Béla Bartók only ever wrote three works for the stage: the opera Bluebeard’s Castle, the ballet The Wooden Princeand the pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin, for which he used a scenario by the Hungarian writer Menyhért Lengyel – a tale of crooks, prostitutes and seduction.
Bartók created his concert version in 1927, a year after the original Mandarin’s scandalous world première in Cologne (the pantomime was to remain absent from the stage until 1945). Since then, both versions have been played countless times all over the world, and have become indispensable parts of the repertoire.
György Kroó saw the Mandarin as a turning point in Bartók’s work and asserted: “It is a conscious settling of the accounts with the outlook and the music of his youth … Here language and technique are transformed completely into expressive tools of the 20th century.”
On 10, 11 and 12 August Ilan Volkov and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra present the concert version of The Miraculous Mandarin at the Sala São Paulo.