Research in Moscow, New York, Paris, and Stockholm uncovers the compositional and early performance histories of Debussy’s ballet pantomime for children, The Toy Box. Surprisingly, the first large-scale production took place in Moscow, not Paris, and Henri Forterre—in advance of André Caplet—completed the orchestration after Debussy’s death. Theater directors and choreographers variously interpret Debussy’s distinctive approach to creating music for children as having been influenced by the designs of his scenarist, André Hellé. Although newly uncovered source materials might permit a reconstruction of The Toy Box, to do so would be to violate the spirit of the ballet, which embraces the imagined over the real and, paradoxically, the permanence of the ephemeral.
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