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Pollicino: An Opera for Children

Author(s): Hans Werner Henze

Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 121, No. 1654 (Dec., 1980), pp. 766-768
Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.
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Pollicino:an operaforchildren Hans WernerHenze's children's opera 'Pollicino
or New Adventuresof Tom Thumb' firstheard
last summerat theMontepulcianoFestival, is to
be given at Covent Garden on 16-20 December,

Hans WernerHenze at 2 and 5 p.m., conductedbyDavid Syrus and

producedby Richard Gregson.

I foundthesubjectofmyoperaPollicinoin a collectionof theysaid and howtheysaid them,theirenergy, theirwit

fairytalesmadeabouta hundredyearsago by Carlo Col- and theirnoises,madea greatimpression on me,and they
lodi, theauthorof Pinocchio,the mostfamousand most had no difficultyin makingme sayYes whentheyasked
loved Italian children's story. In Pollicino (pollice: me to writea piece forthem.
'thumb'),elementsfromGermanand Frenchtalescan be The ConcentusPolitianusis an instrumental group.
detected;but the generalatmosphere and all the actual The recorder is themostimportant component, butthere
details are unmistakablyItalian - more precisely, are also stringinstrumentsand a set of OrffSchulwerk
Tuscan. Much of theTuscan nationalcharacter is to be percussion(whichhad been donated).It was foundedin
foundin thesetales:thatsarcasmandcrudedryness under January1979,whenFournierFacio becamean employee
whichpeople hide theiremotions,disenchantment, ir- ofthecityofMontepulciano. He had attendedeveryCan-
reverence,irony. The children of Montepulciano tiereand had cometo love thepeopleofMontepulciano,
(southernTuscany)forwhomPollicinowas writtenen- especiallythechildren,and his job as animatoremusicale.
joyedthelibrettoenormously (theyknewit by heart,just His animazione embodies somethingof agitazione,and it
as muchas the musicand everybody else's parton the is thanksto him thatthereare now thebeginnings of a
stage)becauseI thinktheysaw themselves in it,and that musicallifethere.All thechildrenhad to be taughtthe
providedan elementof familiarity. basic essentialsof music and music-making beforehe
I asked Giuseppe Di Leva, the playwright and poet couldevendreamofplayingeasypieceswiththem.He is
(from not
Trento, Tuscany), to helpme with an operafor a marvellous teacher;I wouldhavelovedto havehadhim
children.He had workedwithme in thefirstMontepul- in myschool.
ciano CantiereInternazionaled'Arte(1976, in a retelling A monthafterthe encounter,I began to compose
of the Lorenzi-Paisiello Don Chisciottefor band and Pollicino.Di Leva had workedquicklyand efficiently. We
smallchamberorchestra) and in thefourth(withthecrea- werestillplanningthe endingat the timeI had already
tionofthehighlysuccessful ballet,withfireworks,on the finishedtwoscenes.But whatI had thoughtwouldtake
Piazza Grande,I mutidi Portici).He spentmuchtime me fourto sixweekstookfourmonthsofconcentrated but
discussing thesubjectofPollicinowithchildren ofvarious pleasant work. I think in that time (last winter)I
ages(especially with the daughters ofa Florentinefriend), rediscovered someof myown childhood,whenI triedto
in Milan,in Florenceandin thecountry. One cansayfair- recallmyfeelings- whathungerand coldwerelike,how
ly thatthe librettois strongly influencedby theiropi- scared I was by the worldand whatwere my greatest
nions, their fears, their sorrows and theirdreams.Bet- delights.So thememories appeared,andnotonlypleasant
telheimalso had a sayin thelibretto. ones,I am afraid;I broughtthemintothemusic(music
Butthemusic,too,is strongly influencedbychildren.It forotherchildren),to be used and sungand playedand
was theywhohadcomeup withtheidea in thefirstplace. acted. I knewthesechildrenhad littlemusicaltraining;
One afternoon in late August1979,whileI was quietly theyhad onlyjust startedto play instruments, and had
recovering lickingmywoundsfromthehardlabour
and neverreallysung,so I had to choosemeansofexpression
and thedefeatsof thefourthCantiere(workshop, as it is theycould understandand keep my technicaldemands
rightlycalled), the Concentus Politianus (about 15 withintheselimitations. In that,I did notalwayssucceed,
childrenfromMontepulciano)called on me. They had and thechildrenhad to studyharder;buttheysucceeded
come,on thecommunalscolabusand undertheguidance in theend,and indeedmadequickerprogress. Once these
oftheirfriendand musicteacher,Gast6nFournierFacio, limitationswereacceptedas theruleofthegame,itwasno
a CostaRicansociologist and graduateofSussexUniver- longerso difficult to inventthe tunesand the sounds
sity,to visitthe historicmonuments ofthecapital.They through which I hoped to establishcontactwith the
justwantedto sayHello and to havea quickswim.They children;and it was easythento functionin the rather
neversaw Romethatday,becausethedayturnedintoan narrowrangesof theirvoicesand instruments.
endlessfestivity, centredarounda big meal(witha lotof The scorewas finishedin February1980. In AprilJan
wine)cookedbyourLuiginaas a surpriseforme,and my Latham-Koenig, whomI had askedto join in theadven-
workingplans wereall overthrown. Workon mycomic tureand conducttherehearsalsand performances, Four-
opera TheEnglishCat had to be postponed,and withit nierFacio and I selectedthe cast of Pollicinoout of the
the firstnight,alreadyannouncedforMay 1981 by the hundredsof interested Montepulciano kids,makingtests
Schwetzingen Festivaland the Stuttgart Opera House. and type-castingthem.It was lateMay (thepremiere was
The children, theireyes,theirfire,theirvoices,thethings fixedfor2 August)thatanotherEnglishman PeterLocke

