I due usignoli (2023)

Libretto by Piero Bodrato.

Characters

(all children’s voices)

Il popolo, chorus (c3 – c4)
La regina imperatrice (c3 – e4)
La dama (c3 – c#4)
Il capitano (d3 – d4)
Il boscaiolo (d3 – d4)
L’ingegnera (c3 – Eb4)
Il maestro di musica (c3 – d4)
La morte (db3 – e4)

Summary

The story takes place in China, in an unspecified past time. The people sing a joyful song to celebrate the beauty of their kingdom, but they explain that the Queen of China, the ruler and empress, feels somewhat unhappy. The Queen has heard that there is a nightingale in her realm that sings divinely, and she wants to listen to it. She orders her maid and the captain to bring the bird to the court.

The captain is unsure where to find it and confuses the song of the nightingale with that of a rooster, a duck, and a cow. However, the maid, who grew up in the woods, suggests venturing among the trees and remaining silent to listen. They encounter the woodsman, who knows the nightingale well. The maid and the captain capture it and bring it to the court.

The Queen is enchanted by the nightingale and orders it to be enclosed in a golden cage and proclaimed the “feathered prince.” The people rejoice but explain that they are worried because the Queen of Japan, who is envious, is plotting something.

An engineer arrives, sent by the Queen of Japan, who presents a mechanical nightingale as a gift. The automaton flawlessly sings every time a button is pressed. The Queen is amazed and intrigued. To decide whether the mechanical nightingale is superior to the real one, she summons the music master.

The master gives a lesson on the elements of music and then declares a competition: the real nightingale and the mechanical one take turns singing. In the end, the master declares the mechanical nightingale the winner, as it can repeat its song in an identical manner. The people celebrate the victory, and the true nightingale, sad and offended, flies away. Only its friend, the woodsman, watches with understanding.

The maid and the captain awkwardly announce to the Queen that the true nightingale has returned to the forest. The Queen is offended, furious, and insults it, declaring her preference for the mechanical nightingale. However, when she goes to start it and listen, the mechanical nightingale breaks down after a few notes, and it cannot be restarted.

The Queen, devastated, remains in silence, alone, when death arrives. It is unclear whether it is truly death or a dream, but the Queen listens to what death explains to her: by driving away the real nightingale, she has driven away life. To live wonderfully, one must be curious, open to change, and therefore to variations. At that moment, the real nightingale returns to the palace, driving away death, and the Queen recovers.

The music master, the maid, the captain, the woodsman, the Queen, and the chorus sing the final piece, reminding everyone of the beauty of nature and its intelligence.

 

 

Instrumentation

children’s choir with 7 principal roles

1.0.1.0 – 1.1.0.0 – perc (2) – pno – 4 vl.vc.db

Details

Duration 30′

Commission 
Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Italy)

World Premiere
Bologna, Teatro Manzoni (Italy)
March 21, 2024

Published by
Breitkopf & Härtel
MM 22111015

July 19, 2023