General information
Title CZMotýl, který dupal
Subtitle CZbalet o 1 dějství
Title ENThe Butterfly that Stamped [auth.]
Subtitle ENballet in 1 act
Title DEDer Schmetterling, der stampfte
Subtitle DEBallett in einem Aufzug
Title FRLe papillon qui tapait du pied
Subtitle FRballet en 1 acte [auth.]
CategoryStage Works and Film Music
Halbreich number153
Instruments2222-2320-2 Timp-Batt(GC, Ptti, Tamb rull, Tamb picc, Trgl)-Pf-Archi-Coro di voci femminili-Sp
Place of compositionParis
Year of origin1926
Initiation of composition1926
Completion of composition09.03.1926
First performance
Autograph deposition
InstitutionBohuslav Martinů Centre in Polička
OwnerCentrum Bohuslava Martinů v Poličce
Note on the autograph depostitionAutograph score and piano reduction.
CopyrightSchott Music, Mainz
Purchase linkbuy
References Related writings
Documents in the Library
Note Text/synopsis (in English) by Bohuslav Martinů after the fairytale of Rudyard Kipling. *** Only suite from the ballet was published (see H 153 A).
About the composition

After the slapstick ballet Who is the Most Powerful in the World, H 133, and following immedi­ately after the ballet comedy Vzpoura (Revolt), H 151,  in which he made ample use of jazz rhythms in period dance forms, the composer wrote another ballet, based on a fairy-tale by the popular English author Rudyard Kipling. Whether the composer was attracted to the theme by his revived interest in Oriental poetry, which had already inspired him at the beginning of his compositional career in the song cycles Nipponari, H 68 (1912), and Kouzelné noci (Magic Nights), H 119 (1918), and shortly before in the ballet Istar, or whether it was the comic-story of the quarrelsome wives of the wise Suleiman, is difficult to say. When, four years before his death, Martinů wrote the cantata on the theme of the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, it was certainly not a return to his youthful loves, but rather an admiration for mankind's earliest literary and philosophical treasure. Although in the ballet The Butterfly that Stamped we can again, after several years, hear music reminiscent (for the last time and only very remotely) of the composer's Impressionist period, it is already entirely different. We can feel the composer's ironic distance from the Impressionist sound design, with the music accentuating rather the humorous aspect that is in line with the subject of the ballet, and evoking analogies with the present.

The King Suleiman had many wives, some of them handsome, some of them ugly. The latter quarreled with the former until the handsome eventually turned ugly. The wives and their quarrels annoyed the King. Only the beautiful Balkis never caused any trouble. The King, who understood the language of animals, including butterflies, once overheard a butterfly threatening his cantankerous wife that unless she stopped bothering him he would stamp and the whole of Suleiman's palace would disappear from earth. The King was amused by the idea and asked the male butterfly why he had concocted such a silly lie. The butterfly apologized saying that he only wanted to frighten the evil woman. The King released him, curious to know what the butterfly would tell his wife about the royal audience. He then heard the male butterfly boast that Suleiman had actually pleaded with him not to stamp and save his palace from destruction. The beautiful Balkis overheard it and invented a clever trick, knowing that the King could work magic. She persuaded the female butterfly to really make the boastful husband stamp during their next quarrel. The male butterfly did not expect this--after she tried to force him into stamping, he flew to the King and, scared by the idea that his wife could ridicule him for the rest of his life, turned to the King for help. The King turned a magic ring and four Ginnies appeared whom he ordered to make the whole palace disappear as soon as the male butterfly stamps for the first time, and reappear when he stamps again He then sent the butterfly home. There, his spouse yelled at him to change words into deeds and stamp at last--as soon as he did the Ginnies appeared and threw the whole palace up. In the ensuing darkness, the frightened female butterfly flew to and fro, promising never to quarrel again. After Suleiman had a good laugh, he asked the male butterfly to stamp again. The butterfly did, and the Ginnies carried the palace down to its former place. The King’s wives, scared out of their wits, ran out from the palace. When told that the earthquake was meant as a warning to the butterfly’s choleric wife, they fell on their knees before the King promising obedience forever. The beautiful Balkis was happy and so was King Suleiman.

This interesting Martinů ballet has never been produced on stage because the composer failed to reach an agreement with Kipling’s publisher on copyright. The radio premiere of the orchestral suite version of 1966 revealed, though only partially, the originality of the composition.

Václav Nosek, Bohuslav Martinů: Ballets, © 1995 Panton

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