In this much-loved story, an emperor prefers a sparkling mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale.
Hans Christian Andersen’s delightful story is based on an ancient Chinese morality tale. The Emperor of China learns that one of the most beautiful things in his empire is the song of the nightingale. Never having heard of the bird, he insists that one is brought to him, so that he can hear it for himself. However, once the bird has agreed to appear before him, he captures it, so that he can listen to it at any time he likes.
But as with all tales of this sort, the plot takes an unexpected turn. The Emperor is given a mechanical bird which, he believes, sings more beautifully than the real thing. He banishes the nightingale from his kingdom and listens only to the facsimile until, inevitably, it breaks. As a result, the Emperor becomes gravely ill and the only creature with the power to save him is the bird he banished. This story is as delicate and charming as the song of the nightingale itself.
Sir Derek Jacobi lends his superb acting abilities to Andersen’s story, and uses just the right level of delivery to make this story both enchanting and accessible. Jacobi, famous for both his work as a classical actor and the narrator of TV’s ‘In the Night Garden’ uses his skills to maximum effect, tapping into the timeless quality of this much-loved fairy tale.