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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Opera Therapy Revisited

Six years ago I wrote a synopsis of an opera that didn't exist --click here if curious. It was about love and plumbing. It had a hero, a pretty girl, an old father with a secret, a villain and a Pope. In those six years, ten people viewed it. Nobody commented.

Six years.

Obviously it was too short. I have lengthened it and added doodles.


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We've become accustomed to the belief that the world of fact is, in some hidden way, harmonious with the world of sanity. Nothing could be further from the truth. By natural selection, those who couldn't bear this disappointment exploded. Those determined to live learned to dream. It is they who invented opera, for emotional survival.

The world has been dreaming a long time, so there are many operas, but it is also useful to make up your own opera, your own mind. I do this as therapeutic meditation and always feel better. Here is one currently under construction. It is about plumbing:

Don Fulano de Tal --Portuguese/Spanish variant of the American term "John Doe"-- (synopsis):

Jorge, a poor young plumber (tenor)
Papa, Jorge's father, also a plumber (baritone)
Don Fulano de Tal, a wealthy Portuguese or possibly Spanish nobleman (bass)
Yolanda, his daughter (soprano)
Ragudo, an agent of the Inquisition --character is based upon a real person, a kid named Ragudo who, in 1960, would punch me and other kids in the stomach whenever we encountered him in the school halls. In 1966 he rifled my gym locker and stole my wallet-- (baritone)
The Pope (bass)


Story opens at Papa's house in a rustic village. Jorge sings about how poor he is --"Mis Primos y Yo". He was forced to wear the worn-out clothes of relatives, often while worn-out relatives were still in them. This embarrassed Jorge, especially on dates and upon it he blames his loneliness.

His father joins him in a duet. Papa expresses sorrow at the plight of his son and regrets his poverty but says it couldn't be helped. Someday, he assures Jorge, the reason will be known. He advises Jorge to leave their rustic village and go to the city, where he can practice his trade "where plumbing at least exists".

Beautiful Yolanda, delighted by picking wildflowers (with the assistance of elves and other magical Elementals), has wandered away from her father's castle. She sings about how happy, lost and worried she is because she has wandered quite out of her native country as well --an aria overheard by the evil Ragudo!

Ragudo jumps out of a ditch and demands Yolanda prove she is not a witch gathering herbs for wicked rites he might like helping with. She is horrified and they sing a duet in which her part consists entirely of the word, "Eeewwwno!". Ragudo  steals her wallet, ties her to a stake and builds a fire under it.

Jorge, off to seek his fortune with only a biscuit in his pocket, hears Yolanda's protestations and hurries to the scene. Ragudo punches him in the stomach and flees. Jorge uses a hacksaw from his plumbing toolkit to cut the smoldering stake away from the fire. Yolanda is unconscious. He carries her back to Papa's hovel.

Papa helps Jorge lay Yolanda onto their rustic chaise longue while singing praises of his son's heroism. "Leave her here and I'll get you another biscuit, a second and even better biscuit for your pocket!", he sings. They repair to the kitchen. Jorge leaves home again. Unfortunately, he and Papa forget to remove the smoldering stake tied to Yolanda's back and the hovel burns down.

Years later, at the castle of Don Fulano de Tal, there is excitement in the courtyard. The Pope is coming to visit! In honor of this occasion Don Fulano will give his daughter in marriage to the most worthy and deserving guest. Wine flows and the guests are jubilant but soon need to relieve themselves. Don Fulano is compelled to make the recitative announcement that although his castle boasts a thousand rooms, only one is a bathroom --and it is broken, "La Cisterna de Water No Funciona!"

The guests form a chorus, "Pista de Baile", and perform, upon the courtyard --now dance floor-- a rousing peepee dance to ease their discomfort. Ragudo enters laughing evilly with a broken sewer pipe in his hand, punches people in the stomach and steals their wallets.

Jorge, the simple plumber, arrives disguised as a complicated plumber. He vows to repair the bathroom and ascends the stairs toward Don Fulano de Tal. He stops in surprise midway because he recognizes Yolanda by the smoldering timber roped to her back so many years ago. An impassioned trio sings of true love and closes with Don Fulano's promise to bless the union if Jorge can fix the toilet.

