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Peter and the Wolf

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Peter and the Wolf (Russian: Петя и волк, Petya i volk), Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story (with both music and text by Prokofiev), spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra.


In 1936 Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by Natalya Sats and the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow to write a new musical symphony for children. The intent was to cultivate "musical tastes in children from the first years of school". Intrigued by the invitation, Prokofiev completed Peter and the Wolf in just four days. The debut on 2 May 1936 was, in the composer's words, inauspicious at best: "...[attendance] was poor and failed to attract much attention".


Peter and the Wolf is scored for the following orchestra:

Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme:

The duration of the work is approximately 25 minutes.


Peter, a Young Pioneer, lives at his grandfather's home in a forest clearing. One day, Peter goes out into the clearing, leaving the garden gate open, and the duck that lives in the yard takes the opportunity to go swimming in a pond nearby. The duck starts arguing with a little bird ("What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" – "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?"). Peter's pet cat stalks them quietly, and the bird—warned by Peter—flies to safety in a tall tree while the duck swims to safety in the middle of the pond.

Peter's grandfather scolds Peter for being outside in the meadow ("Suppose a wolf came out of the forest?"), and, when Peter defies him, saying that "Boys like me are not afraid of wolves", his grandfather takes him back into the house and locks the gate. Soon afterwards "a big, grey wolf" does indeed come out of the forest. The cat quickly climbs into a tree, but the duck, who has excitedly jumped out of the pond, is chased, overtaken and swallowed by the wolf.

Peter fetches a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. He asks the bird to fly around the wolf's head to distract it, while he lowers a noose and catches the wolf by its tail. The wolf struggles to get free, but Peter ties the rope to the tree and the noose only gets tighter.

Some hunters, who have been tracking the wolf, come out of the forest ready to shoot, but Peter gets them to help him take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade (the piece was first performed for an audience of Young Pioneers during May Day celebrations) that includes himself, the bird, the hunters leading the wolf, the cat and grumpy grumbling Grandfather ("What if Peter hadn't caught the wolf? What then?")

In the story's ending, the listener is told that "if you listen very carefully, you'd hear the duck quacking inside the wolf's belly, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive."


The first American version, recorded in 1939 by RCA Victor, was issued in an album of three 78 rpm discs. It was narrated by Richard Hale, a film actor best known for villainous and exotic roles, with music performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky. Hale also served as narrator for Arthur Fiedler's 1953 RCA Victor high fidelity recording with the Boston Pops Orchestra, which included Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice and King Henry VIII dances by Camille Saint-Saëns and Edward German.

A 1987 Chandos Records recording with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was conducted by Neeme Järvi, while the composer's son, Oleg Prokofiev, and grandson (Gabriel Prokofiev) were the narrators for the 1991 Hyperion Records recording performed by the New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp.

Many English-language recordings of this famous piece have been made, including the following examples:

