Les Enfants Terribles
Children of the Game
Music by Philip Glass
Adapted from the work of Jean Cocteau by Philip Glass and Susan Marshall


Orange Mountain Music 0019


Disc 1
1 Scene 1 Les Enfants Terribles Overture 3:16
2 Scene 2 Paul is Dying 7:38
3 Scene 3 A Snowball 3:32
4 Scene 4 Two Halves of the Same Body 5:41
5 Scene 5 He Didn’t Say Goodbye 2:05
6 Scene 6 The Somnambulist 4:12
7 Scene 7 She Slapped Me 5:14
8 Scene 8a They Lived Their Dream 4:13
9 Scene 8b And Then Leave 3:13
10 Scene 9 Call Me Elisabeth 3:13
11 Scenes 10,11 Crisscross Pattern 6:49
Disc 2
1 Scene 11a Terrible Interlude 4:41
2 Scene 12 Unaware of Its Taboos 2:33
3 Scene 13 One Wheel Spinning 4:15
4 Scene 14a,b Cocoon of Shawls 4:17
5 Scene 15 Lost 4:25
6 Scene 16 He Wrote His Own Name 1:21
7 Scene 17 Are You in Love, Agathe? 10:13
8 Scene 18 From Dargelos 3:35
9 Scene 19 She Took the Path 2:27
10 Scene 20 Paul’s End 4:04


Les Enfants Terribles, Jean Cocteau’s novel (written in 1929 and was later made into both a play and a film) forms the basis of the third installment of the trilogy of music/theater works began with Orphée and continued with La Belle et la Bête. In the previous two works (Orphée and La Belle et la Bête), film and opera were combined to create a hybrid form. For Les Enfants Terribles I envisioned something different. I invited the American choreographer Susan Marshall, to help adapt and direct a dance/opera based on the novel in which singers and dancers would share center stage.

If Orphée is Cocteau’s tale of transcendence and La Belle et la Bête his romance, then Les Enfants Terribles is his tragedy. Like the others, it articulates Cocteau’s belief in the power of imagination to transform the ordinary world into a world of magic. But unlike the two previous works, in which transformation leads to love and transcendence, Les Enfants Terribles takes us to the world of Narcissus and, ultimately, Death. Hence the tragedy and power of the piece — a snowball becomes a ball of poison. Dargelos becomes Agathe. A “Room” (normally a place of imagination and creativity for Cocteau) is transformed into a space that jealously refuses to let its “Children” grow up. A harmless “Game” turns into a fierce struggle that ends in destruction.

The natural world is represented by the snow, which falls relentlessly throughout the opera and (like the spectators) silently looks on, bearing witness to the unfolding events. Here, time stands still. There is only music, and the movement of children through space.

— Philip Glass

When Philip and I began discussing the shape this dance/opera would take, I realized I did not want to direct a conventional opera in which dance would play its traditional role of divertissement, secondary to the main action. Nor did I want to create choreography that would “enact” the story in a literal fashion, for the power of dance lies in its mystery. Nevertheless, Cocteau’s story is the heart of the work; how could I communicate it to an audience in a way that an audience could follow?

The central challenge has been to find that delicate balance (so Cocteau!) between clarity and mystery. Much of the process of creating this piece has been about finding balances: between singers and dancers; simplicity and density; humor and tragedy; melodrama and drama. Perhaps this is as it should be since Les Enfants Terribles is full of sharply contrasting images, and peopled by characters who struggle under strongly opposing desires.

In addition to the challenge posed by the particular nature of this opera, I carry another challenge into this process, a personal, perennial and elusive one: to let a little chaos into my work. Cocteau wrote in his journal of the work writing itself. In much the same way, this dance/opera seems to have taken over at the controls. And it feels right to step aside, to let the work guide me — it is the best way to hear Cocteau’s voice.

— Susan Marshall


Gérard tells the story of a brother and sister, Paul and Lise, who live in a fantasy world of their own imaginings. They are severed from the outside world when Paul –after being struck by a snowball thrown by his idol Dargelos– falls ill and is forced to stay home from school. Shortly thereafter, their mother’s untimely death leaves them completely alone.

Isolated and totally dependent on each other, they pass their days in their “Room”, acting out their wild fantasies, which they term “playing the Game.” At first innocent, these games become increasingly twisted. Gérard, their only friend, visits them and serves as their private audience.

Lise, growing tired of this oppressive situation, eventually gets a job as a model. She befriends another model, Agathe, and brings her home. Agathe looks exactly like Dargelos, and her presence further threatens the delicate balance that these “children” have created.

Lise’s last chance to get away crumbles when her fiancé Michael dies in a car crash. Fate has set the stage for tragedy. Unable to accept that her brother Paul has fallen in love with Agathe, Lise acts to prevent it. She tricks their friend Gérard to marry Agathe, insuring that she and Paul will never be separated. But the “magical” world the two of them had before cannot be recreated. Paul tries to poison himself, and in the confusion that follows, the truth about Lise’s plot comes out. What had begun as an innocent, children’s Game ends tragically in death and destruction.


Produced by Michael Riesman and Kurt Munkacsi. Executive Producers: Philip Glass, Kurt Munkacsi and Don Christensen. Singers: Christine Arand, soprano (Lise); Philip Cutlip, bass-baritone (Paul); Hal Cazalet, tenor (Gérard); Valerie Komar, mezzo-soprano (Dargelos, Agathe). Keyboards: Philip Glass, Nelson Padgett, Eleanor Sandresky. Conducted by Karen Kamensek.

Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York City, and Sorcerer Sound, New York City, December 1996- January 1997. Mixed at The Looking Glass Studios, New York City, May 1997. Recording Engineer: John Billingsley. Mix Engineer: Martin Czembor. Assistant Engineer: Ryoji Hata. Technical Engineer: Jamie Mereness. Mastering Engineer: Hector Castillo.

Cover Photo: Noah Greenberg. Design: Lissi Sigillo.
Susan Marshall thanks: The Dance Continuum Inc. – Hans Beenhakker, Susan Blankensop, Mark DeChiazza, John Heginbotham, Kristen Hollinsworth, Krista Langberg and Eileen Thomas for their collaboration. Special thanks to: Bob Hurwitz, Jim Lewis, Linda Brumbach, Alisa Regas, Jim Keller and to Steps ’96, MIGROS Switzerland – Cultural Commitment.

© and ℗ Orange Mountain Music 2005.



Les Enfants Terribles