After the fairy story 'The Tale of the Silly Little Mouse' by Samuil Marshak
highS,S,M,T,Bar(orC),2B, speaker, silent role, narrator
Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, director
|POLKAN THE DOG
It’s evening and the dog Polkan, the nightwatchman, tells everyone it’s time to go to bed. Mrs Mouse sings a lullaby to the little mouse but the little mouse doesn’t want to sleep and keeps on crying. Auntie Duck from next-door knocks on the wall in irritation. Mrs Mouse goes and fetches Auntie Duck who quacks the lullaby. But the little mouse is still wide-awake and crying. So Mrs. Mouse and Auntie Duck fetch Mrs Pig, who grunts the lullaby. This doesn’t work either, so they fetch Mrs Toad, who comes with a guitar and croaks the song. When this doesn’t work, they fetch the Horse, who neighs, and then the Pike, who says nothing. Finally they all go and find Mrs Cat, who is delighted to come and help, as she has not tasted mouse in a long time. She purrs the lullaby beautifully and soon everyone is asleep, including the silly little mouse. Mrs Cat snuffs out the candle and all is darkness. Suddenly a cock crows and Mrs Mouse jumps out of bed. But the silly little mouse has gone, as has the cat. Mrs Mouse screams for help. Firing shots and sounding his horn, Polkan the dog leads everyone off to the home of Mrs Cat where they find her on the point of gobbling up the little mouse. The dog jumps on the cat who flees for her life and everyone carries the silly little mouse home where, this time, he goes to sleep when he’s told to.
Score for the cartoon-film by Mikhail Tsekhanovsky.
Shostakovich wrote much music for children, but nothing more delightful than this miniature cartoon-opera, intended for very young children, between the ages of 4 and 10.
It is based on a well-known story by Samuil Marshak, one of the most popular of Russian children’s writers:
The silly little mouse won’t go to sleep, so his mother seeks help from her neighbours, the duck, the pig, the toad, the horse and the pike. No-one can help. Eventually the cat succeeds in singing the silly little mouse to sleep. The next morning however the cat is discovered to have run away with the little mouse. Led by the dog, the other characters manage to rescue the little mouse from the cat, just as she is about to eat it.
Shostakovich originally wrote this charming through-composed opera, filled with cod folk-tunes and nursery rhymes, for a film. But it equally well makes a fine and easily performable children’s opera.in the theatre or on the concert stage, an ideal companion to Prokofiev’s evergreen ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
Note by Gerard McBurney
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