Friday, April 2, 2010

The Song of the Nightingale

I had planned on doing this post before I even found out it was Hans Christian Andersen's 205th birthday! Thank you, Google Icons. (Find out more about Google's tribute to Andersen at Once Upon a Blog)

Anyway, first the tale "The Nightingale."

In China, long ago, was a nightingale that sang so sweetly, it became famous throughout the land. The Emperor himself requested that the nightingale come and sing for him. Everyone was delighted, and the Emperor put the nightingale in a cage so he could hear him sing whenever he pleased. One day, the Emperor was sent a mechanical bird who would sing as a present. The true nightingale flew away.

At first, the Emperor and his court were saddened by the loss of the nightingale, but they had the mechanical bird. The people liked this even better-he would sing the same tune over and over, and whenever the people wished to hear him.

Yet, one day the Emperor fell sick. He wanted music, but the mechanical bird had grown old and barely worked anymore. Death sat on the Emperor's chest and all seemed lost.
Illustrations by Edmund Dulac

But then, the true nightingale had heard of the Emperor's plight and came to sing to him. The true song of the nightingale healed the Emperor, who was overjoyed to see his friend, but never again took advantage of him.

This is part of a video version of Stravinsky's "The Nightingale." I don't understand the significance of the visuals, I was just trying to find the part where the flute plays the part of the nightingale. I can't find one on youtube though-in the opera version, a soprano sings the nightingale's part-just after 2 minutes.

The opera version was condensed into an orchestral version, "The Song of the Nightingale," which I prefer, but only because I'm more of an orchestra person than opera. But this part highlights the oboe playing the mechanical bird.

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