Les gentilles sirenes

A ballet by
John Craton

Scene: A seashore


Les gentilles sirènes begins with a storm at sea and a sailing ship sinking in the distance. Mermaids, who are also disturbed by the storm, are seen swimming about near the shore. A bassinet from the sinking ship floats by, and the mermaids rescue it and its inhabitant — a baby girl — bringing them ashore. As the storm abates, they search for other survivors but find none.

The mermaids decide to care for the child, whom they name Étoile (Star), and they raise her as their own … only they have to keep her on land, since she, being human, would drown in the sea. The mermaids take turns coming ashore and caring for Étoile.

As Étoile grows, she becomes first a young girl, and the mermaids play with her, enjoying a game of hide and seek. When the game is done and the mermaids retreat to the sea, the local frogs come out to entertain the young lass, much to her delight.

More time passes and Étoile becomes a young lady. As the mermaids entertain themselves one day in a dance, Étoile interrupts them and begs to be taught how to dance. They agree to teach her and begin a new minuet to instruct her, but suddenly they are called back to the sea mid-dance, leaving Étoile all alone on the shore. Étoile sits dejectedly and then dances a sad dance. She longs to be able to live in the sea with her caregivers.

Suddenly the sea stirs, and the mermaids gather on shore for something that portends great importance. After gathering they bring Amphitrite forward, who comes bearing her magical trident. Following a short solo dance, Amphitrite magically turns Étoile into a mermaid, which is what she has wanted all along so that she would not be alone. Now all the mermaids (including Étoile) sing together, and Étoile joins her sisters in the sea.


Scored for full orchestra (piccolo, 2 flutes, oboe, cor anglais, 2 Bb clarinets, Bb bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 F horns, 2 Bb trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, strings, and percussion — timpani, bass drum, gong, cymbals, temple bells, tambourine, triangle, xylophone, chimes). Total length: appoximately 28 minutes. Score and parts are available on request. Please contact the composer for more information.

Audio Files

A storm at sea / Étoile is rescued
Caring for the infant Étoile
Time passes / The child Étoile plays hide and seek
The frogs entertain Étoile
More time passes / The dance lesson (minuet)
The lonely Étoile
Amphitrite arrives / Étoile becomes a mermaid

Copyright © 2019 by John Craton (ASCAP)

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