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Humpty Dumpty is a piece of music theatre for two singers, a clarinettist and a percussionist to a libretto by Irish writer Brian Leyden. It began with the question “How could the story of Humpty Dumpty and his fall be re-interpreted?” and ended up with the setting of an annual singing competition in which tenor Don Dumpty, who has been the champion for years, is finally undone by his own hubris and the skill of a young challenger. The competition puts each singer through their paces by demanding they sing in different styles, battling it out with skill and stamina. The two musicians provide a colourful harmonic support as well as occasionally doubling as a chorus.
Humpty Dumpty is part morality play and part investigation of various styles of singing, from quasi-Baroque to modern. The work is generally light in tone, meant to be a divertissement, and harks back to the likes of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat in its sense of portability at least.
Ian Wilson, May 2009