French Fairy Tales continues the series of theatrical concert performances by the Mariinsky Theatre, introducing the next generation to masterpieces of classical music. In an engaging voyage of discovery of magical stories, the origins of which lie in France, children will set out together with Monsieur Jacques, a role to be performed by Sergey Byzgu, Honoured Artist of Russia, and the Mariinsky Orchestra. The concert is based on musical "best-sellers" by Camille Saint-Saëns and Maurice Ravel.
Le Carnaval des animaux is one of the most famous works by Saint-Saëns. In terms of popularity, it has outstripped all of the composer's symphonies and almost all of his operas. The opus was commenced in Austria in February 1886, on a few days while relaxing after a demanding concert tour, and it was intended for a private concert on the last day of Shrovetide (heralded by a carnival in French-speaking nations). However paradoxically, Saint-Saëns did not intend for this work to be published. It was a "musical jest" for a narrow circle of friends, and, during the composer's lifetime, Le Carnaval des animaux was performed exclusively in domestic circles. Saint-Saëns permitted the publication and a public performance of just Le Cygne, the other parts eluding wider audiences, in order to retain his reputation as a serious musician. Since 1907, thanks to the choreographer Michel Fokine and the ballerina Anna Pavlova, this music has had a life of its own as a concert piece.
The title of Maurice Ravel's suite Ma Mère l'Oye coincides with the title of the famous anthology of tales by Charles Perrault. For a brief period, the composer transformed himself into a story-teller for the young children of his friends, the Godebskis, and for them he composed five pieces for piano for four hands. The opus was first presented to a wider audience by young pupils of the Paris Conservatoire – at the first concert of the Société musicale indépendante, one of the founders of which was Ravel himself. Soon, however, he submitted his suite to adults: he orchestrated it and subsequently expanded it for a ballet. The plots for the pieces were selected by the composer from French fairy tales from the 17th and 18th centuries.