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THE TRAVELS OF
based on JEAN DE BRUNHOFF's classic 1932 book and art
THE NEW YORKER
"Introduces the joys of music!"
THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
Babar TM and © Nelvana. All rights reserved.
RAPHAEL MOSTEL's joyous new score now available on CD
This work has no singing, but is it opera?
For photo of NEW YORK CITY OPERA EDUCATION presentation click here
Click here for 76 more pages of information about
THE TRAVELS OF BABAR
on NEW YORK CITY OPERA's website.
The METROPOLITAN OPERA GUILD has collaborated with NEW YORK CITY OPERA education
to create a 76-page Teacher's Guide for the Spring 2002 performances for schools, presented by NYCO Education.
This is the first collaboration ever between MOG and NYCO.
For Metropolitan Opera Guild interview with the composer click here.
This hour of musical voyage is a joy for young and old
even adults feel like kids again.
Raphael Mostel's vivid, imaginative score
Guaranteed to bring smiles to everyone!
"Superb!" - JOHN ASHBERY
"Very inventive, imaginative score." - JOHN CORIGLIANO
"Brilliant and so musical - very diatonic - but then - why not? ...Tchaikovsky relied on scales a lot too." - LUKAS FOSS
"Appealing to adults as well as children. (Assuming I'm 'adult'!)
"perfectly delectable: marvelously scored, ingenious in its introduction not only of instrumental timbres and combinations of them but of basic musical materials, charming and moving and witty."- H. WILEY HITCHCOCK
"a welcome, happy addition to the too-small repertory...to delight
"Very well done... should be successful with children." - STEVE REICH
"The performances went enormously well...Every performance...was sold out, and the responses of children, parents and teachers were warm, enthusiastic, and appreciative. Many felt this was the best work for young audiences we have presented (in nearly a decade of such programming). By combining sophisticated music (and musicianship) with an engaging and entertaining narrative and visual presentation, Raphael [Mostel's] production made for a richly rewarding theatrical experience for all. I cannot recommend the work too highly ..." -TILLES CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS (L.I.U., C.W.Post) (executive director Elliott Sroka), presenter of the U.S. East Coast Premiere, Dec. 1999.
"A small masterpiece of orchestration, the octet ensemble sometimes sounds like a full orchestra, and at other times demonstrates translucent clarity..The Travels of Babar could eventually approach the recognition and popularity of...Peter and the Wolf." LA MONTE YOUNG
The Travels of Babar is a unique, new concert entertainment for adults and children of all ages. It is an hour-long, music concert using digital slide show and narrator, conductor, eight musicians and enhanced with stage lighting. The text is one of the most popular picturebooks of all time, by Jean de Brunhoff. Raphael Mostel has composed a piece of music to accompany each of the original illustrations of the book. While the music encompasses the widest possible spectrum of musical forms and ideas, it is designed to be easily accessible to audiences of all levels of musical sophistication.
It has been enthusiastically received by an exceptionally broad range of musical professionals. Conductor Kent Nagano puts it in that rarest crossover category, a "classical" work which should be popular with a general audience. The late Kennedy Center honoree Morton Gould hailed it as a one-of-a-kind work with the widest possible appeal - this generation's Peter and the Wolf.
ABOUT THE PICTUREBOOK
Jean de Brunhoff is credited as the father of the modern picturebook for children. His creation Babar the Elephant is known the world over. There are more than thirty books in the Babar the Elephant series (seven by Jean de Brunhoff and, after his untimely death in 1937, twenty-five by his eldest son Laurent de Brunhoff), a television cartoon series, and two feature-length animated films. But The Travels of Babar, the second book of the series, remains one of the most popular of them all, indeed one of the best-known and most popular picturebooks, the world over.
Renowned picturebook author Maurice Sendak writes: "My favorite among Jean [de Brunhoff]'s books, The Travels of Babar, is full of alarming and amusing twists of fate...a tour de force of composition...no one before, and very few since, has utilized the double-spread illustration to such dazzling, dramatic effect."
The narration is the text of this classic book, and it may be read in any language, without altering the music. It has been updated with a brand new English translation prepared and sanctioned especially for Mostel's work by renowned author Phyllis Rose. The Travels of Babar goes Jean de Brunhoff's picturebook one better: An entertainment not only for children - who will delight in (while effortlessly being educated about) music - but for adults too, as a charming entertainment and a sophisticated musical tour de force.
First published in France in 1932, Jean de Brunhoff'sThe Travels of Babar is a perennial favorite. Random House has kept it continuously in print for over sixty years in the U.S.
