The Flight of the Bumblebee

The Flight of the Bumblebee was originally scored by Russian composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1900 as an interlude in the Opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan. In the tale, the Tsar is separated from his son and does not know his son is still alive. His long lost son is magically transformed into an insect, who can fly off to return to his father. The Flight of the Bumblebee is played at the end of the scene after the son transforms into an insect and accompanies the flight to return to his father. The interlude, which did not originally have a title, captures the energy and buzz of the bumblebee flight.

The Flight of the Bumblebee is inexorably linked to “The Green Hornet” which overshadows the context of the original opera. The original radio show used a jazz version of The Flight of the Bumblebee accompanied by a Theremin to create the buzzing sound. (The Theremin was invented by the Russian physicist, Theremin, and was the first electronic music device.) The distinctive theme song announced the beginning of each radio episode. The association between The Flight of the Bumblebee and the Green Hornet was so strong that the theme song was carried over to the TV show. The newest Green Hornet, the 3-D movie, does not make a complete break from Flight of the Bumblebee as theme song. About 30 seconds of Flight of the Bumblebee appear in the music score of the movie.

Bumble bee hovers near bee balm

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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23 Responses to The Flight of the Bumblebee

  1. Brianna Cook says:

    “Capturing my attention”

    The first paragraph of this blog caught my attention because it was one of the few things I am familiar with relating to entomology. I have heard of the flight of the bumblebee and heard the song in class, and even prior to that. I never realized there was much background to the origin, referring to the story of the boy returning home to his father after he becomes a bumblebee. When I heard the song in class I was wondering how the composer captured the authentic sound of the insect, and now I have my answer. I find it very interesting how different things can perfectly imitate something completely unrelated. I also really like the picture at the conclusion of this insert.

  2. Sadie Preston says:

    I’ve heard The Flight of the Bumblebee multiple times but I never realized it was associated with The Green Hornet. This was a big surprise to me. I’ve never really put much thought into the song. The title explains the song enough. It is truly amazing how well it depicts a bumblebee’s flight. The story about the song turning into a bumblebee is also pretty interesting.

  3. Tom Randich says:

    I liked how the blog started with a story. It got me interested and I wanted to keep reading. I believe we have heard the song from “The flight of the Bumblebee” in class. The song does and excellent job at portraying a bumblebee. I just recently watched the movie “The Green Hornet.” It really surprised me to find the film was associated with the opera “The Flight of the Bumblebee.

  4. Cassie Norman says:

    When I saw that the title of this article was “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” I immediately heard the tune in my head. I enjoyed reading the article and liked how it told the story at the beginning. I too never knew the song was associated with The Green Hornet and thought that was also interesting. Now I’m curious to watch the newest Green Hornet to see how it depicts “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

  5. Olivia Wells says:

    Surprisingly while I was scanning over the blog to see what post caught my attention my eye immediately went to “The Green Hornet”. I am a huge movie fan and I am extremely looking forward to this movie. I thought when I saw the title it was actually about a green hornet, and to my pleasing surprise it was about the movie. It was fun to get a little background on the theme song and how this 2011 blockbuster is tied to an old radio classic.

  6. Tom McKneight says:

    As a person that has played three different instruments I found the part of the article about the Theremin extremely interesting. It is amazing to me how an insect can inspire such a cool song. There are not too many songs out there that can portray such imagery of a animate object the way Flight of The Bumblebee does.

  7. Cameron Smith says:

    I just recently saw the Green Hornet and I still had no idea that this song was in any way related to the movie! That’s awesome!
    This article provides a brief, yet detailed, history of the song that was actually quite interesting to read. Over Christmas break, one of my friends pointed this song out to me, It’s called Queen Bee by Tina Guo and is a much less “innocent” version of the original Flight of the Bumblebee. The song, which I’ve linked above, is an instrumental where Tina is playing an electric cello accompanied by a heavy metal backing band. This version isn’t for everyone, but I thought that it was definitely a unique take on a classic piece.

  8. Nils Lindokken says:

    I was suprised to hear how extensive the history is behind this song. I have been playing music since I was 7 years old, and I feel “the Flight of the Bumblebee” is possibly the toughest tune that can be played on any instrument. I felt that the reference to “the Green Hornet” is very interesting, and although I haven’t seen the new 3-D movie, I would like to knowing this information.