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- an excellentmusicianwho worksat the Fenice in can actuallysingandplaythesenewsoundswithout much
Venice,and,likeLatham-Koenig, a friendoftheCantiere difficulty:theyarenotawareofthedifficulties adultsseek
sincethefirstyear - came to teachthiscastof20 musical- out and findin contemporary music.In fact,it was more
lycompletely innocent childrenhow to singin timeandin forthemusicaldirectors
difficult toteachthemusictothe
tune,howtolookat theconductor, andhowtosingin har- fouradultswho are neededin the play(theywerelocal
monywiththeothers.At thesame time,FournierFacio amateur actors and/orsingers). I put two Tuscan
was teachingthe musicto his pupils in the Concentus, folksongs intothescore:Raccogliamo frasche is one (in the
which had much improvedin qualityand in number originalitis in themajormode;I putitintotheminorfor
(therewere about 30 now). But the newcomersneeded dramaticreasons),andthefinalRoundis theother- itis
basic trainingfirst,of course,againand again. So it was therethatthemoraloftheplayis stated.Someoftheother
He taughteachchilditspart,notebynote.Both
difficult. tunesthatmightbe takenforfolkonesaremine,although
he and Locke workedfrommorningto night;they,and theyareall, ofcourse,influenced bytheTuscanlanguage
Jan Latham-Koenig,have made possible what,in the and landscapeand by thewaytheTuscanssing.
preparatoryphase, often seemed impossible, even I wrotea pianopartanda soloviolinpartintothescore.
hopelessat times.On theopeningnightthethreeofthem These are supposedto be played by professionals; in
were endlesslycheeredby the verychildrentheyhad school performances theywould be taken by teachers.
taughthowto singand to play:thismusthavebeentheir Theyhavea doublefunction: to helptheyoungplayersto
greatestreward.For myself, 2 August1980was oneofthe keepin tuneandin time,andto relaxtheear,fromtimeto
happiestdaysin mylife. time,fromthesoundoftherecorders. Theyalso havethe
The scoreis designedto containall sortsof basic and task of tellingthe story:the violinis the voice of the
moreadvancedmusicaltrainingmaterialforbeginners. Grandmother, who narratesof and moralizesabout
You could saythatPollicinois an intensivemusiccourse. Pollicino and his brothers,about Clotilde,the Ogre,
And whilethechildrenact and playand sing,theymake winterand spring.The otherinstruments too belongto
and hearsoundsthattheywill encounteragainlater,in the dramatispersonae:the recorders, theirtendervoices
concerthalls (and one hopes even in opera houses!): full of anguish,representof course the souls of the
soundsofourtime.Playingandsinging, theylearntotake children,and theirweepingand trembling represent their
whatothersmightcallunusualsoundsas a naturally given sorrows, sobs and The
sufferings. harmonium represents
fact,as partof our reality(as indeedtheyare). Children adultbigotry. The guitarmusicis closelyconnectedwith

