Higglety Pigglety Pop! - or There Must be More to Life

(1984-5, rev. 1999)

by Oliver Knussen

Fantasy Opera in 1 act (9 scenes)
Henneberg C (Translator), Sendak M (Author)
Maurice Sendak
3(III=picc).1.ca.3(III=bcl).2(II=cbsn) - 4030 - perc(4): vib/5 susp.cym/timp/cast/bells/ch.cym/slidewhistle/xyl/2 tgl/tamb/2 tpl.bl/mcas/tam-t/3 ratchet/whip/cyms/anvils/glsp/SD/sleighbells/siz.cym/football whistle/wind machine/BD/vibraslap (offstage): 7 bells/3 anvils/football whistle/SD - pno/cel - harp - strings (
Jennie(MS):Potted Plant/Baby/Mother Goose(S):Rhoda/voice ofBaby's Mother(S):cat-Milkman/high voice of Ash Tree(T):Pig-in-Sandwich-Boards(BB): Lion(BB)
English, German

Commissioned by the BBC for Glyndebourne

First Performance
(incomplete) 5.8.85 Glyndebourne Festival Opera: London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen. (complete): 3.2.91, Barbican Centre, London: London Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen

Libretto 0-571-51933-4 and full score 0-571-52957-7 on sale, vocal score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

The first musical idea to be jotted down was the gentle clip-clopping of the milk wagon, which makes a brief but unmistakable appearance in Higglety Pigglety Pop! After seeing a performance of Higglety, my mother gave me a miniature model of a milk wagon with a horse, and asked if I remembered that virtually every day before I was five years old, I used to run out of the house to meet the milkman and his horse as they came past. I was very touched, doubly so because the memory had almost completely vanished: the idea had spontaneously welled up from my subconscious, it seemed. This confirmed a feeling I’d had about Higglety since I began to work on it. If the music of Where the Wild Things Are could be said to embody a big “thank you” to the music I liked to listen to as a child, then Higglety is an evocation of the music I wanted to write at that age but didn’t know how. There are only a few passing references to things actually remembered, but the whole is couched in the flavour of what I used to hear in my head. I was conscious, during the process of composition, that ideals of stylistic consistency were being instinctively swept aside, in a way that consciously disturbed me but that I felt compelled to follow. Perhaps, half-consciously, I tried to build a bridge between musical “innocence” (my earliest attempts to compose) and “experience” (the means learned since then) – a bridge which can only ever remain illusory, I’m afraid. Apart from the elegiac character which subtly shades Maurice’s book, and which perhaps music brings to the surface a little more, there was something strangely sad for me in the composition of Higglety – as if one was turning to wave good-bye to those days, and that music, for one last time.

© Oliver Knussen

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News & Reviews

'Higglety Pigglety Pop! reviews

'A miracle of balance, masterly in the ease and flexibility of its dramatic processes, wonderfully characterized, and touching in the emotional discoveries just below the surface.' Read more

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