    • jjneal says:

      Very tough song. A friend in my HS Band played Flight of the Bumblebee for State on his clarinet. Very impressive, but he didn’t win.

      Guiness World Record for fastest guitar player is Brazilian rock guitarist Tiago Della Vega, Flight of the Bumblebee @ 320 bpm with no mistakes.

  9. Diana Poulin says:

    I have heard the song, The Flight of the Bumblebee, several times in movies or television commercials. This song is always a popular tune to use when showing bumblebees! I was very intrigued with this article because it described the background of this score and where it is used in different films. I was also interested in learning about the Theremin electronic device that made the buzzing sound. I enjoyed the story about the boy because it was easier to relate to the score of The Flight of the Bumblebee.

  10. jjneal says:

    The Theremin was superseded by the Moog synthesizer that was adopted by rock bands in the 60s and 70s.

  11. Won Sik Son says:

    When I first saw the title of this article, ” The Filight of the Bumblebee,” I thought that it was definitly about bugs and insects that I am currently learning about. After I finished reading this article, I was surprised that it’s not about entomology, but about music and movie! I was not really interested in the movie, “The Green Hornet,” but now I am willing to see that movie. I really enjoyed the article.
    Thank you for the article!

  12. Linda Ding says:

    “ I think it’s really interesting to hear the original story about The Flight of the Bumblebee. I have never heard about such story and its relations to The Green Hornet. It is fascinating that people are able to express their emotional through insects. I think it just further show that we are all related in one way or another from the ton elephant to a tiny ant, thus, shows the beauty of Mother Nature.”.

  13. Alex Hensley says:

    I have been listening to “Flight of the Bumblebee” for a long time now. When I was a third grader, my class actually did a project about this song and our interpretation. It was cool to review what we learned in that class and realize why this song has always caught my ear. I also had no idea that it was part of the Green Hornet and I now want to hear the new theme song to see if I can catch the “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

  14. Charnelle Maefield says:

    ” The Music of the Bees”

    The sight of the image also captured my attention first. The article added a musical approach to something that is realistic. I have heard the “flight of the bumblebee” in various movies I have watched staring bands. The tune is very traditional yet tough to interpret. The beginning of the article was quite creative with it adding a personal human feel to relate to the reader. The Green Hornet relation was also quite interesting.

  15. Eric Prickel says:

    This was a very interesting post, Being a musician who has played this tune many times before i had know idea about its true history or that it is tied to “the green hornet” show(s).

  16. Krista Mevis says:

    I thought this post was very interesting. I love music, and my brother has always been into instrumental music, so I’ve heard this song so often at home. It’s cool to learn something new about it that I didn’t know already, especially the part about how they made the noise for the bumble bee.

  17. Sofia Monasterio says:

    It is impressive how something as simple and natural as flying for a bee can inspire into movies, plays, series, and even songs. I have personally not seen or heard about of any of these, but it caught my attention so I looked it up. It is so impresses me that a symphony can relate so much to a living thing and be so descriptive about it. This also shows how in now days we still see it through movies and songs and symphonies.

  18. Jared S. says:

    I find it interesting how insects exist in our everyday lives, despite the avoidance many of us put towards them. “The Green Hornet” was a movie which recently came out in theatres and got a lot of attention from its audience! I have friends who saw the movie, yet they aren’t big fans of insects. It is wonderful how insects are incorporated into movies and music more and more, helping people realize they do exist past 2nd grade science projects, and most aren’t going to harm anyone.

  19. Kathleen D says:

    I have heard flight of the bumblebee many times before, because my father is an avid music lover. However I guess I had never realized how in depth the history of this song was, nor that it was used for the Green Hornet. It is always interesting to know how movies and shows have been inspired or started by simple things, such as the noise a Bumblebee makes.

    When I go to see the movie, which I plan to do I will keep my ears open for this small snip it of music.

  20. cherell says:

    why is this suppose to be true

  21. Pingback: 15 Most Famous Piano Songs of All Time - Musicians Lobby

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