As we navigate through the most difficult waters most of us have ever seen (even my Mom lived through the Depression but was much too young to really remember it), I am off today to take my 6-year old to see a fabulous presentation of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” by New York’s amazing Little Orchestra Society. It’s my son’s favorite. Thanks to older kids and nephews I’ve probably seen this thing about 30 times, and like listening to Led Zeppelin’s ”Stairway to Heaven” I enjoy it every time.
Originally written in 1936 by Prokofiev in Russia, he completed “Peter” in just four days after the Central Children’s Theater in Moscow commissioned him to write a children’s piece. Disney made a fabulous animated version in the 1940s that would never have been made in today’s politically correct world.
I started to think about the meaning of the piece, and the fact that each character, symbolized by its identifying music, represents a type of person and character in this truly brilliant story. Which is best to be in these difficult times – or anytime? I will not presuppose. But think and ask yourself which are you….
Peter (string instruments) - happy go lucky, not too concerned about risk, lover of life and ultimately wiser and more careful at the end.
Grandfather (bassoon) - worry-wart, carefully protecting his grandson, fearful (rightfully so) of the wolf and his dangers, ultimately happy that Peter’s dangerous behavior captured the wolf.
Bird (flute) - positive and optimistic yet always on guard and ready to fly off to protect himself. He also helps Peter by directing him to safety.
Cat (clarinet) - cagey and manipulative, self-centered and ultimately always safe. Avoids risk, assumes the worst in people. Protects himself whatever it takes.
Duck (oboe) – not too bright but warm and helpful, easily taken advantage of. In the original version ends up being eaten by the wolf. More current versions have him eaten but then spat out alive.
Hunters (drums) - all about winning and succeeding at all costs, regardless of the implications. Taking territory and control over people and animals is the only goal. (Wondering – was that America in its early days? Was that a good thing? Or was he writing about his mother Russia in its early Communist days?)
Wolf (French horns) – Super smart and strong, but mean and seeking to do harm to others almost for the sake of it. His strength and smarts keep him in control for a bit, but ultimately the “good guys” wear him out and outsmart him.
Not sure if the above is exactly what Comrade Prokofiev meant to project. And it is likely that a combination of the some of the traits above are in all of us. But this is one of those moments where you are truly tested regardless of your makeup. It is easy to do well and feel proud regardless of your approach and tactics when the economy, stock market and business world are doing well. Ultimately we are all judged by how we handle the most stress, the most pressure, the most difficult of times. So all….get ready to be judged…