Where the Wild Things Are

Explore the story of Maurice Sendak and Oliver Knussen's operatic version of the classic children's book.

Scene 1: Max 

Max, a small boy in a white wolf suit is playing in the hallway outside his room, stalking his toy soldiers, ambushing his teddy bear from his ‘jungle’ tent cloth strung up across the hall and being thoroughly, happily naughty! 

Scene 2: Mama 

As he lies on the floor pretending to be dead, he is frightened by the shadow of something making strange noises. It turns out to be his Mama and her wheezy old vacuum cleaner. She scolds Max but he continues to be naughty and defy her and is sent to bed without his supper. 

Scene 3: Max’s Room and First Interlude 

He sulks and begins to think of terrible revenge. His room begins to change and all about him a forest grows. A little sail-boat appears and Max climbs in. He is alone at sea moving through days and nights and in and out of weeks until, as dawn approaches, a huge sea-monster rears up from the water but sinks slowly down again at Max’s command. An island comes into view with palm trees, a plateau and a large cave. 

Scene 4: The Wild Things 

As Max moors his boat he hears distant rumbling noises. The Wild Things hurtle out of the cave shouting rude things at Max and making wicked fun of him. Though they seem comical, things could get out of hand at any moment. Max has had enough of their antics and noise. He howls at them and then stares into their yellow eyes, silencing and controlling them. Max tries to take stock of his surroundings, but every time, a Wild Thing steals up on him, only to be frozen back into submission with his magic stare. 

Scenes 5 & 6: Coronation and Wild Rumpus 

The forest thickens and the sea disappears. A small white goat brings in a crown but keeps it away from Max’s reach. The Wild Things form a procession and then crown Max ‘King of all Wild Things’. The Wild Rumpus begins: Max and the monsters hurtle about, dancing wildly. As the dancing reaches its peak, Tzippy, the female Wild Thing, literally loses her head in the chaos. Abruptly Max stops the dance and sends the Wild Things off to bed without any supper.

Scene 7: Max alone 

He takes off his crown, sits by his tent and dreams of home, his Mama and a hot supper. Then he gets up, tiptoes past the sleeping Wild Things and makes his way to the edge of the island to summon his boat again. 

Scene 8: Parting and Second Interlude

The Wild Things wake up one by one, and stealthily move towards the boat after Max, muttering and making hostile gestures. Suddenly they beg Max not to leave them, but the boat pulls away from the shore as the monsters howl and threaten terrible revenge. Max is once more alone at sea, sailing back through nights and days. A forest grows around him and he leaves his boat which disappears into the distance.

Scene 9: Max ‘s Room

Max’s room slowly becomes visible. At the back of the room is a tray on a table. Max sees a bowl of soup and then tastes it… it is still hot.


This synopsis was published in the 1985 Glyndebourne Festival Programme Book.

Photo: Guy Gravett/Glyndebourne Archive

You might also like

Aigul Akhmetshina performs scintillating music from Carmen i…
In response to record-breaking demand for Festival 2024 tick…
Read our top tips for a Festival visit.
Explore our latest job vacancies
Brighten the stage with world-class opera and artists
Glyndebourne Shop
Our online shop offers a great selection of exclusive and locally sourced products. Every purchase supports our work.
Become a Member
Enjoy priority booking for the Festival. Find out how you can join as an Associate Member
Support us
Glyndebourne is a charity and the Festival receives no public subsidy. We rely on generous supporters who are passionate about opera.