Jean de Brunhoff's picturebook continues to enchant and delight new fans. It is already beloved by several generations of countless families. Now, with the added ebullience of Raphael Mostel's music, The Travels of Babar should reach into the hearts of even more.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Raphael Mostel's music The Travels of Babar, An Adventure in Scales contains 46 miniatures (ranging from less than a minute to 7 minutes), one accompanying each image of the book. The narrator links one piece to the next, as with Peter and the Wolf.
Before launching into this hour-long work, all of the instruments and musicians are introduced individually. At first many of the miniatures are quite short. This is to keep attention and focus in the music: emphasizing variety and change and vividly exploiting the full range of instrumental colors. As the work progresses, the music opens up even more, and the longest pieces (like Victory!) come at the end of the work, when the audience is already thoroughly immersed in the music.
Besides being fun, entertaining and holding the audience's attention, the music also explores a wide spectrum of forms and ideas: At the beginning, Balloon Rising, ascends a rhythmically untethered C-major scale, and literally floats away. (Many variants on this idea throughout the work culminate in the set of variations of the Finale - Wisely & Happy). The second piece, In the Balloon, floats on the circle of fifths, which is correlated the idea of modulation. (In the Car with the Old Lady later revisits the same material in a tonally grounded variation.) Storm veers into the vertigo of chromatics. Falling to Earth reverses the scales of Balloon Rising, adding percussion for emphatic effect. On Land/Seeking Shelter sets out the idea of tonality and modulation. Overjoyed! ecstatically swirls through the circle of fifths. Splendid Rice Soup and Breakfast in Bed show off two-part imitative counterpoint. There is even a 12-tone Fugue of the Tiptoeing Cannibals, a canon At the Hospital, and a modal The Great Forest. Stop! Thief! humorously plays with discrepancies in intervallic relationships. A Nasty Trick is like a "mad scene" for 'cello solo, while in Disappearance of Whale a very extroverted trombone takes a "star" turn, modulating operatically. The climactic Victory! celebrates all twelve major keys in sequence.
As well as entertaining, Mostel's work has the remarkable ability to be a resource learning basic concepts of music. While The Travels of Babar, An Adventure in Scales is a delightful listening experience for all ages, young and old, it is especially designed to introduce young people to the wonders and power of classical music - this generation's Peter and the Wolf.
It is, however, more than just a simple introduction to the musical instruments and elements of musical vocabulary. It inspires and encourages young people to participate in making music themselves, without being didactic or explaining "how to." With appropriate preparation, it is possible even to have audience participation with the sections of the music which call for easily accessible instruments like whirlies (Monsters!), or rainsticks+birdwhistles (The Great Forest Where the Birds are Always Singing), or at several other points of the score.
A 28-page guide is available, exploring the resources in this work. (The initial version of this teaching guide was prepared with the generous help of a New Century Commission from the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.)
THE COMPOSER'S POINT OF VIEW:
The need for vibrant educational music for young people is obvious. The educational benefits have been a driving force of this work from its inception. My hope is that The Travels of Babar might become for music what The Nutcracker is for dance.
In addition to being fun and complementing the wonderful, whimsical drawings, The Travels of Babar is meant to encourage young people to have confidence that they can play (or at least try to play) music themselves. The music is composed from a child's point of view, even though most of it is quite sophisticated.
Subtitled An Adventure in Scales, much of the musical material is based on simple ideas, like scales, which can easily be grasped by a very young person without any prior musical experience. A few of the pieces can even be played by beginners as they are, without simplifying. I did my best to avoid complexity which might intimidate.
My aim in this was to provide a way for the young listeners to know how to imitate the musical gestures without the frustration beginners usually encounter when approaching an instrument. In fact, some of the pieces are only scales - which any child can pick out on a keyboard - but arranged here for quite complex musical effects.
Remembering how I listened to music when I was a child myself was my most important research and inspiration. Although much of the music is quite difficult to perform, it is composed in a way young people and non-musicians will have no difficulty following - and imitating, thereby learning. Although this aspect goes over the heads of most adults, young listeners grasp it instinctively.
Music, like other languages, requires an understanding of its vocabulary and grammar. The latest research emphasizes the urgency of learning music in childhood - We now know it becomes physically impossible for the brain to develop the capacity to understand music unless the necessary synapses have developed in childhood (and also that this capacity is essential for several areas of general intelligence!). With fewer and fewer people growing up with the intact ability to hear and to understand music, audiences are becoming functionallyand literally more deaf - a frightening thought for musicians!
Rather than to the absence of music education or the all-too-often patronizingly snooty attitude of many "classical music" institutions, I attribute this situation mostly to the lack of opportunity to hear real, acoustic instruments played by live musicians. Unlike times past, music today has become something that comes out of a boom-box, computer or at best a fancy sound system. Travels of Babar is meant to be an antidote: an easy-to-produce, very portable concert, to give the satisfying and more vital experience of hearing real, acoustic sound, experiencing music being made live.
