‘It is a continual delight to ear and eye; the 40 minutes pass all too quickly…The triumph of Knussen’s score is that, without watering down his natural idiom, he has provided music that is colourful, approachable and often exquisitely memorable…The felicities are innumerable.’Andrew Clements (New Statesman), 13 January 1984
‘This brilliantly executed, 45 minute fantasy of almost extravagant charm…’
Christopher Grier (Evening Standard), 10 January 1984
‘a perfect little fantasy opera… a source of constant surprise and delight, matched by music of a scintillating aptness, colour and variety that haunts the memory.’
Robert Henderson (The Daily Telegraph), 10 January 1984
‘The score glitters with wit, beauty, romantic fantasy, and operatic objets trouvés rendered marvellously fresh; the stagecraft behind the whole thing reveals Knussen as a born theatre composer.’
Max Loppert (Opera), March 1984
‘Knussen is a wizard with sound … The music is extraordinarily pictorial; it has a capacity to light up events in, as it were, the inner eye.’
The Observer (Peter Heyworth)
Scene one – Max
Max, a small boy in a white wolf suit is playing in the hallway outside his room, stalking his toy soldiers, ambushing his teddy bear from his ‘Jungle’ tent cloth strung up across the hall and being thoroughly, happily naughty!
Scene two – Mama
As he lies on the floor pretending to be dead, he is frightened by the shadow of something making strange noises. It turns out to be his Mama and her wheezy old vacuum cleaner. She scolds Maz but he continues to be naughty and defy her and is sent to bed without his supper.
Scene three - Max’s Room
He sulks and begins to think of terrible revenge. A little sail - boat appears and Max climbs in. He is all alone at sea moving through days and nights until, as dawn approaches, a huge sea monster rears up from the water but it sinks slowly down again at Max’s command. An island comes into view with palm trees, a plateau and a large cave.
Scene four - The Wild Things
Max moors his boat and then hears distant rumbling noises; Wild Things hurtle out of the cave shouting rude things at Max and making wicked fun of him. Max howls at them and then stares into their yellow eyes, silencing and controlling them. Max takes stock of his surroundings but every time a Wild Thing steals up on him it is frozen back into submission with his magic stare.
Scenes five and six - Coronation and Wild Rumpus
The forest thickens and the sea disappears. The Wild Things form a procession and then crown Max ‘King of all Wild Things’. The Wild Rumpus begins.
Scene seven - Max alone
He takes off his crown, sits by himself and dreams of home, his Mama and a hot supper. Then he gets up, tiptoes past the sleeping Wild Things and makes his way to the edge of the island to summon his boat again.
Scene eight – Parting
The Wild Things wake up, one by one, and rush to the boat after Max muttering and making threatening gestures. They are very angry that he should want to leave them, but the boat pulls away from the shore and Max is once more alone at sea, sailing back through nights and days.