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Work

Sergey Prokofiev

Sergey Prokofiev Composer

Chout (The Tale of the Buffoon; ballet), Op.21

Performances: 4
Tracks: 41
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Musicology:
  • Chout (The Tale of the Buffoon; ballet), Op.21
    Year: 1915
    Genre: Ballet
    Pr. Instrument: Orchestra
    • 1.The Buffoon and His Wife
    • 2.Dance of the Wives
    • 3.Fugue. The Buffoons Kill Their Wives
    • 4.The Buffoon as a Young Woman
    • 5.Third Entr'acte
    • 6.Dance of the Buffoons' Daughters
    • 7.Entry of the Merchant and His Welcome
    • 8.In the Merchant's Bedroom
    • 9.The Young Woman Becomes a Goat
    • 10.Fifth Entr'acte and the Goat's Burial
    • 11.The Buffoon and the Merchant Quarrel
    • 12.Final Dance
Prokofiev met impresario Sergey Diaghilev, director of the Ballets Russes, in 1914, and though his first ballet for him, Ala and Lolli, was rejected, it slowly achieved success after it was reworked as the Scythian Suite (1914 - 1915). Diaghilev, still impressed with Prokofiev's talents, commissioned him to write Chout in 1915, using a libretto based mainly on a rather brutal Russian folk story.

The story concerns a buffoon who deceives seven other buffoons into believing he has murdered his wife and raised her from the dead with a magical whip. He sells them the whip, and when they fail to resurrect their wives after killing them, they seek revenge. Forced to disguise himself as a woman, the deceitful buffoon ends up being chosen for marriage by a wealthy merchant, from whom he eventually swindles 300 rubles. While much of it is reminiscent of Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges (1919), it has little of that opera's slapstick and madcap elements, featuring instead a tongue-in-cheek subtlety when the music turns serious—which it often does—and a roughhouse playfulness, appropriate to the fantastic nature of the story.

The ballet is divided into six scenes, separated by brief entr'actes. The main theme is a calm, rather nonchalant melody, mixing feelings of melancholy and indifference, of fantasy and darkness. First given by the oboe, it dominates the opening scene, "The Buffoon's Kitchen," but is also heard throughout the work, usually played by the woodwinds. The second scene, "The Seven Buffoons," features an array of colorful music, including a sardonic march-like theme in the latter part that is one of the work's more memorable creations.

Scene three begins in a dreary mood, then recalls both the main and march-like themes, before turning brash and presenting a brilliantly colorful rhythmic outburst on brass, based on a motif related to the main theme. There follows a mysterious melody, whose haunting lyrical qualities augur the more Romantic outpourings that would appear in many of Prokofiev's later stage works, like the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1935 - 1936).

The fourth scene, "The Buffoon's Sitting Room," features much playful, lively music in the first half, and some dark sarcasm in the latter part. The next scene, "The Buffoon's Bedroom," reprises previous material, and the last, "In the Merchant's Garden," begins with a brilliant variation on the main theme and closes with two lively tunes whose ecstatic and rhythmic qualities drive the music into a colorful frenzy at the close.

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