We owe Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood to these two great men
Here is a little story about two individuals who created the two operas that IOC is going to perform: Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Charles Perrault came up with the stories, and Cesar Qui composed the music.
At first, these two men don't seem to have much in common. They lived in different times and places (Perrault, from the 17th century to the beginning of the 18th century, and Qui, from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century), in France and Russia, respectively. They created in different genres: literature and music. However, if we take a closer look, we will find some similarities.
Both men were multitalented individuals. They also had other vocations in addition to the ones that made them famous. Perrault was trained as a lawyer, and Qui served for many years in the military (his title was equivalent to full General). Both have French roots, which doesn't come as a surprise when we look at Perrault. However, interestingly enough, Qui also has some French roots, as his father entered Russia as part of Napoleon's army in 1812, and settled in Russia following Napoleon's defeat.
Both men were music critics. Perrault wrote a work in defense of modern French opera, and Qui was a very prolific music critic. Both also served the royalty of their time: Perrault was working for Louis XIV; and while Qui never worked for the Russian tzar, the two operas, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots, were dedicated to the tsar's son and heir Prince Alexei.
Apparently, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots were meant to be performed at the tsar's court for the enjoyment of the tsar's family; however, history interfered. First, World War I, and later, the Russian revolution. The operas became neglected and nearly forgotten in most of the world, with the notable exception of East Germany, until the second half of the 20th century.
Today they are both experiencing a well-deserved revival, as they were recently performed in Saint Petersburg.
Unfortunately, the same neglect applies to many of Cesar Qui’s musical works. He lived in a time when Russian composers were on a quest to find a uniquely Russian way of creative expression, and break with the dominance of foreign music, particularly Italian opera. The group the “Mighty Five"was created and established with this particular goal in mind.
Qui was a very active participant in the group; however, other composers in the "Mighty Five" were true musical giants, such as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, who are still very well known, admired and frequently performed today. Balakirev, the remaining member of the “Mighty Five,” is not a well recognized name in our day, but he was enormously influential in the 19th century: after all, he was the leader and the founder of the group!
And let's not forget that another Russian musical giant, Tchaikovsky, also lived at that time!
Qui just had the misfortune to live in a time when he was clearly overshadowed by his contemporary musical compatriots. And yet his music is definitely very beautiful, creative and unique, and deserves to be performed and enjoyed!
We, in particular, fell in love with Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots! These operas are charming and graceful, without being overly simplistic and naïve. They are both fun to perform and fun to be heard.
We hope you will join us in rediscovering these hidden gems!