Les Contes d'Hoffmann

sponsoredby ImperialGroupLimitedand the RoyalOpera House Trust.
New production
15, 19, 23, 26, 30 Decemberat 7.30 p.m.; 2 January at 7p.m.;
(TV performance)
6, 9 Januaryat 7.30 p.m.
AgnesBaltsa,PhyllisCannan,Ileana Cotrubas,ClairePowell,Luciana Serra;Paul Crook,Bernard
Dickerson,Placido Domingo,FrancisEgerton,GeraintEvans, Philip Gelling,Nicolai Ghiuselev,

7; GwynneHowell, Robin Leggate, RobertLloyd, SiegmundNimsgern,JohnRawnsley,Forbes

Conductor:GeorgesPretre Producer:
Set Designer: CostumeDesigner:Maria Bj6rnson

Lighting:David Hersey.

Twofairytalesin musicforyoungpeople:
Pollicino or New Adventures of Tom Thumb

(Hans WernerHenze)
16-20 Decemberat 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Producer:RichardGregson PeterCourtier
Conductor: David Syrus Bill Besant.
withJohnDobson/ThomasMcAlister,ElizabethBainbridge/Karen Shelby,Eric Garrett/Richard

Hazell, Diana Montague/Elizabeth
(Peter Davies)
London Premiere
30December- 3 January
at2 p.m.and5 p.m.
Producer: Designer:Ian Spurling
Covent Garden Conductor:PhillipGilbert
A co-production Festival
Bill Besant

Full detailsfromBox Office

MusicDirector:Sir Colin Davis 1066
1980/81Season 01-2401911


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thegoodthingsin thecountry- peace,warmth andwell- The Montepulciano production was donewiththehelp
being;it is closeto thesoil,to musicplayedin thefields. of the CologneOpera House who sentus the producer,
Tuttiviolins(threeor moreareneeded),celloand double WillyDecker,thecostumedesigner, MarionGerretz, and
bass (singleor morenumerous)haveto helptherecorder PeterNagel, a youngrealistpainterfromthenorthwho
musicto projectitself;whereasthepercussionrepresents madethe set in close collaborationwitha groupof local
lightnessand shadow,lightand heavy,sinisterand evil youngsterswhosedesignswereused (andexhibited in the
things,and also functions forthebrass.It is
as substitutes foyeroftheTeatroPoliziano).The setand costumeshave
possible,incidentally, to workout othercastingsof in- remainedin Montepulciano, buttheshowcan andwillbe
struments,professionalpercussion,for example, or done again - it has alreadybeen presentedin Rome,at
modernwindinstruments, as thecharacterand themean- theAccademiaFilarmonica, and in theTeatroOlimpico,
ingof themusicwillnotsuffer too much. at the end of October 1980, conductedagain by Jan
Forthcoming productionsare mostlybeing organized Latham-Koenig to whosekindnessand energywe owethe
withthehelpofoperahouseswhooffertheirfacilities to astonishing resultforwhichhe struggled
final duringlong
schoolsorto children's groups;butI think(andhope)that and troublesome weeksunderatrociousrehearsing condi-
Pollicinowill also workin collegesand artisticallyorien- tions.I shall neverforgetthededicationof all involved;
tatedprimary schools.The scoreis organizedlikea boxof but thegreatest thingin thisoperationwas thecontribu-
children'sbricks,so itis possibletoextract
variousgroups tionofthechildrenthemselves. Theywereall marvellous,
of singlepieces fromit: it includesa violinand piano and I was veryproudof them.They are all musicians
sonatina,a setofguitarpieces,interludes forchildren's
or- now: musichas come intotheirsweetand fragilelives,
chestras,and somepianopiecesas well. theywon'tlet go ofheragain,theirmostfaithful ally.

