Roger Waters Adapts and Narrates Igor Stravinsky’s Theatrical Piece, The Soldier’s Story

Roger Waters has always had an ego to match the size of his musi­cal ambi­tions, a char­ac­ter trait that didn’t help him get along with his Pink Floyd band­mates. But it gave him the con­fi­dence to write dar­ing oper­at­ic albums like The Wall and stage the mas­sive the­atri­cal shows for which the band became well-known. He’s a nat­ur­al sto­ry­teller, eager to use music to com­mu­ni­cate not only tren­chant polit­i­cal cri­tique, but the emo­tion­al lives of char­ac­ters caught up in the machi­na­tions of war­mon­gers and prof­i­teers.

Through­out the auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal The Wall runs a nar­ra­tive of wartime trau­ma, a thread that turned into The Final Cut, essen­tial­ly a solo album that brought togeth­er Waters’ cri­tique of Mar­garet Thatch­er and the Falk­lands War with a memo­r­i­al for WWII British ser­vice­men, so many of whom, like his father, gave their lives for a coun­try Waters felt betrayed their mem­o­ry. While his solo career and activism have focused square­ly on anti-war mes­sages, he has shown much sym­pa­thy for the com­mon sol­dier.

Waters’ lat­est project, then, is fit­ting­ly called The Soldier’s Sto­ry, but this time, he is nei­ther author nor com­pos­er. Rather, the piece comes from 100 years ago, adapt­ed by Igor Stravin­sky from an old Russ­ian folk tale. In Stravin­sky’s ver­sion, a WWI sol­dier relin­quish­es his violin—and his musi­cal ability—to the dev­il in exchange for a book that pre­dicts the future econ­o­my. The sol­dier uses the book to get rich, then gives up his for­tune to regain his tal­ent, heal a dying princess, and beat the dev­il, for a time.

In its time­less, arche­typ­al way, the sto­ry evokes some of the sprawl­ing themes Waters has tak­en on many times, with a sim­i­lar­ly sar­don­ic tone. But unlike the rock star’s big the­atri­cal pro­duc­tions, Stravin­sky’s piece is a sim­ple moral­i­ty play, full of humor and an inno­v­a­tive use of jazz and rag­time ele­ments in a clas­si­cal set­ting. There are three speak­ing parts—the sol­dier, the dev­il, and the nar­ra­tor. Waters has added oth­ers to this updat­ed ver­sion: “the bloke in the pub” and the king, who remains mute in the orig­i­nal. He not only nar­rates the piece, but plays all of the char­ac­ters as well.

Work­ing with “sev­en musi­cians asso­ci­at­ed with the Bridge­hamp­ton Cham­ber Music Fes­ti­val,” reports Con­se­quence of Sound. The ensem­ble seeks to “hon­or Stravinsky’s work while rein­ter­pret­ing it for a new audi­ence.” Stravin­sky him­self record­ed the piece three times, “first in 1932,” notes James Leonard at All­Mu­sic, “then again in 1954, and final­ly in 1961.” The last record­ing saw a re-release in 2007 with Jere­my Irons dubbed in as nar­ra­tor. Oth­er famous actors who have record­ed it include John Giel­gud as the nar­ra­tor in a set of per­for­mances from the ear­ly 70s and Dame Har­ri­et Wal­ter in the role in a 2017 release.

These are huge dra­mat­ic shoes to fill. A press release for the new adap­ta­tion, dis­play­ing Waters’ char­ac­ter­is­tic self-con­fi­dence (or maybe hubris), assures us that he felt up to the task: “He has want­ed for a long time to engage more deeply with the work of a com­pos­er whose weight and occa­sion­al inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty may per­haps have much in com­mon” with his own, we’re told. What­ev­er affini­ties might exist between Waters’ pro­gres­sive rock operas and the rad­i­cal mod­ernist sym­phonies of Stravin­sky, The Soldier’s Sto­ry seems like a nat­ur­al fit for Waters’ lit­er­ary sen­si­bil­i­ties.

See the offi­cial trail­er above, and order the album here.

via Con­se­quence of Sound

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Pink Floyd’s “Com­fort­ably Numb” Was Born From an Argu­ment Between Roger Waters & David Gilmour

Igor Stravin­sky Remem­bers the “Riotous” Pre­miere of His Rite of Spring in 1913: “They Were Very Shocked. They Were Naive and Stu­pid Peo­ple.”

The Night When Char­lie Park­er Played for Igor Stravin­sky (1951)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (5)
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  • Tarkus says:

    Omg , the man is obvi­ous­ly too big for his own shoes !

  • Karl Reitmann says:

    Pity he’s a rabid, dis­gust­ing anti-Semi­te …

  • nazikiller says:

    Pray­ing he drops dead of a mas­sive heart attack, ter­ror­ist hug­ging scum

  • Mycroft says:

    Sad to read these comments.The man tells the truth and expos­es all the evil that’s going on and yet hes called a Anti Semi­te and hop­ing he dies etc.But I do under­stand were all these com­ments come from it comes from your Sheepard who brain wash­es the sheep and God knows your all a bunch of sheep.Dont stop Roger keep expos­ing the evil that is among us.

  • Karl Reitmann says:

    Hi Mycroft!
    hes should be he’s
    were should be where
    Sheepard… I sup­pose you mean shep­herd?
    brain wash­es should be brain­wash­es
    your should be you’re
    dont should be don’t
    etc… etc…

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