The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux) is a humorous musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work was written for private performance by an ad hoc ensemble of two pianos and other instruments, and lasts around 25 minutes.
As the title suggests, the work follows a zoological program and progresses from the first movement, Introduction et marche royale du lion, through portraits of elephants and donkeys ("Those with Long Ears") to a finale reprising many of the earlier motifs.
Several of the movements are of humorous intent:
Poules et coqs uses the theme of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s harpsichord piece La poule ("The Hen") from his Suite in G major, but in a quite less elegant mood.
Pianistes depicts piano students practicing scales.
Tortues makes good use of the well-known "Galop infernal" from Jacques Offenbach’s operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, playing the usually breakneck-speed melody at a slow, drooping pace.
L’éléphant uses a theme from Hector Berlioz’s "Danse des sylphes" (from his work The Damnation of Faust) played in a much lower register than usual as a double bass solo. The piece also quotes the Scherzo from Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is heard at the end of the bridge section.
Fossiles quotes Saint-Saëns’ own Danse macabre as well as three nursery rhymes, "J’ai du bon tabac", "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and "Au clair de la lune", also the song "Partant pour la Syrie" and Rossini’s aria, "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville.
The Personnages à longues oreilles section is thought to be directed at music critics: they are also supposedly the last animals heard during the finale, braying.