ELEANOR ALBERGA – ROALD DAHL’S SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs adapted from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes by Donald Sturrock
Commissioned to benefit Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity
with Danny DeVito Joanna Lumley Griff Rhys Jones
Leader: Jacqueline Shave
Conductor: Peter Ash
SNOW WHITE AND HER AMAZING ORCHESTRA
Roald Dahl’s subversive comic eye was perfectly adapted to turning fairy tales on their heads. His rhyming version of the Brothers Grimm fable about a princess, a wicked stepmother, seven dwarfs and a magic mirror is a typical example of his ability to breathe new comic life into a familiar story. He sustains the dark atmosphere and narrative drive of the original, while adding elements of cannibalism, gambling, and slapstick comedy into the mix as well, to create a result that is uniquely his own.
Inspired by Dahl’s reshaping of the myth, Eleanor Alberga’s musical treatment of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a jewel of story-telling in sound, reveling in the thrills, wit and madcap humour of Dahl’s dark literary frolic, albeit in a grander, more extravagant sonic landscape. From the very opening – an eerie depiction of a magic forest at night – the music reaches out and draws the listener into a world that is by turns charming, funny, disturbing, terrifying, exciting and joyous. The text provides an entertaining narrative which keeps the story moving forward, but much of the emotional impact of the piece is presented in the eight dances, which form the dramatic spine of the work.
Each of the characters has a theme which changes and alters as the story unfolds. Snow White’s is youthful and capricious (3) . She is an innocent dreamer, plucked out of the safety of the palace and plunged into a world
of terror and violence. The Stepmother is her wicked alter ego, icily fickle and perverse, where Snow White is naively fanciful. The Forest is deep, dark and gleamingly magnificent, and sometimes alive with a thousand eyes. The Mirror is grand, moody and magical (6), while the Jockeys are endlessly, foolishly optimistic, gambling their money away at the race-course (14).
There are special effects to look out for as well: the chewing of the heart and its resultant indigestion, a snake, as well as horses’ hooves and whinnies, the King counting his money, and a Huntsman’s call that is by
turns stirring, terrifying, touching and comic.
These are the details. But Snow White is a work of compelling beauty and atmospheric intensity that can be enjoyed, like all fairy tales, by anyone with a sense of fantasy and imagination. The music is bold, colourful, and extreme. It is sometimes complex, but that complexity is always connected to the words and the story. A spirit of joy and delight perfumes the entire piece. To listen to it is to go on a bewitching, intoxicating, breathless journey through a world of intense emotional energy and exotic excitement to a conclusion that is utterly life-affirming. Indeed, by the time the Caribbean rhythms and carnival mood of the whirling Celebration Dance take hold of you, it is hard to stop yourself leaping out of your seat and joining in the revelry of our jubilant young heroine and her midget millionaires.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first performed in London in 1994 with the London Philharmonic under Franz Welser-Möst and with Griff Rhys Jones, Geraldine James and Dinsdale Landen narrating. Profits from performances and recordings of the work go to support the work of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.
“Danny DeVito’s narration is charming, endearingly warm and welcoming… Joanna Lumley and Griff Rhys Jones voice the character parts with brio.” (BBC Music Magazine)