The Crocodiamond (or Rita and the Wolf) (2003)

For Narrator and Orchestra   20 minutes

As an opera-composer who also works in theatre and cinema, I love the way music can help to tell a story.  So I was delighted when the London Mozart Players had the idea of commissioning a work for narrator and orchestra which would introduce the instruments of the chamber orchestra to a young audience.

I am indebted to the actor Simon Callow, who advises the orchestra on dramatic matters, and suggested I ask the brilliant best-selling author Anthony Horowitz to write a story which I could illustrate with music.

The inspiration of Prokofiev’s marvellous Peter and the Wolf is given away in our subtitle. The heroine of our story is Rita, and the criminal mastermind is nicknamed “The Wolf”.  Like Prokofiev’s Peter, Rita is represented by the violins, the highest of the strings.  Her granny is represented by the lowest, the double basses.  Anthony included some playful clues; you can tell which instruments represent the gang of thieves by their names: Pico (the piccolos), Clara (the clarinets) and Siegfried Bassoon (guess).  For good measure, the security guard turns out to be a bird-watcher from Paris – a French Hornithologist.

While he was writing the story, Anthony asked me whether there where any particular musical ideas I would like him to include.  I suggested that it might be exciting to hear an elaborate machine being assembled, one element at a time.  He obliged with a description of an extremely elaborate security system guarding the biggest diamond in the world.  The diamond is introduced with a trumpet theme at the very beginning of the piece; the rotating cameras, infra-red beams, pressure pads, X-ray scanners and so on are all depicted by different instruments – when they are all working it needs the whole orchestra to paint the picture.

Anthony’s action-packed story includes a car-chase – another opportunity to hear the whole orchestra at full stretch.  And if you listen carefully to both the words and the music, at the very end you can hear where the Crocodiamond is hidden – and then you will kNow who the Wolf is.

Text by Anthony Horowitz

Commissioned by Nestlé UK for the London Mozart Players

First performance: 16th November 2003, Simon Callow (narrator), London Mozart Players conducted by Andrew Parrot, St John's, Smith Square.