Portland Opera Rusalka Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

The Adventures of Fred and Aurore

A musical tale with mules, trolls, a bumblebee, a dog, a cat, a composer, a writer, and a little imagination.


People who love the arts all have felt the impact of the global pandemic on their favorite genres and arts experiences. We may forget that our children are moved by the arts as well, and have experienced similar losses of opportunities, whether children’s theater, museums oriented to young people, movies in a theater, or live music.

This brings us to the story of Fred and Aurore. Fred played and composed music for the piano. Aurore was a writer. Fred was one of the most famous pianists and Aurore one of the most well-known writers in the time they lived. She used the name George when she wrote books, plays, and magazine articles, because people did not want to publish the writing of women at the time she lived.

Aurore had a little dog named Marquis, who liked to dance in circles chasing his tail. Aurore suggested to Fred that he create music inspired by Marquis, so he composed a waltz, sometimes called the Waltz of the Little Dog, but today most people call it the Minute Waltz. Can you imagine Marquis chasing his tail when you listen to Chopin’s Minute Waltz? 

AFTER CHASING HIS TAIL for a while, Marquis wanted to run, so Fred and Aurore took him outside, where he took off in a full gallop. A galop is also the name of a French dance, and Fred composed the music Galop Marquis when he was thinking about Marquis galloping. Can you hear Marquis running and wagging his tail in Chopin’s Galop Marquis?

WHILE MARQUIS WAS RUNNING, Fred and Aurore thought they heard a cuckoo bird in the distance. They weren’t sure, so they walked toward it.  They heard it again and kept trying to find it. If you listen carefully, you can hear the cuckoo in Louis-Claude Daquin’s composition, Le Coucou, which is French for The Cuckoo.

FRED AND AURORE WALKED A LONG WAY, but could not find the cuckoo. Eventually, they came to the rim of a large, deep canyon. They could see a big march going on deep down at the bottom, but they could not see exactly who it was that was marching. There was a trail down, but it was long and steep. Fortunately, a pack of mules came walking by to go down the trail, and there were two mules that Fred and Aurore could ride down. You can watch the mules and hear them walking in this video with the part of Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite that was inspired by mule packs in the Grand Canyon, played as an oboe duet.

FRED AND AURORE RODE THEIR MULES down into the canyon, and eventually were close enough to see that there was a big march of trolls across the canyon.  Can you hear them in Grieg’s March of the Trolls?

WHILE THEY WERE WATCHING THE TROLLS, a bumblebee start buzzing around, becoming a real nuisance for Fred and Aurore, so they decided to head home. Although they never found the Cuckoo, they were able to ride on some mules, and see trolls marching across a canyon. As you can see in the video, the bumblebee had an adventure of its own. Can you hear the bee flying in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee?

BACK AT HOME, Fred wanted to play the piano, but Aurore’s cat wanted to walk back and forth across the keyboard. Can you hear the cat walking on the piano keys (for example at the 1:02 point in the video) in Chopin’s Valse Brillante in F, sometimes called The Cat Waltz?

AND THAT BRINGS US TO THE END of the story of Fred and Aurore, who actually are the composer Frederic Chopin and writer George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin). Fred and Aurore (George) never visited the Grand Canyon, and some of the music above was composed after they lived. But a little imagination never hurt anyone.


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