The story begins. We can hear the composer’s voice preceding the musical narrative.
The first butterfly.
Here, in front of us, is Robert Schumann. It is his first musical self-portrait.
The second butterfly.
In this lightning-like burlesque we can see the musical image of the crowd attending the ball. The smartly dressed crowd is flying toward the listener/spectator in Schumann’s fantastical theater, splitting into flitting “butterflies”.
The third butterfly.
It is a fairy tale-like image of a gigantic boot.
“A boot which walks by itself, puts itself on by itself, and wears itself”.
This is a parody of the past with a political context of a parody of autocracy.
The fourth butterfly.
In front of us is a portrait of a heroine from a musical fantasy poem.
The fifth butterfly.
The “action” is taking place in a ballroom where the guests, as well as the hero and the heroine, are assembled. All are dancing a polonaise.
The sixth butterfly.
Having escaped from the dancing guests at the ball, the hero and heroine are having an emotional conversation. Their dialogue is interrupted twice by the noise and sounds of the ball; now retreating, now approaching.
The seventh butterfly.
This is the second self-portrait, though not a formal but an intimate one. He is dreaming and longing of his beloved who is represented by a gentle waltz that plays after the reflective self-portrait theme.
The eighth butterfly.
The return from the dream about his beloved to the real ball and the real dance with her among the guests.
The ninth butterfly.
The tearing. A dramatic scene when the “secret comes out”. The love between the two becomes a topic of gossip of the crowd that intrusively discusses the couple’s “behavior”.
The tenth butterfly.
A festive waltz during which “he” and “she” are dancing together for the last time.
The eleventh butterfly.
“Hussar polonaise”. A grand polonaise-waltz in which the hussars are taking part, and in which we see the image of the hero-author detached from reality, and contemplating on happiness, life, and death.
The twelfth butterfly. The finale.
The trumpets are calling for the end of the ball. The pompous old men are dancing. The author-hero appears, having overcome the drama and enjoying again the waltz of his youth.
The clock strikes six o’clock in the morning. The guests are disappearing into thin air like ghosts in the fantasy world of Schumann.
Translated by Fira Headrick and Masha Taborisskaya.