Contes pour enfants pas sages
Contes pour enfants pas sages: 8 cautionary entertainments is a project of eight works, styled “entertainments,” by west-coast composer Christopher Butterfield. Years in preparation and generously funded by the Julie Jiggs Foundation and Roger D. Moore, this setting of the darkly coloured children’s animal fables Contes pour enfants pas sages (1947) by Jacques Prévert (screen writer of Les Enfants du paradis) features acclaimed singers Anne Grimm and tenor Benjamin Butterfield, with Continuum’s ensemble and Choir 21, conducted by David Fallis. Mise-en-scène is by Laurence Lemieux, with projected images by west coast artist Sandra Meigs.
Each conte, or fable, is discrete but together they create a delightfully daft body of ironic social commentary: dromedaries go to lectures; an ostrich lures a boy from his negligent parents; antelopes wait in vain for a family member to return home for dinner; donkeys’ braying hospitality is betrayed by enslavement; an international incident arises when a young lion finds a visitor downright rude; a sea elephant has an existential crisis but knows he’s better than a king (who, after all, has to sit on his bum rather than on his belly); a horse calls his fellows to rebellion against their human masters – after all, they’re not cattle; and the most surreal of all, a giraffe opera in which Giraffe – nature itself – is harassed, hunted and killed off but gets its revenge. Christopher Butterfield was introduced to these works with the idea that the world needed a new Babar, a work that was simultaneously child-friendly and sophisticated. The result is this project.