PROKOFIEV Peter und der Wolf Abbado DVDV

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SERGE PROKOFIEV

Peter und der Wolf
Symphonie Classique · Classical Symphony
Ouvertüre über hebräische Themen · Overture
on Hebrew Themes op. 34b
Marsch · March op. 99
Narrators: Sting · Roberto Benigni
Chamber Orchestra of Europe · Claudio Abbado
Directed by Christopher Swann, Roger Law and Steve Bendelack
Int. Release 03 Sep. 2007
1 DVD-Video
DVD-VIDEO NTSC 0440 073 4267 1 GH
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1 · Picture Format: 4:3
Subtitles: German/French/Spanish/Chinese
A Spitting Swanns production in association with
The Media Investment Club and Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft
Sting, Claudio Abbado, and Roberto Benigni bring Prokofiev’s magical musical tale to life


Track List

Claudio Abbado

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado

Peter and the Wolf, Op.67

Narration in English, Text adapted by Sting

Sting, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado

Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado, Stefan Vladar

Classical Symphony

13.
4:18

14.
3:46

Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado

Peter and the Wolf, Op.67

Narration in Italian

25.
6:52

Roberto Benigni, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Claudio Abbado

Total Playing Time 1:19:44

. . . Abbado's soundtrack is superb.

. . . colors are saturated, the sound is fine, and performances are all good. That includes Sting's narration . . . and that of his counterpart Roberto Benigni in the parallel Italian-language version. Abbado should have recorded tons more Prokofiev than he has. It's great to hear the March so sprightly, sad to think of the other Prokofiev marches Abbado could have given us.


A Prokofiev Fantasy

“I would like to make a film of my Peter and the Wolf recording, using those 'Spitting Image' muppets." With those words, Claudio Abbado set in motion the making of one of the most unusual and complex programmes I have ever attempted. Once having established that the “Spitting Image" people actually wanted to be involved in such a scheme, where on earth were we to start?

It was going to be expensive because of the puppets. Normally, in the long-running TV series of political-satirical sketches, each puppet could expect many outings, but we were proposing to create new ones that would only be “appearing" once. To justify this, we needed to conceive a film longer than Peter and the Wolf on its own. So, we decided to include all the music that Abbado had recorded to go with Peter. But that still left us with the question of how to illustrate these other pieces.

The only way I can put pictures to music is first to look at the world that surrounded its creation and the ideas contained in the piece's musical language. We decided to invent a “Prokofiev Fantasy". The composer would be discovered in a reverie at a chess board, a game he loved. He would hear the start of the March and be intrigued. He would then be drawn into the world of a second-rate theatre company struggling to stage a single performance of Peter and the Wolf. He would enter the theatre and, after money changes hands, take over the role of the Grandfather. The company would stage Prokofiev's “symphonic fairy tale", but not without some mishaps and surprises, such as a drunken Duck and the usurping of Abbado's podium by other musical luminaries.

So far so good, but we still needed to devise a visual setting of the Overture on Hebrew Themes and the “Classical" Symphony.

I looked first at the history of the Overture. This was a singular piece in Prokofiev's œuvre. He was in New York when a group of musician friends visiting from Russia asked him to compose something for them. He didn't normally accept commissions, but in this case he agreed. The result is a beautiful piece that seems to be steeped in nostalgia for the Russia from which the composer had exiled himself.

With these two ideas in mind, I decided to make use of the cottage setting from Peter and the Wolf and the characters of Prokofiev/Grandfather and Peter himself. I also introduced the six Musicians who came to Prokofiev in New York, in the form of Ghosts haunting him. Prokofiev sees the Musicians playing outside in the snow. He tries to explain their significance to the boy Peter by showing him a “home movie" he made as a young man in Russia. The Musicians further arouse Prokofiev's nostalgia, but as the piece fades away so do the memories, and Prokofiev is left alone in the snow. His son Peter attempts to distract him by throwing a snowball, but in a sudden pang of guilt he runs off into the forest.

Once in the forest Peter comes across a chateau, which is the setting for the “Classical" Symphony and, if you like, Musical Heaven. Here he encounters more ghosts, but this time they are the composers whom Prokofiev was both honouring and challenging in writing the Symphony. What happens here we leave for you to see in the film. At the end everything collapses - like the story of Alice in Wonderland, with her at her wits' end, shouting that the characters are nothing but a pack of cards.

A Prokofiev Fantasy, then, which we hope will entertain children and adults alike. We started the whole process by filming, on stage in Ferrara with an Italian crew, Claudio Abbado in front of a huge blue cloth conducting to playback. This permitted us to relate him to the puppets, with which we then worked on stage in England for a further three weeks. The life-size puppets are works of art in themselves. They are the creations of Scott Brooker and the “Spitting Image" workshop, with whom it has been both fun and an enormous privilege to work. The technical problems have been daunting. There are many video tricks and seemingly impossible shots, some of which challenged the imagination, and tested the patience, of everyone but the extraordinary “Spitting Image" team. They are living proof that one should always dare to imagine the impossible, and then attempt it.

Christopher Swann
11/2006