1983, 1985, 1999, 2001, Music

Higglety Pigglety Pop!; Where the Wild Things Are (2001) by the London Sinfonietta conducted by Oliver Knussen, starring Cynthia Buchan, Lisa Saffer et al

This disc features both of Oliver Knussen’s “children’s operas,” based on books by Maurice Sendak.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! is the kind of “children’s music” more children should be exposed to. This is the kind of music that will offend musical conservatives but will delight (and possibly scare) children because they don’t know any better. Oh to have heard something like this when I was a kid in the ’80s. It would have changed my life.

As an opera, I doubt it’s really one of the great ones of its era, but I quite like it; it’s got moments that stick with you despite the relatively radical nature of the music.

Where the Wild Things Are is the earlier of the two, the briefer and the seemingly slighter. Its material is far more famous, however, and that might appeal more in actual performance. On record, I think I prefer the later opera. In any case, it’s apparently filled with all sorts of quotes and sly references for adults, most of which my listening history has not prepared me for. So to me it just sounds like a friendlier operatic version of Knussen’s entertaining music.

I admire Knussen and Sendak for doing this…twice. This is the kind of music that really opens up possibilities to children. Perhaps the best children’s music since Peter and the Wolf.


  1. Scene 1: Jennie:
    1. “Why Am I Longing To Be Away Soemwhere”
    2. 1-2 “I Have Two Windows”
  2. Scene 2: Pig:
    1. “Hello Little Lady”
    2. “If I Could Eat Experience”
  3. Scene 3: Cat:
    1. Orchestral Interlude: The Journey To The Big White House
  4. Scene 4: Rhoda:
    1. “Thank You Very Much For The Ride”
    2. “Are You Alright, Miss?”
  5. Scene 5: Baby:
    1. “Baby, Here Is Nurse”
    2. “Yum, Yum!”
    3. “Who Can Help Me?”
  6. Scene 6: Lion:
    1. Jennie’s Descent Into The Cellar
    2. “Quiet In There!”
  7. Scene 7: The Ash-tree
    1. “Now I Have Nothing”
    2. Kleine Trauermusik
  8. Scene 8: Recognition:
    1. Orchestral Interlude: The Ride To Castle Yonder
    2. “Hello, As You Probably Noticed”
  9. Higglety Pigglety Pop!:
    1. Fanfare I – Overture
    2. Fanfare II
    3. Coda
  10. Where The Wild Things Are: Overture
  11. Scene 1: Max
  12. Scene 2: Mama
  13. Change Of Scene
  14. Scene 3: Max’s Room:
    1. Pantomime And Arietta 1
    2. Transformation And Arietta 2
    3. First Sea Interlude
  15. Scene 4: The Wild Things
  16. Scene 5: Coronation
  17. Scene 6: The Wild Rumpus
  18. Scene 7: Max Alone
  19. Scene 8: Parting
  20. Second Sea Interlude
  21. Scene 9: Max’s Room

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