Scenario by Mark Adamo and David Parsons
Choreography by David Parsons
Music by John Corigliano, Pied Piper Fantasy: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra
Projection Design by Misha Films
Animation Design by Michaela Zabranska
Costumes by Ann Hould-Ward
Puppets by: Michael Curry
Lighting by Howell Binkley
Co-Production with Houston Ballet

TIMING: 60:00

The Pied Piper was given its World Premiere by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York on May 19, 2001, danced by Angel Corella as the Piper.

When John Corigliano composed his Pied Piper Fantasy: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in 1981, he’d already cast its seven movements in the form of a ballet scenario. But, despite the title, the concerto wasn’t a line-by-line reading of Robert Browning’s magical poem. Browning had described an elfin agent betrayed by the town which he had served in good faith: in return he spirited away their children much as he had earlier lured away the rats he’d been engaged to dispel. Corigliano recharacterized the Piper as an adolescent who begins the score with power and control: it’s only in discovering his personal theme that he’s able to lead both the rats and the children. The moral terrain shifted as well. In the Browning, the Piper had been motivated by nothing more than the grievance of an honest contractor cheated of his wages. The finale of the concerto is driven by the Piper’s desire to protect the children from parents who are as negligent of their young as they are dishonest in their business dealings. His is not just a siren song but a call to sanctuary.

In further adapting the piece for ballet, John, David Parsons, and Mark Adamo developed this scenario to the more pictorial and kinetic demands of dance-drama rather than orchestral theatre. To this end, we divided the Piper’s character into three personae: a Mentor Piper, who accompanies our hot-headed Piper-Youth into Hamelin to oversee his handling of the project; and a Child-Piper, a beatific seraph figure who stands both for the Piper-Youth’s conscience and also for the children of Hamelin, who cannot speak for themselves and need an advocate to point out their plight. Our story now runs something like this:
To a vaporous and twinkling sunrise music, we first discover our three elfin Pipers in their own space, and the differences among them are all too clear: the Mentor is wise enough to know and command his powers, but those powers are failing him: the Child is undeveloped: and the Piper himself, despite the lyrical theme that accompanies his movements, is potent but undisciplined. Against a starry skyscape, the Mentor tries, and fails, to teach the Piper his own strength before his own leaves him for the last time: barely have the two young Pipers had time to mourn his passing when the busy metropolis of Hamelin, led by its bombastic Mayor, bursts into view, a glittering parade of brashness and industry, on the sidelines of which its neglected Children stand wanting. The Pipers are greeted with energy, if no great concern: but then an onslaught of hissing and slithering rates shatter the illusion of bourgeois tranquility. The town elders hastily recruit the Piper to save the town from the rats, and he struggles valiantly, in a war music of frenzy and detail: but his fury and aggression only seem to provoke the rats further. Only when he remembers his lyrical music from earlier – a music of persuasion rather than force – do the rats, hypnotized, succumb to his will. But to what avail? On return to the town, the Piper stands, unpaid and neglected, as the burghers busily celebrate a victory they did nothing to bring about. And what of the children? The Child-Piper, their angelic surrogate seems to say. Persuaded, the Piper uses a brilliant new mach to lure the children away from their parents into a better world: and the sunrise music from the beginning returns now as sunset as the parents contemplate what they’ve lost. (And is that the Mentor we glimpse, satisfied at last?)

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