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Peter and the Wolf

1947 coloring book cover

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".[1] Intrigued by the invitation, Prokofiev completed Peter and the Wolf in just four days.[2] The debut on 2 May 1936 was, in the composer's words, inauspicious at best: "...[attendance] was poor and failed to attract much attention".[3]


Peter and the Wolf is scored for the following orchestra:[4]

Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme:[5]

The duration of the work is approximately 25 minutes.[6]


Peter, a Young Pioneer,[7][8] 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 alone ("Suppose a wolf came out of the forest?"), and, when Peter defies him, saying: "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: "If you listen very carefully, you'll hear the duck quacking inside the wolf's belly, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive."


Date Narrator Orchestra Conductor Label Notes
2012 Bramwell Tovey Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Bramwell Tovey Video on YouTube
2008 Yadu (aka Dr. Konrad Czynski) London Philharmonic Orchestra Stephen Simon Maestro Classics Bonnie Ward Simon, elucidator, with additional tracks including Russian folk music with the Trio Voronezh, Prokofiev's life, and a music lesson by Maestro Simon. Part of Stories in Music series
2003 Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, Sophia Loren Russian National Orchestra Kent Nagano Pentatone
2003 Antonio Banderas, Sophia Loren Russian National Orchestra Kent Nagano Pentatone In Spanish
2001 Sharon Stone Orchestra of St. Luke's James Levine Deutsche Grammophon as part of A Classic Tale: Music for Our Children (289 471 171–2, 2001)
2000 David Attenborough for BBC Music Magazine; a free CD came with the June 2000 issue
1997 Anthony Dowell Ross MacGibbon, director (video) Film of a ballet performance, starring David Johnson, Layla Harrison, Karan Lingham[9]
1997 Dame Edna Everage Melbourne Symphony Orchestra John Lanchbery Naxos Records
1996 Sir John Gielgud Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Andrea Licata Intersound Recordings
1996 Ben Kingsley London Symphony Orchestra Sir Charles Mackerras Cala Records
1994 Melissa Joan Hart Boston Symphony Orchestra Seiji Ozawa Sony Classical Hart was in her "Clarissa" persona from the Nickelodeon television series Clarissa Explains It All
1994 Patrick Stewart Orchestra of the Opéra National de Lyon Kent Nagano Erato
1994 Sting Chamber Orchestra of Europe Claudio Abbado Deutsche Grammophon This was used as the soundtrack to the television special Peter and the Wolf: A Prokofiev Fantasy
1991 Oleg and Gabriel Prokofiev New London Orchestra Ronald Corp Hyperion Records The narrators were the son and grandson of the composer
1989 Sir John Gielgud Orchestra of the Academy of London Richard Stamp Virgin Classics Sir John's royalties for this recording were donated to The League of Friends of Charity Heritage, a facility for children handicapped physically
1989 Christopher Lee English String Orchestra Sir Yehudi Menuhin Nimbus Records
1989 Peter Ustinov Philharmonia Orchestra Philip Ellis Cirrus Classics CBS CD 105
1989 Jonathan Winters Philharmonia Orchestra Efrem Kurtz Angel Records Winters also narrated the Saint-Saëns/Ogden Nash The Carnival of the Animals
1987 Paul Hogan Orchestre de Paris Igor Markevitch EMI It retained the traditional plot but transferred 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".
1987 Lina Prokofiev (Sergei Prokofiev's widow) Royal Scottish National Orchestra Neeme Järvi Chandos Records
1986 Itzhak Perlman Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Zubin Mehta EMI
1984 William F. Buckley, Jr. Orchestra of Radio/TV Luxembourg Leopold Hager Proarte Digital Records
1984 Dudley Moore / Terry Wogan Boston Pops Orchestra John Williams Philips The American release (412 559–2) was narrated by Dudley Moore, while the UK release (412 556–2) featured Terry Wogan as narrator
1980 Tom Seaver Cincinnati Pops Orchestra Erich Kunzel MMG
1979 Carol Channing Cincinnati Pops Orchestra Erich Kunzel Caedmon Records TC-1623
1977 Cyril Ritchard Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy Columbia Records ML 5183
1978 David Bowie Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Ormandy RCA Red Seal
1975 Hermione Gingold Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Karl Böhm Deutsche Grammophon
1974 Will Geer English Chamber Orchestra Johannes Somary Vanguard Records VSO-30033
1973 Mia Farrow London Symphony Orchestra André Previn EMI ASD 2935
1972 George Raft London Festival Orchestra Stanley Black Phase 4 Stereo 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.
1971 Richard Baker New Philharmonia Orchestra Raymond Leppard EMI
1970 Sir Ralph Richardson London Symphony Orchestra Sir Malcolm Sargent Decca Records Volume 5 of The World of the Great Classics series. This version is praised in various editions of The Stereo Record Guide as the finest recording and narration of the work ever made.
1966 Richard Attenborough Philharmonia of Hamburg Hans-Jurgen Walter Columbia Records
1965 Sean Connery Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Antal Doráti Phase 4 Stereo
1965 Lorne Greene London Symphony Orchestra Sir Malcolm Sargent RCA Victor
1960s Garry Moore Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London Artur Rodziński Whitehall WHS20040.[10] 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.
1960 Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein Columbia Records The popularity of the group's televised Young People's Concerts made this an auspicious release
1960 Captain Kangaroo Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York Leopold Stokowski Everest Records SDBR-3043
1960 Beatrice Lillie London Symphony Orchestra Skitch Henderson Decca Records
1959 José Ferrer Vienna State Opera Orchestra Sir Eugene Goossens Kapp Records Narrated in Spanish and English
1959 Michael Flanders Philharmonia Orchestra Efrem Kurtz EMI Records
1957 Boris Karloff Vienna State Opera Orchestra Mario Rossi Vanguard Records
1956 Peter Ustinov Philharmonia Orchestra Herbert von Karajan Angel Records
1955 Arthur Godfrey Andre Kostelanetz's Orchestra Andre Kostelanetz Columbia Records mono recording; has never been issued on CD
1953 Alec Guinness Boston Pops Orchestra Arthur Fiedler RCA Victor
1950 Eleanor Roosevelt Boston Symphony Orchestra Serge Koussevitzky RCA Victor mono recording; never officially issued on CD
1946 Sterling Holloway Disney originally made for the 1946 film Make Mine Music
1941 Basil Rathbone All-American Orchestra Leopold Stokowski Columbia Masterworks Restored from original Masterworks set M-477 by Bob Varney[11]
1939 Richard Hale Boston Symphony Orchestra Serge Koussevitzky RCA Victor