It was a joy to conduct the superb musicians for this recording of myThe Travels of Babar. However, we were all surprised at the adjustment they had to make to play the score: The musical material reminded them all so much of their own childhood musical memories, like practicing scales. As professionals they continue to practice scales, of course, but always alone at home, with no one listening. However, playing scales in concert - and as music - was a novel experience. It caused all the musicians to complain they had to work harder at their exercises, just like when they were students!
Piano doubling Celesta
Clarinet doubling on Bass Clarinet
Tenor Trombone , doubling on Bass Trombone
large marimba (to low F), large bass drum, bongos, conga, minimum 5 tom-toms (or differently-pitched drums), wood block, slapstick, ratchet, triangle, bell-tree, cow bell, ship bell, police whistle, klaxon (or squeeze honker), large cymbals, suspended cymbal, thunder sheet, rainsticks, lion's roar, whirlies, carnival (Brazilian bird-) whistles, bags of marbles (or ball bearings)
The Travels of Babar was originally commissioned for release on CD in Japan by S.T. Semba for Toshiba/EMI. The work is dedicated to the renowned Japanese piano virtuoso Aki Takahashi, who was one of the star performers for the initial recording.
In preparation for the recording, Mostel and Source Music produced a fully realized workshop/preview of the new work in April of 1994 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at Long Island University. This preview featured an international ensemble of eight of the finest young instrumentalists, all personally selected by the composer: In addition to Aki Takahashi (piano and celesta), Paul Coletti (viola), Frances-Marie Uitti ('cello), Michael Lowenstern (clarinet), Michael Finn (bassoon), John Charles Thomas (cornet), Nitzan Haroz (trombone) and Paul Guerguerian (percussion). Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff narrated at this preview/workshop performance in English. The composer conducted.
Toshiba/EMI has released a recording of this ensemble in Japan on CD (TOCE 8498) with narration in Japanese by rock superstar Kiyoshiro Imawano.The sessions producer/engineer was the legendary Max Wilcox, who recorded the musicians direct to two tracks at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City.
A new English translation by renowned author Phyllis Rose has been prepared and sanctioned especially for Mostel's work. Jeff Young has scanned the famous original illustrations fo Jean de Brunhoff and, directed by the composer, programmed an elaborate digital slide show.
The World Premiere performances of The Travels of Babar were given November 7, 1998: The composer conducted. Baseball great Tony La Russa narrated, and eight soloists of the Berkeley Symphony in California performed. (Kent Nagano is the BSO's Music Director.)
The first time the work was presented complete, with all of the production elements (music, narration, digital slide show and stage lighting) was in December of 1999, for the U.S. East Coast Premiere performances at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts (L.I.U., C.W.Post). Paul Hostetter conducted. Michael Mazzola designed the lighting. Six-time-Emmy-award winning actor R. Bruce Connely (Sesame Street's muppet dog Barkeley) narrated. Performances were made possible by a New Century commission of the Tilles Center.
The launch of the full production of the complete work was given June 14-19, 2000 in New York City at the Florence Gould Hall of the French Institute/Alliance Francaise, directed by the composer and with special theatrical lighting designed by Michael Mazzola. Paul Hostetter conducted the NYC Premiere Ensemble. Michael Mazzola will design the lighting. Presented by World Music Institute. The nine performances were made possible by a generous grant from the Florence Gould Foundation. Ann Jackson and Eli Wallach narrated the eight English performances. The final performance on June 19, 2000 was the World Premiere in the original French, narrated by Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff, eldest son of the original Babar author, Jean de Brunhoff.
December 27-31, 2001 at Florence Gould Hall, a return engagement of nine performances were given with celebrity narrators PHYLICIA RASHAD, WQXR'S GREGG WHITESIDE, DONNA HANOVER, BOBBY SHORT and JEAN-CLAUDE BAKER. Alan R. Kay conducted the New York Premiere Ensemble 2001. The performances were presented by Source Music, Inc. in association with the French Institute Alliance Française, made possible with generous funding from the Florence Gould Foundation.
The New York City Opera "Opera is Elementary" program successfully presented 10 performances for schools audiences, May 8-17, 2002. The Metropolitan Opera Guild (in its first collaboration ever with NYC Opera) also brought its participating school groups to these performances almost 8,000 student attendees in all. Paul Hostetter conducted.
December 27-31, 2002 at Florence Gould Hall, there were nine performances with guest celebrity narrators JERRY STILLER & ANNE MEARA, CLAIRE BLOOM, WNYC's JOHN SCHAEFER & MARGARET JUNTWAIT, ROSAMOND BERNIER, FLORENCIA LOZANO (Spanish World Premiere). Alan Kay conducted the New York Premiere Ensemble. The performances, presented by Source Music, Inc., were made possible by a generous grant from the Florence Gould Foundation
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