In the well-discussed introduction to The Miraculous Mandarin Bartók’s music depicts the stylized image of an anonymous metropolis. It is, however, very likely that Bartók referred to a specific city: the capital of Europe in the (long) 19th century, Paris. The precise geographic attribution is made possible by Bartók’s repeated use of the French term apache, referring to the three thugs. Originally the name of a group of North American indian tribes, the second meaning of the term came up at the beginning of the 20th century. It was omnipresent in French press and French cultural life at a time when Bartók, in 1905, first visited the city that impressed him so much. As Bartók began to think about the Mandarin in 1918 he chose this term, that by now had been integrated into Hungarian too, to designate the thugs adequately.
Following a brief survey into the history of the ballet d’action, the article examines the techniques of musique parlante Dohnányi used in his pantomime Der Schleier der Pierrette. The subcategories illustrated with music examples include the direct speech imitation (focusing on the syllabic and rhythmic structure of single words) and the musical analogy of the question-answer complex. The analytical overview is extended to further indirect categories such as the recitative-like structures (built up not merely on speech, but on an already emancipated equivalent, the instrumental recitative) and the leitmotif technique which – although being more distant from speech – can, in some cases, still be seen as part of musique parlante. In an attempt to describe the position of Der Schleier der Pierrette in ballet music history, the author addresses Béla Bartók’s reception of Dohnányi’s pantomime and distinguishes the tradition followed by Dohnányi from the denial of musique parlante characteristic of the works Igor Stravinsky composed for the Ballets Russes.