Adaptations of the work

Walt Disney, 1946

Disney's 1946 animated short.

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 reissued the next year, accompanying a reissue of Fantasia (as a short subject before the film), then separately on home video in the 1990s.[12] 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 daydreams of hunting and catching the wolf, and for that purpose exits the garden carrying a wooden "pop gun".
  • At the end, in a 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. Earlier in the film, the wolf is shown chasing the duck, who 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, 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 1957, 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 pianist Ingolf Dahl, who resembled Prokofiev, to re-create how the composer sat at a piano and played the themes from the score.[13][14]

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.

Walt Disney, 1999

Another Disney adaptation, a live-action/animated film released direct-to-video titled Belle's Tales of Friendship (August 1999), 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 (1988). An audio recording of this version, with expanded narration by Sterling Holloway, was released on Disneyland Records (DQ-1242).[citation needed]

British–Polish co-production, 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.[15] The film won the Annecy Cristal and the Audience Award at the 2007 Annecy International Animated Film Festival,[16] and won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[17] 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.


File:Peter and wolf 2007.jpg
2007 Toronto, Canada production
Gethin Jones narrating Peter and the Wolf at the Hay Festival, 2008

Up to 1959

  • The Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolayeva transcribed seven excerpts as a virtuoso concert suite,[18] and made a well-known recording of it.[when?]
  • 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.[19]




  • The 1983 film A Christmas Story features music from Peter and the Wolf prominently during scenes of the character Scut Farkus bullying other characters. The surname Farkus is a variation of farkas, which is Hungarian for "wolf".
  • Justin Locke wrote a 1985 sequel to the story, 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.[24]
  • In 1985, Arnie Zane choreographed a punk music ballet version of Peter and the Wolf.[25]
  • In 1988, "Weird Al" Yankovic and Wendy Carlos produced a comedic version, using a synthesized orchestra and many additions to the story and music (e.g., Peter captures the wolf using his grandfather's dental floss, leading to the moral of the story: "Oral hygiene is very important").[26]
  • In 1989, in an episode of the Muppet Babies entitled, "Skeeter and the Wolf", Skeeter fills in for Peter, Gonzo is the bird, Scooter is the cat, Fozzie is the duck, Nanny is the grandparent, and Kermit and Piggy are the hunters.