  • A mono recording made by Columbia Records, with Arthur Godfrey narrating and the music played by Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra. This version has never been issued on CD.
  • A recording with Basil Rathbone as narrator, performed by the All-American Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski (Avid Master Series, 1941); audio files restored by Bob Varney.
  • A recording with Boris Karloff as narrator with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under Mario Rossi ( Vanguard Records, 1957).
  • A bilingual recording featuring narration in Spanish and English by José Ferrer, performed by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Eugene Aynsley Goossens ( Kapp Records, 1959).
  • A recording with Michael Flanders as narrator with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Efrem Kurtz ( EMI Records, 1959).
  • A recording by the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein as conductor and narrator. The popularity of the group's televised Young People's Concerts made this an auspicious release ( Columbia Records, 1960).
  • A recording from the 1960s with Garry Moore as narrator and the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by Artur Rodziński. The reverse side of this 12-inch LP record also features The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns with Garry Moore (narrator), Josef and Grete Dichler (duopianists) and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Hermann Scherchen. Catalog no. Whitehall WHS20040.
  • A recording in Volume 5 of Decca Records' The World of the Great Classics series, featuring Sir Ralph Richardson as narrator with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. (This version is praised in various editions of The Stereo Record Guide as the finest recording and narration of the work ever made).
  • A recording with Sir John Gielgud as narrator, with Richard Stamp conducting the Orchestra of the Academy of London ( Virgin Classics, 1989) (Sir John's royalties for this recording were donated to The League of Friends of Charity Heritage, a facility for children handicapped physically).
  • Sir John Gielgud narrated a second version in 1996, this time performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrea Licata (Intersound Recordings).
  • A recording with Christopher Lee as narrator with the English String Orchestra conducted by Sir Yehudi Menuhin ( Nimbus Records, 1989).
  • A Decca Phase 4 recording with Sean Connery as narrator, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antal Doráti ( Decca Records, 1965).
  • Peter Ustinov was the narrator for two recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra, one conducted by Herbert von Karajan ( Angel Records 35638, 1956) and one conducted by Philip Ellis (Cirrus Classics CBS CD 105, 1989).
  • A recording with Paul Hogan as narrator with the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Igor Markevitch ( EMI, 1987), with the traditional plot but transferring the locale to the Australian Outback. (This recording was withdrawn soon after its release because of unflattering portrayals of Australia's aboriginal people and is now considered "out of print".)
  • A recording with Sterling Holloway as narrator ( Walt Disney Records). He was also narrator for The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
  • A 1971 EMI recording with Richard Baker as narrator, accompanied by the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard.
  • A recording with Will Geer as narrator performed by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Johannes Somary (Vanguard Records VSO-30033).
  • A Philips recording by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams. The American release (412 559-2) featured Dudley Moore as narrator while the UK release (412 556-2) featured Terry Wogan as narrator.
  • A 1975 Deutsche Grammophon recording featuring Hermione Gingold as narrator, accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm.
  • A Decca recording with Beatrice Lillie as narrator with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Skitch Henderson.
  • A recording with Captain Kangaroo as narrator and performed by the Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Leopold Stokowski.
  • Two recordings were performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, one featuring Cyril Ritchard as narrator ( Columbia Records ML 5183) and one featuring David Bowie as narrator ( RCA Victor, 1978).
  • A recording featuring Mia Farrow as narrator and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by André Previn ( EMI ASD 2935, 1973).
  • A recording featuring Itzhak Perlman as narrator and performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta ( EMI, 1986).
  • A recording featuring Lorne Greene as narrator and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent ( RCA, 1965).
  • A recording featuring Sir Alec Guinness as narrator and performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler ( BMG, 1988).
  • A recording narrated by Jonathan Winters with Efrem Kurtz conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra was released in 1989 on Angel/EMI. Recording also featured Winters narrating the Saint-Saëns/ Ogden Nash The Carnival of the Animals.
  • A recording with Patrick Stewart as narrator and performed by the Orchestre de L'Opéra Lyon (Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon) conducted by Kent Nagano ( Erato, 1994).
  • A recording with Ben Kingsley as narrator, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras (Cala Records, 1996).
  • A recording with Dame Edna Everage as narrator and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Lanchbery ( Naxos Records, 1997).
  • A recording with Melissa Joan Hart in her "Clarissa" persona from the Nickelodeon television series Clarissa Explains It All as narrator and performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa ( Sony Classical, 1994).
  • Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recorded two versions, one with Tom Seaver as narrator ( MMG) and another version in 1979 with Carol Channing as narrator ( Caedmon Records TC-1623).
  • A recording with George Raft as narrator and performed by the London Festival Orchestra conducted by Stanley Black (London SPC-21084). In this version, the story is reformulated as a gangster tale in the style of the Hollywood films that Raft had once acted in.
  • A recording with Sting was made by Deutsche Grammophon and played by Claudio Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This was used as the soundtrack to the television special Peter and the Wolf: A Prokofiev Fantasy.
  • A recording narrated by David Attenborough for BBC Music Magazine (free CD with the June 2000 issue).
  • A recording with Sharon Stone as narrator released by Deutsche Grammophon as part of A Classic Tale: Music for Our Children (289 471 171-2, 2001) and performed by James Levine conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's.
  • A recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Stephen Simon, conductor, Yadu (aka Dr. Konrad Czynski), narrator, Bonnie Ward Simon, elucidator of Peter and the Wolf with additional educational and entertaining tracks including Russian folk music with the Trio Voronezh, Prokofiev's life, and a music lesson by Maestro Simon. Part of Maestro Classics' Stories in Music series of new classics for narrator and orchestra.
  • A 1984 recording with William F. Buckley, Jr. narrating made by Leopold Hager and the Orchestra of Radio/TV Luxembourg. (Proarte Digital Records).

