"La Boutique fantasque" (The Magic Toyshop), ballet in one act

The word “diukan” ( a little shop)  in the traditionally translated Bulgarian title of this famous Rossini/Respighi ballet is hardly used anymore. It is colourful, playful and takes the mind back to the now very rare warmth and comfort of the little shop where people meet and talk. In this Rossini-Respighi little shop (Ottorino Respighi wrote the ballet based on songs and piano pieces by his predecessor, Gioachino Rossini) there are magical puppets that dance. Rossini’s music, selected by Respighi, carries the dance within it; it is dreamt up. Respighi’s magnificent orchestration particularly contributes to this, in which the rhythm, tempo, invention in terms of schriech, and the changing beautiful colours of the solo instruments suggest, paint, the generous dance sculpture. In the music one recognizes Rossini’s popular Neapolitan vocal tarantella, the popular rhythm of the mazurka, with the emphasis on the first time as the dance dictates, “garnished” with elegant melodic variation, with an inventive stretto to activate the movement. The movements flow into each other imperceptibly, somewhere they are connected by leisurely, brief transitions, but the listener immediately recognizes them because of the music’s vividly embossed genre imagery, which leaves no room for hesitation. In the Cossack dance, the contrasts in movement, in dynamics, the hypertrophied drawing of the melodic line, carry a recognizably humorous tinge. To this Respighi adds such an arrangement of the instruments that in places they sound like a lute, a fabulous nuance in the orchestral language of the work. The can-can is a veritable sonic geyser. This is followed by the gentle, pensive lyricism of a slow waltz, in which it is again possible to glimpse the ethereal dance of a beautiful ballerina, which begins as a foreboding with the bell ringing at the start. Stretchy, pizzicato movement mainly in the riser and a final response with a dominant clarinet timbre lead to the nocturne, in which the calmness of silence prevails, with a beautiful, gentle theme accompanied by harp and celesta. The final gallop in vivacissimo tempo abounds in sudden contrasts and completes the fantastic wizardry of Rossini-Respighi’s musical and dance boutique so fabulously portrayed in the score of this charming work.

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