Music Theatre for Small Ensemble
Solisten des Swiss Orchestra
Lena-Lisa Wüstendörfer, conductor
Andri Schenardi, actor
The actor Andri Schenardi from Altdorf, together with members of the Swiss Orchestra, here tell an old fairy tale about a violin, a magic book, the devil and the promise of great riches.—
Igor Stravinsky (1892–1971):
L’Histoire du soldat
An old violin, a magic book that promises great riches, and the devil. These are the three main ingredients of “The Soldier’s Tale”. This folktale tells of a soldier heading home who enters into a fateful deal with Beelzebub. The soldier teaches the devil how to play the violin within three days, then gives him his violin; in return, the soldier is given a book whose secret contents make him wealthy. But the deal has its price: the soldier reaches home not three days later, but after three years, and neither his mother nor his fiancée recognises him. Although the magic book has brought him wealth, our deserter now wanders the world a lonely man. In order to escape his isolation, he makes it his mission to heal a princess whom the devil has cursed. Through trickery at cards and with the help of a lot of alcohol, the soldier manages to steal back his old violin from Beelzebub. When the soldier plays the violin, the princess is healed and begins to dance – and the devil collapses, exhausted. But the forces of evil aren’t conquered yet: When our fairy-tale hero decides to go back home once more, the devil is again lying in wait for him …
“Between Chur and Wal(l)enstadt, a soldier makes his way homewards” – thus begins Igor Stravinsky’s music-theatre work “L’Histoire du soldat”, unceremoniously transferring this old Russian fairy tale to Switzerland. How did this come about? Stravinsky was based near Lausanne from 1915 to 1920. The First World War made it so difficult for him to get commissions and performances at major theatres that he had to adapt. Together with the important Vaudois poet Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, he conceived a play based on a Russian tale for a small instrumental ensemble, a narrator and dancers – something that could also be performed by a travelling theatre company. Stravinsky’s musical style, however, remained cosmopolitan. We hear echoes of klezmer, a paso doble and a Lutheran chorale, and the princess dances to the strains of a tango, a waltz and ragtime.
The story will be narrated by the actor Andri Schenardi from Altdorf, and soloists from the Swiss Orchestra will perform under the baton of Lena-Lisa Wüstendörfer.
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