Adaptations of the work

Walt Disney, 1946

Walt Disney produced an animated version of the work in 1946, with Sterling Holloway providing the voice of the narrator. It was released theatrically as a segment of Make Mine Music, then re-issued the next year, accompanying a re-issue of Fantasia (as a short subject before the film), then separately on home video in the 1990s. This version makes several changes to the original story, for example:

  • During the character introduction, the pets are given names: "Sasha" the bird, "Sonia" the duck, and "Ivan" the cat.
  • As the cartoon begins, Peter and his friends already know there is a wolf nearby, and are preparing to catch him.
  • The hunters get names in a later part of the story: "Misha", "Yasha" and "Vladimir".
  • Peter day-dreams of hunting and catching the wolf and exits the garden carrying a wooden " pop gun" rifle with the purpose of hunting the wolf.
  • At the end, in a complete reversal of the original (and to make the story more child-friendly), the narrator reveals that the duck Sonia has not been eaten by the wolf. (The wolf was earlier shown chasing the duck, which hides in an old tree's hollow trunk. The wolf attacks out of view, and returns in view with some of the duck's feathers in his mouth and licking his jaws. Peter, the cat, and the bird assume the duck has been eaten. After the wolf has been caught, the bird Sasha is shown mourning the duck. The duck comes out of the tree trunk at that point and they are happily reunited).
  • In Belle's Tales of Friendship, The Disney version of Peter and the Wolf is featured and narrated by Belle instead of Sterling Holloway.
  • This version of Peter and the Wolf was featured in Disney's House of Mouse, and characters from it appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and an audio recording of this version with expanded narration by Sterling Holloway was released on Disneyland Records (DQ-1242). For one of his television programs, Disney recalled how Prokofiev himself visited the Disney studio, eventually inspiring the making of this animated version. Disney used an actor to re-create how the composer sat at a piano and played the themes from the score.

Russia, 1958

The Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm produced a version of the work in 1958. It is puppet stop motion animation, directed by Anatoly Karanovich and narrated by I. Medvedyeva. This version makes the following changes to the story:

  • In the beginning the bird sees the wolf in the forest and warns Peter's grandfather, who goes to get the hunters and tells Peter not to leave the fenced-in yard.
  • The cat, after failing to catch the bird and duck, goes to the forest to solicit the help of the wolf.
  • Peter picks up the duck and runs to safety, leaving the cat outside with the wolf.
  • The wolf, not being very particular, eats the cat.

This version has not been published much outside of the ex-USSR.

British-Polish coproduction, 2006

In 2006, Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman directed and produced respectively, a stop-motion animated adaptation, Peter and the Wolf. It is unusual in its lack of any dialogue or narration, the story being told only in images and sound and interrupted by sustained periods of silence. The soundtrack is performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the film received its premiere with a live accompaniment in the Royal Albert Hall. The film won the Annecy Cristal and the Audience Award at the 2007 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. This version makes some changes to the original Prokofiev story; for example:

  • Peter bumps into one of the "hunters" (teenage bullies in this telling) who throws him in a rubbish bin and aims at him with his rifle to scare him; the second hunter watches without interfering (thus, a dislike towards the hunter/bullies is immediately created).
  • Because of a broken wing, the bird has trouble flying and takes Peter's balloon to help it get aloft.
  • After Peter has captured the wolf in a net, the hunter gets him in his rifle's telescopic sight coincidentally, but just before shooting, the second hunter stumbles, falls on him and makes him miss the shot.
  • The caged wolf is brought into the village on a cart where Peter's grandfather tries to sell it. The hunter comes to the container and sticks his rifle in to intimidate the animal (as he did with Peter earlier on). At that time Peter throws the net on the hunter, who becomes tangled in it.
  • Before the grandfather has made a deal, Peter unlocks the cart after looking into the eyes of the wolf. They walk side by side through the awestruck crowd and then the freed wolf runs off in the direction of the silver moon shining over the forest.


