The Green Bird

The Green Bird

By Carlo Gozzi
Translated by Albert Bermel and Ted Emery
Music and orchestration by Elliot Goldenthal
Directed by Julie Taymor
Musical direction by Rick Martinez
Opened March 1996 at the New Victory Theatre.

Cast in Order of Appearance

Reg E. Cathey


Andrew Weems

Pantalone, Voice of Calmon, Beauticians, Pierrot

Didi Conn


Ned Eisneberg


Katie MacNichol


Sebastian Roche


Bruce Turk

The Green Bird

Kristine Nielsen


Derek Smith


Edward Hibbert


Lee Lewis

Pompea, Voice of Serpentina
Sophia Salguero
Meredith Patterson
Sarah Jane Nelson
Singing Apples
Erico Villaneuva
Ramon Flowers
Dancing Waters

Ken Barnett, others above

Servants/Marching Band/Puppeteers

Plot Summary

This musical was based on the satirical fable The Green Bird, written in 1765.

Renzo and Barbarina are twins of King Tartaglia who were supposed to have been killed at birth. However, they were found and adopted by a poor sausage-seller. "The tale follows the twins' comically tumultuous rite of passage through the temptations of desire and vanity." Finally they are reunited with their mother, Queen Ninetta, who had been buried alive by the king's mother, Tartagliona.


  1. Truffaldino's Sausage Shop
  2. O Greedy People
  3. Tartaglia's Lament
  4. The Bickering
  5. Calmon, King of Statues
  6. Joy to the King
  7. Ninetta's Hope
  8. Renzo and Pompea Duet
  9. Barbarina's Lament
  10. The Waters That Dance
  11. Serpentina's Garden
  12. Under Bustle Funk
  13. Green Bird Descent
  14. The Magic Feather
  15. The King's Lament
  16. Accordians and Palace Rhumba
  17. Prologue (Radio Waves)
  18. Acids and Alkalis
  19. Apple Aria Instrumental
  20. O Foolish Heart

Tony Awards

This show won no Tonys but was nominated for:

  • Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (Derek Smith)
  • Best Costume Design (Constance Hoffman)

Other Awards

  • Nominated for 3 Outer Critics' Circle Awards. Won for Outstanding Costume Design (Constance Hoffman).


This show is not a musical. Although it is, obviously, loaded with music, only a few of the songs are sung; most of them are instrumentals, and the Tony nod for Smith was for a play, not a musical. However, the phrase "cast recording" on the CD means that someone is trying to market this disc as a musical, even if it's not. This is problematic for me; I find such promotion dishonest and misleading, since this disc is really a soundtrack of incidental music (Goldenthal admits in his "Note" in the booklet that "The music in the first act of the play is nearly all incidental") rather than a genuine musical score. I have a feeling no one quite knew how to classify this disc.

The score sounds like it was written for Cirque du Soleil, with its blend of many different forms of music, its non-English duet, and its mildly exotic world-music air, with occasional channelings of John Lennon at his most experimental. This is not to say that the music is bad; indeed, most of the time it's quite pretty, and I enjoy the constant shifting of musical forms. (Though I could do without "Prologue [Radio Waves]"--I have yet to find any song that includes the sound of a tuning radio to be attractive.) The trouble for me is that I listen to "Broadway musicals" for specific reasons, and I listen to my O soundtrack for other reasons. I listen to O when I want some pretty background music that doesn't engage my intellect. When I pop in a musical, I expect to hear songs that tell a story, challenging lyrics, interesting vocals, and the occasional showstopper. The only song in The Green Bird that sounds like a "Broadway" song is the last one, a swing number, and because of the nature of the music that precedes it, it seems jarringly out of place, even considering the reasons for its existence and placement given by Goldenthal in his "Note." (It's also the only song where most of the performers listed above actually appear on the CD.)

According to one reviewer I found on the net, the music here is very similar to that which Goldenthal composed for Batman Forever. I wouldn't know offhand, since I neither saw the movie nor own the soundtrack, but apparently it's quite obvious if you have both.

For what it's worth, when singers do appear, they do a credible job. There's no notable vocal acting, though.

CD Packaging

The fold-out "booklet" is quite good. It includes all pertinent technical details, a handful of tantalizing color pictures that could be a tad crisper, a lengthy description of Goldenthal's credits, "A Note from Julie Taymor" that discusses why she found this property attractive, a cast list, the lyrics to "O Foolish Heart," a song list with singers and musicians credited, "A Note from Elliot Goldenthal" on why he found the fable intriguing and how he composed for the piece, and a brief discussion of Gozzi's fables for the theatre.


I think I would view this music differently if I hadn't been misled about what to expect. While I cannot recommend The Green Bird for people who listen to musicals for the same reasons that I do, I can recommend it for those who want an enjoyable variety of instrumental music.

All non-lyric material copyright 2002, D. Aviva Rothschild. All rights reserved

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