• 3rec/tpt/pf/6perc/str quintet (va opt) or str
  • 11 vocal soloists (SA)
  • 11 vocal soloists (SA)
  • 50 min
  • Peter Maxwell Davies
  • English, German, Norwegian

Programme Note

This short opera (duration of 50 minutes), aptly designed for children to perform with modest resources, is a version of the familiar tale, though with certain adaptations. Cinderella is an au pair girl who arrives on the scene by train, and there are three ugly sisters who get their just deserts in marriage to the appalling leaders of the armed forces. Writing for children in the Orkney Islands, Davies has also included some local references: these can be changed to suit other times and places. Musically the piece is a bright sequence of little songs, choruses, dialogue scenes and dances, probably best suited to children between the ages of eight and twelve, though the parts of the ugly sisters can usefully be taken by boys with broken voices.

Cinderella is written for the fourth St Magnus Festival in 1980 and the first performances were given by children in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. All the children involved in these performances were non-specialist and had shown no unusual interest in or aptitude for music. Cinderella is within the capability of any school.


“Cinderella, an au pair girl, arrives by train to join Widow Grumble’s household. Tormented by the three ugly sisters, Medusa, Hecate and Dragonia, Cinderella’s only friend is the cat, who, together with her kittens, arranges that Cinderella loses her as midnight strikes, and then rediscovers and marries her in the traditional happy ending which also sees the ugly sisters married to the three commanders-in-Chief of the Prince’s armed services”.

The music is scored for an orchestra of recorders, trumpet, percussion, strings and keyboard, and ranges through a variety of styles. The opera has eleven solo parts and a chorus who act as a train, ball guests and the magic kittens. It is also suitable for performance by children aged eight and upwards.

Vocal Score
Set of instrumental parts


Preview the score