace, and everyone forgets about the nightingale. The neglected nightingale flies away, and no one notices.
Finally, when the mechanical bird breaks down, the Emperor notices that the nightingale has flown away. He realizes that he made a mistake: you cannot possess what you love. Burying himself in work, the lonely Emperor grows ill. Meanwhile the beautiful palace maid has fallen in love with the Emperor. The Emperor nearly dies again, but the nightingale returns, and her song is again victorious over Death. The Emperor asks the nightingale to teach him the song of life, the greatest gift in the world. The bird replies that the palace maid has already given him the greatest gift: her innocent love. The nightingale then teaches them the song, and the Emperor, the maid and the nightingale all live happily ever after.
Roles and London cast
- Narrator (baritone) - Andrew Shore
- Emperor (bass-baritone) - Gordon Sandison
- Nightingale (soprano) - Sarah Brightman
- Maid (soprano or mezzo-soprano) - Susannah Fellows
- Peacock #1 - Dinah Harris
- Peacock #2 (mezzo-soprano) - Jill Pert
- Death - Michael Heath
- Mechanical Bird - Carole Brooke
- Minister, Sculptor, Banker, animals, etc.