Narrator 1: In China, you know, the emperor is Chinese, and all those about him are also Chinamen. The story I am going to tell you happened a great many years ago, so it is well to hear it now, before it is forgotten. The emperor’s palace was the most beautiful in the world and his gardens extended so far that the gardener himself did not know where they ended.
Narrator 2: Travellers from every country in the world came to visit and admire this wonderful place, and some wrote books, containing descriptions of the town, the palace, and the gardens. One of these books was sent to the Emperor, and every day he would have a few pages read to him. One day…
Advisor 1: But I must say, the most wonderful thing I came across there was the Nightingale – how beautiful is the Nightingale’s song.
Emperor: What is this? I know nothing of any Nightingale. Is there such a bird in my empire? And even in my garden? And they have still made no mention of him! O, my God!
Advisors, tell me about this Nightingale who sings so beautifully.
Advisors whisper together
Advisors: We have never heard the name, he has not been presented at the court.
Emperor: It is my pleasure that the nightingale shall appear this evening – the whole world knows what I possess better than I do myself.
The Advisors whisper together
Advisors: We have never heard of him, yet we will to find him.
Narrator 1: The noblemen went up and down stairs, through halls and passages; yet none of those whom they met had heard of the bird.
Advisors: Your imperial Majesty, no one here knows of this bird. You cannot believe everything contained in books; sometimes they are only fiction, or what is called the black art.
Emperor: I want to listen to the Nightingale, he must be here this evening, he will have my highest favor. And if he does not come, the whole court shall have their stomachs trampled upon after supper is ended.
Narrator 2:Again, they ran up and down stairs, through all the halls and corridors; and half the court ran with them, for they did not like the idea of their stomachs being trampled upon.
The Advisors meet the Cooking Girl
Advisor 1: Do you know the Nightingale?
Cooking Girl: Oh, yes, of course I know the Nightingale. Every evening when taking home scraps to my poor sick mother in the forest, I listen to the Nightingale’s song.
Advisor 2: Little maiden, you shall have a permission to see the emperor dine if you lead us to the Nightingale, for he is invited for this evening to the palace.
Cooking Girl: Oh, please follow me!
They walk, and then the girl points uncertainly
Cooking Girl: There!
Cooking Girl: No, that is only a cow lowing
Cooking Girl: Over there!
Cooking Girl: No, that is only a duck quacking
They enter the woods
Cooking Girl: Here he is.
Nightingale sings and enters
Cooking Girl: The Nightingale
All: Oh, AAAAHHHH!
Advisor 1: I never imagined it would be a little, plain, simple thing like that.
Cooking Girl: Little nightingale, our most gracious emperor wishes you to sing before him.
Nightingale: With the greatest pleasure.
She starts to sing again
Advisor 2: He is not here! I have a great pleasure to invite you to a court festive evening, where you will gain the imperial favour by your charming song.
Nightingale: My song sounds best here, in the green wood.
Narrator 1: But still he came willingly when she heard the Emperor’s wish.
Lanterns light the space before the Emperor and dancers dance
The Nightingale sings
Narrator 2: The Nightingale sang so sweetly that tears came into the Emperor’s eyes, and then rolled down his cheeks, as his song became still more touching and went to everyone’s heart.
Narrator 1: It was decided that the Nightingale has to remain at the court and sing every night while the Emperor is eating his supper.
The advisors tie the Nightingales leg.
Narrator 2: One day the Emperor received a large packet.
Advisor 1: From the Emperor of Japan!
Narrator 2: It was a clockwork Nightingale covered all over with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires.
The clockwork Nightingale sings
All crowd around
All: Oh, how charming.
Emperor: This Nightingale looks much prettier than the other one.
Advisors: How wonderful, let us have it sing again!
Narrator 1: The real Nightingale flew away during the hubbub, and then was banished from the Empire, and the artificial bird placed on a silk cushion close to the emperor’s bed. A year passed, but one day the clockwork Nightingale stopped singing.
Emperor: Call the Court Engineer
The Engineer enters and examines the clockwork Nightingale
Engineer: I am sorry, your Majesty, but the mechanism inside the nightingale has worn out.
Narrator 2: The Emperor was very sad and could only think of the real nightingale he had banished and lost forever.
Shortly after this, the Emperor fell ill and everyone was afraid he might never recover. It was wintertime and snowing heavily, Death entered the room.
Emperor: Sing for me Nightingale, sing for me.
Narrator 1: But the clockwork Nightingale could not produce a single more. Death continued to stare at the Emperor and everywhere was silent. Then from the window came a beautiful sound.
The Nightingale sings
Emperor: My Nightingale!
Narrator 2: The Nightingale was clever; he sang of the quiet churchyard, where the white roses grow, and the fresh, sweet grass moistened by the mourners’ tears.
Death: Go on little Nightingale, go on.
Narrator 1: Then Death longed to go and see his garden, and floated out through the window in the form of a cold, white mist.
Emperor: Thanks, thanks, you heavenly little bird. I banished you from my kingdom, and yet you have banished Death from me, with your sweet song. How can I reward you?
Nightingale: You have already rewarded me. I shall never forget that I drew tears from your eyes the first time I sang to you. These are the jewels that rejoice a singer’s heart. But now sleep and grow strong and well again.
Emperor: You must always remain with me. You shall sing only when it pleases you; and I will break the artificial bird into a thousand pieces.
Nightingale: No, do not do that. The bird did very well as long as it could. Keep it here still. I cannot live in the palace and build my nest; but let me come when I like. I will sit on a bough outside your window, in the evening, and sing to you, as I sing to a farmer and a fisherman, that you may be happy and have thoughts full of joy. I love your heart better than your crown.
Narrator 2: So saying, the Nightingale flew away.
Everybody now came in to look after the dying Emperor when, lo! There he stood, and, to their astonishment, he said:
Emperor: Good morning!