Instrumental ensemble (10 musicians)
Flute (also piccolo & Kazoo), E flat clarinet (also bass clarinet in B flat & kazoo), bassoon (also kazoo), trumpet in C (mutes : Velvet, Harmon and Plunger) (also bird & kazoo), percussion (2 players), electric guitar (slide, distortion, also wooden rattle), accordion (also wooden rattle), violin & double bass

DURATION • 64 minutes

EDITOR •  Breitkopf und Härtel

COMMISSION • EnsembleKONTRASTE for its 20th birthday

WORLD PREMIERE • April 10th 2010 at Nürnberg (Germany), Tafelhalle, by ensembleKONTRASTE with Franck Strobel, conductor.

Die Puppe (1919) is a masterpiece by Ernst Lubitsch for which the Czech Martin Smolka composed his Puppenkavalier in 2010. The musician, author of several scores for the cinema, testifies to the amazement aroused by this film, whose burlesque magic owes much to the talent of Ossi Oswalda, a star actress of the silent (she shot only two talking films), in charge here of a virtuoso role.


The script co-written by Ernst Lubitsch and Hanns Kräly (to whom the first must have met Oswalda) is an adaptation of a French comic opera by Edmond Audran (La Poupée, 1896) whose libretto, written by Maurice Ordonneau and early translated into German, draws on Germanic sources - Der Sandmann (L'Homme au Sable) by E.T.A. Hoffmann, who will also inspire Jules Barbier to write the libretto for the first act of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann.

Die Puppe staged the story of Lancelot who, enjoined to marry by his uncle but frightened by the women, ran to take refuge in a monastery. But the monks learn the amount of the dowry: 300,000 marks. Greedy, they urged Lancelot to give the change by marrying a puppet. The young man's falot then rushed to the puppeteer Hilarius. The latter offers him the automaton he has just made in the effigy of his daughter Ossi... without realizing that the toy, broken by his assistant, has been replaced by the real Ossi. So it is with a young girl mimicking an automaton that Lancelot leaves the shop...


The film is full of comic, poetic and filmic finds that sometimes flirt with surrealism. He will be considered by Lubitsch as one of the "most imaginative" he has ever realized. His inventiveness, his tenderness and the place he gives to sound and music could only inspire a composer like Smolka, in an original chamber ensemble juxtaposing "classical" instruments with electric guitar or accordion.