• Rachel Portman
  • Mimi and the Mountain Dragon (2019)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Leopard Picture Limited and BBC

A story about friendship, courage, and adventure, Mimi and the Mountain Dragon is a modern fable set high in the mountains of Switzerland, where a terrible dragon lives. From the village below, the people do everything they can to keep the dragon away. But one day, a shy little girl named Mimi finds a baby dragon in her family’s woodshed. The little creature is lost and frightened, but how did he get to the village and what if his mother comes looking for him? Mimi must be extremely brave if she is going to help the little dragon find his way home on the coldest night of the year. Several months after multi-award-winning author Sir Michael Morpurgo’s Mimi and the Mountain Dragon was first published, the 2D animated adaptation was released on BBC One in December 2019. Featuring an enchanting score by Oscar award-winning composer Rachel Portman, a screen adaptation by novelist and playwright Owen Sheers, and original illustrations by Emily Gravett, the 25-minute film with live orchestra version of Mimi and the Mountain Dragon is now available for performances worldwide. Mimi and the Mountain Dragon in Concert is presented under license from Leopard Pictures Ltd and Chester Music Ltd. Live performances can feature a child solo vocalist, a mezzo soprano, a children’s chorus, SATB choir, and an optional guest narrator. Backing tracks are also available.

  • 222(bcl)2/4.2.2+btbn.1/2perc/hp.pf+cel/strings
  • Children's Chorus, SATB choir
  • Child Solo, Mezzo Soprano
  • 25 min
    • 21st December 2024, The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom
    • 22nd December 2024, The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom
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Programme Note

In composer Rachel Portman’s 2019 interview for Gramophone about Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, editor Martin Cullingford described how a specific goal of Portman’s score was to “introduce children to classical music and the sounds of the orchestra.” To illustrate this, Portman described how she featured solo instruments “in the same way that Peter and the Wolf does: Mimi’s melody that starts on the solo piano is taken up . . . [and] inverted on all sorts of different instruments.” The little dragon is also stylistically characterized through use of pizzicato and a sound Portman explained as “intentionally quite scrappy to illustrate [the dragon’s] inability to fly.”

From the inception of their collaboration, Portman and writer Sir Michael Morpurgo agreed that they wanted the music to be “integral to the project,” and Portman got to work composing the score before the film was animated. To do this, she relied on the feeling and emotion expressed in Morpurgo’s original story and Owen Sheers’ script adaptation. Portman described how:

“It was very important for me to honor and keep the essence of Michael Murpurgo’s story, but also I find his writing has a wonderful humanity, and a real heart to it. So I never wanted to lose sight of that. I came to the piece imbued with that kind of spirit that he writes in.”

While focused on the story’s spirit, it was also important to Portman that her music for would communicate to children (much like her opera The Little Prince), that she featured a young girl’s voice (the soloist for Mimi), and that the music sends a message about the unifying power of song:

“When people come together and sing, there’s something very forgiving . . . in a way it remedies the broken community in this story . . . particularly the words Owen [Sheers] wrote about not needing to be frightened anymore about what we don’t know and what we can’t see, and fear of the other. And it’s a good metaphor, I think, for the world we live in: to have acceptance of “other,” and acceptance of “foreignness.”

Portman’s full interview for Gramophone is available here.