  • In 2010, Denver musicians Munly and the Lupercalians[40] 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.[41]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[42]
  • In 2013, filmmaker Wes Hurley premiered his short film Peter and the Wolf – a graphic adult version of the story featuring Peter as a gay werewolf-hunter and imagery inspired by Tom of Finland.[43][44]
  • In 2015, a recording done on the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ, arranged by Josh Perschbacher, and narrated by Michael Barone (host of the radio program Pipedreams from American Public Media[45]
  • In 2015, the New England Jazz Ensemble (with the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra) debuted pianist Walter Gwardyak's jazz arrangement of Peter and the Wolf for big band. It is set to be recorded in summer of 2015. Narration written and performed by vocalist Giacomo Gates.[46]

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.[47]


  1. ^ Friday, Gavin (December 2011). "Peter & The Wolf". Verify credibility
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  3. ^ Prokofiev, Sergei (2000); Prokofieva, Rose (translator) (1960). Shlifstein, S, ed. Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. The Minerva Group, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 0-89875-149-7. 
  4. ^ "Scores > Prokofiev, Sergei > Prokofiev, Sergei / Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 – Score and Parts > ID: 2444". New York Philharmonic Orchestra Archives. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  5. ^ Estrella, Espie. "'Peter and the Wolf': Characters and Instruments". Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ "New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky – Peter And The Wolf / Nutcracker Suite". Discogs. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Snaring a fresh audience using a cautionary tale" by Elissa Blake, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 2013
  8. ^ Morrison, Simon (2008). The People's Artist : Prokofiev's Soviet Years. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 9780199720514. 
  9. ^ a b Peter and the Wolf (TV 1997) at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ Review by T.H., Gramophone, June 1961, p. 31
  11. ^ "Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67. audio recording". Columbia Masterworks Records, Internet Archive. July 1941. 
  12. ^ "The Big Cartoon Database: Make Mine Music". 20 April 1946. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "1957 Disney TV introduction". Peter and the Wolf. 1957. 
  14. ^ Linick, Anthony (2008). The Lives of Ingolf Dahl. Author House. p. 294. 
  15. ^ Breakthru Films
  16. ^ Annecy 2008 Festival, 2007 Award Winning Films. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  17. ^ "Oscars 2008: Winners". 25 February 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008. 
  18. ^ scribd
  19. ^ Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf (TV 1958) at the Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ "Obiturary: Kenny Davern, 71, Leading Jazz Clarinet Player". The New York Sun. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  21. ^ "The Geoff Boxell Home Page". Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "Peter and the Commissar". Artist Direct. 
  23. ^ [[[:Template:Allmusic]]]
  24. ^ "Peter VS. the Wolf". Justin Locke Productions. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  25. ^ Banes, Sally (1987). Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6160-2. 
  26. ^ "Wendy Carlos' official website". Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  27. ^ "Tiny Toon Adventures episode guide". Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  28. ^ Peter Schickele official website. (1 May 2011). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  29. '^ Peter and the Wolf' (1995) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  30. ^ The Boston Phoenix[dead link]
  31. ^ Public Radio Musicsource. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  32. ^ Elmo's Musical Adventure at Muppet Wiki
  33. ^ "Russian National Orchestra". 21 October 2003. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  34. ^ "RNO Russian National Orchestra". February 2004. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  35. ^ Template:Allmusic
  36. ^ Adaptation for Theatre organ by Jelani Eddington
  37. ^ Track list for Full Circle
  38. ^ Neil Tobin, Necromancer. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
  39. ^
  40. ^ Petr & The Wulf, tracklist (11 December 2010)
  41. ^ Petr & The Wulf, Alternative Tentacles
  42. ^ ITV Euro 2012 on YouTube
  43. ^
  44. ^ Peter and the Wolf (2012) at the Internet Movie Database
  45. ^[1]
  46. ^
  47. ^ Ginsburg, Ruth. "Associate Justice" (PDF). Majority Opinion. Supreme Court of United States. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 

External links