The Journey of the Little Prince
Text: Kirk Miles, after the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Music: Gerald Wirth
Production for the Musikverein (2000)
Director: Reinhard Winter
Production design: Martin Mohr
Production in cooperation with the Vienna State Opera (2002)
Director: Titus Hollweg
Production design: Martin Mohr
Gerald Wirth's The Journey of the Little Prince premiered in Canada in 1995. In February of 2000, Reinhard Winter staged a new production for the Vienna Boys Choir which was performed at Viennas Musikverein as part of their childrens series Allegretto. In the fall of 2002, Titus Hollweg staged the opera again for the Vienna State Operas rooftop tent. Afterwards, a shorter version of the same production toured the USA.
A small plane crashes in the North African desert. But not to worry, the pilot is unharmed and he should be able to repair the plane himself eventually. He reminisces about his early experiences with art; how his worthy attempts at drawing a boa constrictor digesting an elephant were foiled by the grown-ups. The chorus of art critics (naturally all grown-up) will not see the drawing for what it is, they chant, No, no, no; why should we be frightened by a hat. All is fair in love and art, but that interpretation is about as far as you can get from the artists intention. So he gave up what might have been a promising career.
Quite unexpectedly, the pilot hears a voice asking him to draw a sheep. That is how he meets the Prince; the first person ever to understand his art: the Prince looks at the drawing, and sees the boa. The two befriend each other, and soon the Prince is telling the pilot about his travels from his home planet to Earth.
The Princes planet, Asteroid B 612, is just about big enough for its one inhabitant, and there is not much else on it. Apart from the Prince, there are three smallish volcanoes, and the whole is easy to oversee. One day the Prince stumbles across a rose, not only beautiful but talkative as well. She claims to be unique, and the Prince believes her. He is seduced, and he has never seen a flower shop. So when the rose tells him to tend to her various needs, he does it all. Until her growing demands begin to grate. Finally her permanent niggling drives him off the planet, and towards a journey of discovery.
Asteroid 326 is the planet of the conceited.
A small group of conceited men inhabit this little planet. Each of them admires himself, admire me for what you see, claps himself, pirouettes in front of the mirror, praises himself. They are overjoyed when the Prince happens along: finally, an admirer, finally, an audience.
Two frantic lamplighters inhabit one of the other planets; they are so busy they hardly notice the Prince, on, off, they switch the lights, on, off. They have their orders, and obey them like good citizens until someone appears to switch them off mid-word.
On Earth, the prince encounters a fox. Foxes are shrewd, and this one is no exception. He explains to the Prince that if you tame something, or someone, you become responsible for it; that time spent together means becoming friends, and needing each other. The more time you spend with someone, the more special they become to you, and vice versa. The Prince realises that the fox is talking about his rose. At the end, the fox shares a secret: what is essential is invisible to the eye.
The Prince repeats what he has learned from the fox and his other encounters in an aria; and he resolves to travel back to his planet, and to his rose.
For the composer, the operas quintessential message is that it is important to spend time with the people you love.