  • In 1958, a videotaped television special entitled Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf, with Art Carney as main entertainer, along with the Bil Baird Marionettes, was presented by the American Broadcasting Company, and was successful enough to have been repeated twice. The show had an original storyline in which Carney interacted with some talking marionette animals, notably the wolf, who was the troublemaker of the group. This first half was presented as a musical, with adapted music from Lieutenant Kijé and other Prokofiev works which had special English lyrics fitted into them. The program then segued into a complete performance of Peter and the Wolf, played exactly as written by the composer, and "mimed" by both "human" and "animal" marionettes. The conclusion of the program again featured Carney interacting with the animal marionettes. The show was nominated for three Emmy Awards.
  • Hans Conried recorded the narration with a Dixieland musical band in or around 1960. Since there is no oboe in a Dixieland band, the part of the duck was played by a saxophone.
  • The Clyde Valley Stompers recorded a jazz version on Parlophone Records (45-R 4928) in 1962, which registered on the popular music charts of the time.
  • Allan Sherman parodied the work in a 1964 album called Peter and the Commissar, made with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
  • A 1966 version by Hammond organ player 'The Incredible Jimmy Smith', arranged by Oliver Nelson was without narration, and was an improvisation based on the original themes.
  • In 1975, Robin Lumley and Jack Lancaster produced a rock music version. Their music makes use of some of Prokofiev's original themes. Along with Vivian Stanshall as the narrator, the staff is illustrious (among others Gary Moore, Manfred Mann, Phil Collins, Bill Bruford, Stéphane Grappelli, Alvin Lee, Cozy Powell, Brian Eno, Jon Hiseman); the music is very heterogeneous: from psychedelic rock music to jazz (Grappelli's violin solo on the motif of the cat).
  • The 1983 film A Christmas Story features music from Peter and the Wolf prominently during scenes of the character Scut Farkus as bully to the main characters in the film. The surname Farkus is a variation of farkas, which is Hungarian for "wolf".
  • A sequel to the story was written by Justin Locke during 1985 using the original score. "Peter VS. the Wolf" is the Wolf's trial, where he defends himself against the charge of "Duckicide in the first degree, with one gulp." The original music is presented as evidence, but then the Wolf calls individual musicians to the stand and cross-examines them. It requires five actors for a stage presentation.
  • In 1985, Arnie Zane choreographed a punk music ballet version of Peter and the Wolf.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic and Wendy Carlos produced a comedic version in 1988, using a synthesized orchestra and many additions to the story and music (Peter captures the wolf using his grandfather's dental floss, leading to the moral of the story, "Oral hygiene is very important.").
  • In 1989, An episode of the Muppet Babies entitled, "Skeeter and the Wolf", where Skeeter filling in for Peter, Gonzo as the bird, Scooter as the cat, Fozzie as the duck, Nanny as the grandparent, then Kermit and Piggy as the hunters.
  • A 1990 episode of Tiny Toon Adventures titled "Buster and the Wolverine" featured Elmyra Duff providing narration for a story where Buster Bunny and his friends, represented with musical instruments, combat an evil "wolverine". In this episode, the characters' instruments are: Buster Bunny, a trumpet; Babs Bunny, a harp; Furrball, a violin; Sweetie, a flute; Hamton J. Pig, a tuba; Plucky Duck, a bike horn (later, bagpipes, then an organ, and finally a synthesizer); and the wolverine, drums.
  • Peter Schickele (aka P. D. Q. Bach), wrote an alternate, comedic text for the score entitled Sneaky Pete and the Wolf, converting the story into a Western, including a showdown between Sneaky Pete and the gunslinger El Lobo (which never happens due to some local boys giving El Lobo a hotfoot and sticking a paper airplane in his eye and Sneaky Pete's girlfriend Laura rendering El Lobo unconscious with a vacuum cleaner). It was recorded with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi in 1993.
  • In the 1993 Simpsons episode " Krusty Gets Kancelled", guest star Hugh Hefner plays a portion of Peter and the Wolf on wine glasses.
  • In 1995 comedian Harry Shearer performed a sketch on his public radio series Le Show where Kato Kaelin, a primary witness in the then-current O.J. Simpson murder trial, narrated Peter and the Wolf (in the same stammering, disoriented manner he had provided testimony) for a PBS special, ostensibly accompanied by New Age musician/TV host John Tesh.
