Our fairytales have not only inspired great ballets, but also operas and grand pieces of orchestral music.


The stories of Hans Christian Anderson alone have inspired at least 80 composers, while the tales of the Grimm brothers have given birth to at least six operas.

Although some pieces have a dark and sinister side and are clearly for adults, some adaptations of fairytales make a great way of introducing children to classical music.

Our favourite pieces of music inspired by fairytales

Humperdinck: Hansel und Gretel

A definitive Grimm fairytale opera, where the richly Wagnerian style can turn schmaltzy but a core of emotional power is created.

Did you know was the first opera to be shown on television?

Hannah Nepilova named Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel one of the best pieces of classical music for children.

Delius: Eventyr (Once Upon a Time...)

One of Delius’s finest tone-poems, evoking the darkly thrilling world of Nordic fairy-tales collected by Asbjornsen and Moe, in particular ‘Soria Moria Castle – listen for the shout of the trolls pursuing the escaping hero.

Ravel: Ma Mere L’oye (Mother Goose)

Whether in the original piano duets or the later ballet version, beautifully orchestrated, Ravel sketches images from the classic collection with wit and delicacy.

Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty

Famous fairy-tale ballet on the grandest scale, with Tchaikovsky’s lushly spectacular score.

We named Sleeping Beauty one of the best Christmas ballets and Tchaikovsky one of the greatest ballet composers of all time, as well as one of the best Russian composers ever

Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko

Many of Rimsky-Korsakov’s finest works are based on fairytales including various operas and suites. Sweeping sea-music rolls through this glowing tone-poem.

Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

This short but powerful opera by Bartók is a sharp reminder that fairytales can tell very adult stories and uncover psychological truths about us all.


Main image: Hänsel and Gretel © Darstellung von Alexander Zick (1845 - 1907)/Creative Commons