Bibi Saccellaphylaccas, the child prodigy, enters the packed concert hall to the applause of an audience already favorably disposed because of advance publicity. Dressed all in white silk, the eight-year-old boy, whose age is advertised as seven, sits at his piano and prepares to play a concert of his own compositions. The hall’s expensive front seats are occupied by the upper class, including an aging princess, as well as by the impresario and Bibi’s mother. Bibi knows that he must entertain his audience, but he also anticipates losing himself in his music.
As Bibi plays, it is clear that he knows how to work his audience. He flings his body with the music and bows slowly to prolong the applause. Recognizing that the members of the audience respond more to a show than to the aesthetics of the music, he thinks of them as idiots.
In fact, his listeners react to the performance in the context of their individual interests and experiences. An old gentleman regrets his own musical inability but views Bibi’s talent as a gift from God to which the average person could not aspire. There is no more shame in falling short of Bibi’s accomplishment than in bowing before the Christ Child.
A businessperson, believing art to be merely a pleasant diversion, calculates the profit from the concert. A piano teacher rehearses the critical comments that she will make after the concert concerning Bibi’s lack of originality and his hand position. A young girl responds to the passion of...
(The entire section is 617 words.)