Purcell's'StairreCase Overture'

In an articlein 1964,NigelFortunedrewattention to the The workfallsintothreesections:an openingprelude,a

existenceof a set of fourfoliovolumesof manuscript triple-time movement, and a closingpassagewiththetime
music,chieflyby Purcell,in the libraryof TattonPark, signature barred C. It is scoredin fourparts,perhapstobe
Knutsford,Cheshire.'The volumescontaintranscrip- playedby two treble violins, a bass viol and a continuo
tionsby PhilipHayes(1738-97) and ThomasBarrow(d bass ofharpsichord and theorbo.The bass viol partis an
1789)2 of worksfoundin late 17th-century manuscripts; elaboration ofthecontinuobass,andis closelyinvolvedin
and collationwiththeoriginals,wheretheseare known, imitation ofthetwotrebleparts.The pieceis notlong,53
revealsthatnotonlydid theytakeparticular painsto pro- barsin all (or 61 ifthefirststrainofthetriplais repeated),
curereliablesources(occasionally autograph) fromwhich but withinthese compactproportions there is ample
to assembletheir'anthology' but thattheywereboth,in evidenceofan originalmindat work.
addition,conscientious and largelyaccuratecopyists. Fromitspositionin themanuscript it wouldseemthat
The third volume, a miscellaneouscompilationof Hayes regarded the overture as something ofa curiosity,
c1785,is undoubtedly themostinteresting.As wellas the whichhe therefore noteddown,almostas an afterthought,
anonymous ode (orsectionofan ode) TheNoiseofForeign at theendofthevolume.He did noteventroubletomen-
Wars,whichis thesubjectofDr Fortune'sarticle,and an tionit in his index,and one is at firsttemptedto viewthe
importantconcordanceof Purcell's early Cecilian ode ascription to Purcellwitha certainscepticism.
Raise the Voice,it containsa shortpiece entitled'The Thereis,however, on f.19ofMS515 oftheOsbornCol-
StarrCase Overture', whichis ascribedto 'Hen.YPurcel'. lectionat Yale University, a concordance ofthebass viol
This appearsin Hayes'shandon thefinaltwopagesofthe part of theoverture, which is againascribed to Purcelland
volume (which are unpaginated),after 38 pages of is titled'The StairreCase Overturein B me'.3This ver-
Purcell'sfantasiascopiedin by Barrow. sion is almostidenticalwiththatgivenby Hayes,thesole
difference lyingin the factthatHayes has adoptedthe
modern conventionin his treatmentof accidentals,
1 'A New PurcellSource',MR, xxv(1964), 109-13. Acknowledgement is due to substituting naturalsignsforthe sharpsoftheYale MS.4
CheshireCountyCouncilforkindlygranting me accessto the libraryat Tatton
Parkand fortheirpermissionto reproducepartofthemanuscript. 3 I am muchindebtedto CurtisPriceand PeterHolmanforinforming me ofthe
2 forfurther on Barrow'sactivity
information as a copyist,see MargaretLaurie: existenceofthisconcordance,and forhelpand encouragement in thepreparation
Musicand Bibliography:
'The Chapel RoyalPart-books', Essaysin HonourofAlec ofthisarticle.
HyattKing,ed. O.W. Neighbour(London,1980) 4 Hayes's'StarrCase' mustsurelybe a misreading


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