What is Mostel's Travels of Babar?

Raphael Mostel's Travels of Babar is a new composition with multi-media based on the classic book and art of the same name by Jean de Brunhoff, Le Voyage de Babar. Mostel's Babar has already been presented 65 times, in five languages. The New York Times has hailed "its charms hard to resist" and described it also as "a miniaturized history of classical music"

The  new full new production of the complete Travels of Babar was first presented in sold-out performances in Berlin by the Berliner Philharmoniker, where it was greeted with "shouts of joy."

 

    Is Mostel's Travels of Babar a concert or a show?

In addition to composing one "scene" for each illustration of Jean de Brunhoff's book — 46 in all — the composer has also created an elaborate one-of-a-kind production around his score, including a complex slideshow with the original illustrations. Although Mostel's Babar can also be presented as a concert-work as Peter and the Wolf is, so far Raphael Mostel's Travels of Babar has always been presented with the much-acclaimed multi-media production he has created to complement the music. The full multi-media production includes live performance of Mostel's music plus theatrical lighting and complex slideshow along with a reading of de Brunhoff's text. The effect of the elaborate slideshow — in coordination with the narrator and live musicians onstage and theatrical lighting — was compared to witnessing a film being edited in real time. The New Yorker magazine called it "gentle, lyrical show", while The New York Times went so far to underline the one-of-a-kind nature of Mostel's full multi-media production as to describe this non-singing show as "a new kind of digital video opera". Berlin's Musik Heute (Music Today) praised it as"extremely three-dimensional music"

     What is the length of Mostel's Travels of Babar?

When performed complete, The Travels of Babar is a full hour in length, without intermission. However, if desired, Mostel's Babar can also be divided into two separate, self-contained, independently performable works: Babar's Honeymoon and Babar's Return to the Land of the Elephants.

     What is the instrumentation does Source Music, Inc. use for the new full production?

Source Music, Inc. is using Mostel's original scoring for eight musicians that represent an orchestra in miniature: two winds (clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon), two brass (cornet, trombone/bass trombone), two strings (viola, 'cello), plus piano/celesta and percussion. This is the version the Berliner Philharmoniker chose for their world premiere of the new production.

     Is there a difference between the original version for eight musicians and the new version for orchestra?

Yes. Although the music of both versions is almost all essentially identical, the octet version is more intimate and transparent in ways that especially suit the full production together with the theatrical lighting and the slideshow. Orchestras in particular may find it more practical to present one of the two shorter works that together make up the complete Travels: Babar's Honeymoon and Babar's Return To The Land of the Elephants. The world premiere of the orchestral version of the Return was presented by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Excerpts of the Honeymoon were performed by the New York Philharmonic. The US premiere of the orchestral version of the Babar's Return to the Land of the Elephants will be presented by the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on April 7, 2019)

     What is the difference between the new production and the prior production?

The elaborate new multimedia is now in HD and 16:9 ratio, so the composer obtained high-resolution scans of Jean de Brunhoff's glorious original watercolors of the famous images from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Morgan Library and several private collectors. The complex multimedia is now at such high-resolution, there are many details that have not been seen before in the artwork. Brief clips from archival performances with the prior, non-HD production presented by Source Music, Inc. can be seen here

   Who was the author and artist creator of Babar, Jean de Brunhoff?

French author/artist Jean de Brunhoff (1899 - 1937) created seven books featuring the famous character he created, Babar. Crediting Jean de Brunhoff as"the father of the modern picture-book", Maurice Sendak wrote "Babar is at the very heart of my conception of what turns a picture book into a work of art. ...My favorite among Jean's books, The Travels of Babar, is full of alarming and very amusing twists of fate... dazzling, dramatic." The author of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, introduced Babar to the English-speaking world, writing:"I salute M. de Brunhoff. I am at his feet." 

 

    What is the difference between Raphael Mostel's Babar and Francis Poulenc's Babar?

In 1940, French Poulenc set Jean de Brunhoff's first book, L'histoire de Babar — which is about the childhood and adolescence of Babar, culminating with his marriage to Celeste. In contrast, Mostel's Babar uses Jean de Brunhoff's second book — generally considered the masterpiece of the series — which picks up the story when Babar and Celeste go off in a balloon on their honeymoon. When the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal gave the world premiere of the new version for full orchestra of Mostel's work, they took advantage of the continuity by performing both Poulenc's and Mostel's Babars on the same program.

 

    Is Mostel's Babar related to the films and television shows with Babar characters?

No, the films and television series are the products of Corus Entertainment, Nelvana and The Clifford Ross Company. Raphael Mostel's Travels of Babar is a completely independent work, with all necessary permissions world-wide and in any language, as is the production he has created around it.

    How did this project start?

Mr. S.T. Semba commissioned the music originally to accompany a Japanese CD release of a reading of text. Source Music, Inc. produced the recording for the Japanese CD release with the composer conducting. The original commission did not include performance rights. These rights, world-wide and in any language, were obtained separately. The first performance of Mostel's Babar in the original French was presented by Source Music, Inc. and was narrated by Jean de Brunhoff's eldest son, Laurent de Brunhoff, who himself is the author/artist of almost 50 subsequent books featuring his father's Babar character. 

    Does Mostel's Travels of Babar use the Random House book edition of The Travels of Babar?

No, Mostel uses the original Le Voyage de Babar of Jean de Brunhoff. The performances in English use the new, updated translation created especially for Raphael Mostel's work by noted author Phyllis Rose. Rose also happens to be the wife of Laurent de Brunhoff.

   For reviews, photos, and other info about the Berliner Philharmoniker's World Premiere of the new production please click here

   For more about Source Music, Inc. please click here

For info and tickets for the U.S. Premiere of the new orchestral version of Babar’s Return to the Land of the Elephants click here