The Pope arrives and demands to know why Ragudo is still acting as an agent of the Inquisition, which ended centuries before. They argue, but hush at a moan from the top of the stairs. Jorge has repaired the loo, but cannot accept Don Fulano's blessing because he is poor and can offer Yolanda only love and the other biscuit.

With dramatic fanfare, Papa runs up with a duffel bag, which he opens with a flourish to reveal his secret. He has distrusted banks since the Great Depression, and so refrained from cashing his paychecks for 80 years. After the hovel fire he got therapy, did his banking and now has a duffel bag of cash.

Jorge, learning he is of moneyed family, embraces Yolanda. The Pope declares he will personally conduct their wedding ceremony. He also forgives Ragudo, re-Christens him Count Impetigo, presents him with friendly dinosaur --handled by three of Jorge's cousins, also named Jorge-- and leads a joyous chorus, "Ha Llovido Mucho Desde Entonces", all water under the bridge! Count Impetigo (Ragudo) punches the Pope in the stomach, steals his wallet and tries to run away but is tangled by a festoon to the dinosaur, which runs off dragging him to Scotland to live in the Loch Ness. Everyone laughs and dances.

As epilogue, Don Fulano de Tal's wife, Donna, arrives from the bakery leading a sort of Jurassic peacockostrichosaurus beast of burden, laden with biscuits.
She sings a short duet with the creature,"Traemos galletas tan Opera podrá seguir a través de las edades!"  --"We bring biscuits so Opera may continue through the ages!

                                                            Curtain.



30 comments:

  1. Your opera is wonderful. I am confused about a couple of things though. First the cottage burnt to the ground because of the smoldering stake left inside. Was Yolanda removed from the stake before being placed on the chaise? Second Jorge recognized Yolanda by the smoldering timber roped to her back. Didn't it burn in the cabin? I enjoyed the fate of Ragudo/Count Impetigo. He can still be seen trying to rid himself of the dinosaur I believe.

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    1. Thanks, Emma. Good questions. Yolanda was bothered by that smoldering stake for a long time and her family was surely puzzled for years. Maybe she knew her true love would someday recognize her by it.

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  2. I can identify with your extraordinary opera! Because 1. I dabbled with peyote as a callow youth, and 2. My son, to my dismay, listened to limp bizkit before joining the army and becoming a Ranger. For this I am indebted to the army. He never mentioned fair maidens with Joan of Arc accouterments though....

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    1. Nor would he be likely to. But Mike, the scenario makes me appreciate cardiopulminary specialists all the more: smoldering stake wouldn't escape your notice, but a psychotherapist would call it a cognitive distortion.

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  3. Enchanting. The additional scenes and the "doodles" bring your work into excellence. (I went back to the original) I think I will forgo a session of the Magic Flute. Papageno can wait. Jorge, Yolanda, Ragudo and company are cathartic enough as I wean from Iowa politics. BTW, Do you think Ragudo could ply his skill on a few of those candidates?

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    1. Thanks, Tom. At last report, Ragudo was still tangled up with the Loch Ness Monster --which is good practice for political activism. He may well find his way to Iowa.

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  4. Opera was never one of my "likes" but this - THIS - is hilariously entertaining :) Did Yolanda ever get that smoldering stake removed?

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    1. O Jenny, I'm not sure. I imagine her smoldering stake is a lot like my tinnitus, one has to just get used to it.

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  5. I have always maintained that "Turandot" was the last of the great operas and that - after the demise of Puccini - the art died. You have proven my theory wrong by single-handedly resurrecting the opera buffa, in all it's glory. I can imagine Rossini setting this to music.

    "Don Fulano de Tal" could easily become a modern day classic - and an inspiration to plumbers everywhere.
    By the way - - we've all known a Ragudo in school, and I can only hope that all of them are now in Loch Ness.....

    One of my cats is on my lap annoying the heck out of me as I write, so I will exit abruptly without a curtain call.