  • In 1995, a 60-minute television film was made with a mix of live action and animation and the characters from the story were designed by Chuck Jones. The film featured Kirstie Alley, Lloyd Bridges and Ross Malinger in a live-action "wraparound" segment and as voices in the story (Ms. Alley as the Narrator, Mr. Bridges as "The Grandfather" and Ross as "Peter"). The version debuted on the American Broadcasting Company ABC Network on December 8, 1995. This version keeps the duck-friendly ending by having the swallowed duck pop out of the wolf's mouth alive, well, and dancing as the wolf is being captured. The wolf, described as "not a ballet fan", grabs the duck again before being forced to drop him by the hunters. As the story ends, Peter finds the duck crouching at the pond's edge shivering and frightened because of his terrible experience, and Peter reassures him that he (Peter) would always be there to protect him. This version even places the bird as a mother, with six eggs that hatch near the ending. The music for this version was performed by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Daugherty. The version received a 1996 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program, and received a second Emmy nomination for Daugherty, for Outstanding Music Direction. Daugherty (also one of the writers) and Janis Diamond received a Writers Guild of America nomination for the script. The production received the Grand Award for Best Television Production at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival and a Gold Hugo and Silver Hugo at Chicago International Film Festival, and numerous other awards and nominations.
  • During September 1996, Coldcut (a duo of scratch/mix djs from south London) released a scratch version of the main theme, included on the track "More Beats + Pieces", from their album Let Us Play!.
  • In 1997, George MacKay (actor) produced and directed his own version of Peter and the Wolf, casting himself as the Wolf.
  • Peter and the Wolf was choreographed by Matthew Hart for television in 1997, performed by the dancers of the Royal Ballet School and narrated by Sir Anthony Dowell.
  • In 2001, National Public Radio produced Peter and the Wolf: A Special Report, which treats the familiar plot as if it were a developing news story. Robert Siegel, Linda Wertheimer, Ann Taylor, Steve Inskeep of NPR's All Things Considered report on the event against a performance of the score by the Virginia Symphony conducted by JoAnn Falletta.
  • Sesame Workshop produced a version with Sesame Street characters in 2001 as told by way of a trip to a Boston Pops Orchestra concert. Dubbed as " Elmo's Musical Adventure", the story unfolds inside Baby Bear's imagination as he attends a performance with Papa Bear, conducted by Keith Lockhart. In the story, Peter is played by Elmo, the cat by Oscar the Grouch, the duck by Telly Monster, the bird by Zoe, the grandfather by Big Bird, and the hunters by the Two-Headed Monster. Each character is followed around by a soloist playing that character's instrument, but Telly Monster's "Duck" quits the story after finding out that the wolf eats the duck (he returns as one of the hunters later).
  • In February 2004, ex-president Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Sophia Loren won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for narrating the album Peter and the Wolf/Wolf Tracks. This recording was performed by the Russian National Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano and included Ms. Loren narrating Peter and the Wolf and Clinton narrating The Wolf and Peter by Jean-Pascal Beintus, which is also a narrated orchestral piece, but the story is told from the perspective of the wolf and has the theme of letting animals live in peace.
  • In 2004, Russian model Tatiana Sorokko performed with the Russian National Orchestra, on tour in the United States, and she was the narrator at the Wind Quintet's debut performance of Jean-Pascal Beintus' Wolf Tracks, at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
  • Psy-trance artist Eliad Grundland released a musical interpretation of the work, as Space Buddha, titled "Land of The Wolves" on his 2006 album Full Circle.
  • In 2005, theatre organist Jelani Eddington performed and recorded with narrator George Woods the only existing theatre organ adaptation of Peter and the Wolf.
  • In 2006, Neil Tobin produced a Halloween-themed narrative called Peter and the Werewolf with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, John Lanchbery conducting.
  • In November 2009, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed an adaptation of Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Martin Clunes, as part of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust's 50th Anniversary Finale Concert in Fort Regent in Saint Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands.
  • In 2009, an Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps episode named "Angelina's Musical Day", Angelina and her friends do a school play of Peter and the Wolf.
  • 2010 Denver musicians Munly and the Lupercalians released Petr and the Wulf, an alternative take on the original story. Told from the different perspectives of all the characters: Grandfater, Petr, Scarewulf, Cat, Bird, The Three Hunters, Duk, and Wulf. Released on the Alternative Tentacles label.
  • On 19 December 2010, comedian Harry Shearer again performed a sketch on his public radio series Le Show in a style as might be presented by CNN news personalities Larry King, Wolf Blitzer, and Anderson Cooper.
  • In 2012, ITV used a version of the main theme as the title music for their coverage of the European Football Championships, because Prokofiev was born in present-day Ukraine, one of the host countries.

In copyright law

In 2012, the US Supreme Court's decision in Golan v. Holder restored copyright protection in the United States to numerous foreign works that had entered the public domain. Peter and the Wolf was frequently cited by the parties and amici, as well as by the Court's opinion and by the press, as an example of a well-known work that would be removed from the public domain by the decision.

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