by Tamsyn

February 22, 2016

Children's Ballet- Peter and the Wolf

Peter and the Wolf
The Child and the Enchantments

I love the arts.  I love dancing, singing, orchestra music, theater.  When all of them are rolled into one, it's just wonderful, isn't it?  Keeping to the theme of teaching CHILDREN music, I have chosen children's stories that have been uniquely set to ballet.  Peter and the wolf- a story often used to teach children about the instruments in the orchestra, is masterfully done by the Royal Ballet School as a children's opera.  L'Enfant et les Sortileges (The Child and the Enchantments) is typically performed as a short opera but in this case the singers are off-stage and the Nederlands Dans Theater Ballet takes the stage.

children's ballet

Peter and the Wolf-
Performed by Children!

Prokofiev is famous for his "real" ballet music, but he is best known, especially in the states, for his rendering of "Peter and the Wolf".  Perhaps because of his experience working with ballet, Peter and the Wolf lends itself beautifully for dance.  Learn more about the performers and this arrangement here.

The reason I love this video is that is shows children playing the parts, and many of the children are boys, including of course, Peter.  Where my oldest son is named Peter, I have been particularly drawn to Peter and the Wolf and we have seen and read many versions.  This one is my favorite.

Fun fact:  As much as I detest communism, the truth is we wouldn't have this lovely music if it weren't for the oppressive government Prokofiev lived under.  He was interested in experimenting with 20th century music and his music, though accepted by the public, was too bizarre and radical for the government.  They threatened Prokofiev and told him that they wanted to see more traditional music.  They wanted audiences to be able to walk away with the melodies in their head.  They wanted to build national pride around the country's music and Prokofiev's experiments weren't cutting it.  The composer caved and wrote something so beautifully simple that audiences have loved for generations now.  Not that I would argue for communism, mind you, but sometimes something beautiful rises from dark soil.

"L'Enfant et les sortileges"
(The child and the enchantments)

If you asked a person off the street what the best opera for children is, they would probably think of Mozart's "The Magic Flute".  While this opera may be better a much better pick than, say, a tragedy, it is still a little long for many tiny children and has parts that I usually fast-forward when I am watching it with my kids.  This one is short, fast paced, and has so many characters and costumes that appeal to children, that in my opinion this is the very best opera to introduce to children first.

However, my opinion is a little biased.  This is one of the operas I had the chance to perform in when I was in college.  It was a great choice for our school because there are so many characters that can be played by women.  Many students, myself included, were seldom given a chance to play a lead, and this was our opportunity to have a chance to shine on stage.  It was really fun for all of us.  I played the squirrel, and the only picture I have on hand of the performance is a collage I made of my character.  You know, because it's all about me.  I thought I'd share it with you for fun anyway.

This particular performance unfortunately does not have subtitles.  Furthermore, the fact that the dancers are not the ones singing, it makes it difficult at times to know who is talking.  However, not having text does not detract from the story-line when you go to a ballet like the nutcracker, and these dancers do a superb job at acting and telling the story, even if you don't know what they are saying.  I seriously contemplated doing a giveaway of a different version that has subtitles, but this particular DVD comes with Peter and the Wolf too, and the combination was too classic for me to pass up.  If you know the synopsis, you'll know enough to enjoy the show, and you'll know enough to tell the children watching it with you what is happening.  Here's the scoop:

A little boy is supposed to be doing his homework, but he is resisting his responsibilities and feels defiant.  His mother comes in and scolds him, telling him that he will not get any dessert if he doesn't shape up.  After she leaves, the boy looses his temper and goes on a rampage, destroying many items in the room.  ​When he is done, he collapses to the floor, but something strange happens.  The items come to life!  And none of them are very happy with the boy.  First a male and female chair scold him, then the grandfather clock complains that he can no longer help the boy know what time it is.  A tea kettle and tea cup do a funny dance, and the fire comes to life telling the boy that he has been too careless.  The boy is especially distraught when the princess from his favorite story book comes to life and tells him that he has torn out the page where she lives happily ever after and she doesn't know what will happen to her now.  The boy mourns, telling her that he had always wished he could be the prince to save her.  She leaves in sorrow.  A shepherd scene was one of the boy's first memories in the room, and he destroyed the wallpaper.  Then the boy get's a math lesson with all kinds of nonsense problems and numbers thrown at him.

At length, the boy escapes to his garden, a place that has always been his refuge.  However, even here there are enchanted creatures that complain and taunt him.  The trees moan that he has scratched their bark and torn off their leaves.  A nightingale and a bat have seen the boy torment the animals and have done their best to stay aloof.  The frogs have also done their best to stay away because the boy is mean to any of their kind that he can get his hands on.  The squirrel, which was thrown out the window in a cage in the opening scene, is very sad that she is not free with her squirrel friends.  The boy says that he only caught her because he wanted to see her eyes, and ultimately lets her go.  However, the animals and creatures are not impressed and see this as their opportunity to teach the boy a lesson.  In all of the chaos, the squirrel's paw is injured.  The boy quickly helps the squirrel, carefully placing a bandage.  When the creatures see this, they forgive the boy and see that he is only a child and that his heart is good.  The boy is exhausted and the opera closes with him wanting to please his mother and be with her again.

Learn more about the DVD the winner will receive on Amazon

Giveaway Rules

About the author 


My name is Tamsyn and I love music. I got my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from USU. I spent many years teaching private piano lessons until I had children of my own. I have attended several children workshops on how to teach children music. I really like the Kodaly method, but have adapted a lot of different techniques for my own children.

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