    Thanks for an immensely enjoyable post, Geo.

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    1. Jon, I think cats are suspicious of musical theater and get restless. Shostakovich's "The Nose" (Russian: Нос, 'Nos'), is the reverse of "coh,son" (Russian for "dream")and got cats thinking we might do the same to the T.S. Eliot source for "Cats." Reverse T.S.Eliot and you can see why he kept the "S" in there --probably on the advice of his cat.

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  6. An interesting tale of love lost and won. Even today, a plumber is considered a 'good catch'.

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    1. Thanks, Delores. I'm sure Jorge prospered in the city. I like to think Yolanda wed him on a weekend --when plumbers are traditionally harder to catch.

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  7. If you had called it an operetta instead of an opera, you would have gotten more readers.and many comments. "Etta" gets a bigger audience, at least in the US.

    I enjoyed your's, and hope that Andrew Lloyd Webber reads this.

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    1. I've noticed that too, Arleen. Our city's convention center added a computerized screen above the stage to run subtitled libretto translations. Operas got more popular here afterwards. Operettas have some competition now.

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  8. Oh, you have such talent!
    Wonderful , just wonderful Geo

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    1. Dear Margie, thanks for your generous compliment. So good to see your wonderful smile!

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  9. I love it, your opera, but enjoy your reply to comments just as much or more, especially your theory about Mr. Eliot's name. I don't recall ever hearing that one from any of my English profs. I consider reading your opera therapeutic too. My vagus nerve just had a great workout. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you! I try to write at frequency that is well-received by the Vagus nerve. It helps me get happy. Opera has a logic all its own and I have always both loved it and poked fun at it --as have all the composers who have made it part of our lives.

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  10. Wow, Geo. - as ever I am impressed by your words - but even more so with your drawings! They are so exquisite that I ask myself if you have studied arts or graphic design (have you?)
    Opera in the sung version - as it so often appears on the stage :-) - is not quite my cup of tea, though of course I like a few.
    But for yours here: please reserve me a ticket!

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    1. Dear Brigitta, thanks! I began drawing when I was a little boy and simply never stopped. Favorite subject was dinosaurs, still is.

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    2. Dinos are so fascinating, I love the ones in your last two pictures. Son had a phase - as most little boys have, I think - when he knew many, many names. (I am more besotted by dragons). In Berlin we have since 2015 - and only for 3 years - a T-Rex in the Museum of Natural Science, found 2012 in Montana, USA.

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    3. I also like dragons as well as dinosaurs and think more operas should include them. I bet they have really deep singing voices.

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  11. I hate it when my tenor plumber begins to sing while under the sink in the kitchen... Of course, plumbers in the days of witch burnings would have been poor cause there was no work. Those who followed in the trade make up for this by overcharging us in the present.

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    1. True, Sage. We live in self-correcting universe. But, then again, now the witch-burners are out of jobs --good thing too!

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  12. I've only seen one comedic opera that I can recall, (the name sounds like "Johnny Skeeki", but I'm sure that spelling is way off) but your opera is even funnier. Job well done, dude. You, of course, would have to sing the heroic tenor role.

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    1. Ah, you refer to Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi", I think --based upon the jolly swindler, Schicchi, who bequeathed all his worldly gains to himself. Dudes know opera! And, yes!I am an heroically awful tenor.

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    2. Yes! That's the one!

      Nah, not awful. You make a joyful noise. :)

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    3. "Johnny Skeeki" is a perfect phonetic spelling. You have a remarkable memory for sounds!

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  13. It is easy to become lost when picking wildflowers with elementals, but being in an opera will help. Particularly if it has biscuits, true love and a dinosaur. Getting the plumbing sorted always lends itself to drama, I don't know why it doesn't feature more frequently. Congratulations on a truly marvellous synopsis :-)

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I live in a crazy old farmhouse and am familiar with plumbing drama. To the connoisseur or connoisseuse (is there a feminine form? I am neither French nor politically correct)of opera, there is a growing demand for it --and dinosaurs too!

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