Alison Jones's Opera Plot Summaries.

Pietro Mascagni:
Cavalleria Rusticana

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Apr 89

A Square in a Sicilian village early on Easter Sunday

Before the curtain rises Turiddu can be heard serenading Lola.

Santuzza nervously approaches Turiddu's mother, Mamma Lucia, as she opens her wine shop, and asks where Turiddu is. When Mamma Lucia answers that Turiddu has gone to Francofonte to buy wine, Santuzza replies that this cannot be so, as he has been seen in the village. Mamma Lucia is agitated at this news, as Turiddu has not been home. When Alfio appears and confirms that Turiddu has been seen hear his home early in the morning, Santuzza prevents Mamma Lucia from questioning him further.

The villagers gather in the square and sing an Easter hymn before going into church.

Santuzza tells Mamma Lucia the story of her affair with Turiddu. Before leaving for military service he had been in love with Lola, but, returning to find her married to Alfio, he had consoled himself with Santuzza. Lola, piqued by Turiddu's desertion, had wanted him back, and he had returned to his first love, abandoning the dishonored Santuzza, who wants to beg him to take pity on her. Mamma Lucia, murmuring a prayer for Santuzza, goes into church and Santuzza waits for Turiddu. He accuses her of spying on him and complains that her jealousy is driving him mad.

Lola appears and after taunting Santuzza, goes into church. Turiddu prepares to follow her and Santuzza, her pleading changed into anger, screams a curse at him. Alfio appears, and still possessed by jealous rage, she tells him of Turiddu's affair with Lola, and he swears vengeance.

The villagers stop at Mamma Lucia's for a glass of wine on the way home from church. Turiddu offers Alfio a glass, but he answers that it would poison him - an insult which must lead to a duel. As the crowd disperses, Turiddu, now sober, calls to his mother who had been inside and unaware of what had happened, bids her farewell and entrusts Santuzza to her care.

He rushes out and soon afterwards there is a cry - Turiddu has been killed.

Jules Massenet:
Don Quichotte

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jul 95

ACT I

A square in Spain

As a crowd mills around, Dulcinée's four suitors gather under her window begging her, as their queen, to appear. She comes on to the balcony, reflecting that for a woman of 20, being a queen is no great thing and for all the adoration showered upon her, she finds something is lacking. Cheers and laughter herald the approach of Don Quichotte. Juan and Rodriguez discuss him, the former derisively, the latter extolling his good qualities - his courage and his helpfulness to those in need. Clad in ancient armor, carrying a spear and riding his horse Rosinante, Don Quichotte appears, accompanied by his squire, Sancho Panza, riding a donkey. Delighted at the cheers of the crowd, Don Quichotte instructs Sancho to give money to the poor. As night falls and the people leave the square, Don Quichotte prepares to serenade the fair Dulcinée, while Sancho goes to the inn.

As he starts to tune his mandolin, he is accosted by the jealous Juan. They quarrel and draw their swords, but Don Quichotte decides to postpone the fight till he has finished composing his love song. He sings it, but when they prepare to fight, Dulcinée intervenes. She tells Don Quichotte how much she has admired his verses and his sword-play - she has a fondness for poets and knights - but he must not fight Juan. When he asks her to give him a test to prove his love, she asks him to reclaim a necklace stolen from her by bandits, and he sets off, delighted at what he takes as proof of her love, while she leaves with Juan, both laughing at Don Quichotte's simplicity.

ACT II

The countryside

Don Quichotte tries to find rhymes for his verses, unmoved by Sancho Panza's observations that the supposed foes he put to flight the day before were only pigs and sheep. Sancho is resigned to his master's madness, but thinks that he is going too far in preparing to confront the murdering bandits, complaining that Dulcinée is making fools of both of them, drawing on what he claims is his vast experience of women to support his point.

Mists clear and windmills become visible. Disregarding Sancho's protests, Don Quichotte, taking them for giants, charges one of them and is caught up by the sails, as is Sancho, who tries to rescue him.

ACT III

In the mountains

Don Quichotte, on hands and knees seeking clues, and Sancho approach the bandits' lair, the latter full of fear, the former anticipating winning great glory. He attacks the bandits as Sancho takes flight, but is greatly outnumbered and soon tied up. Maintaining his dignity, he refuses to answer their questions and the bandit chief, Ténébrun, orders him executed, but when Don Quichotte prays to God to receive his soul, the bandit is moved by his nobility. Don Quichotte tells him that he is a knight errant whose mission is to redress wrongs and demands the return of Dulcinée's necklace. The bandits not only comply but kneel and ask for his blessing.

ACT IV

A party in Dulcinée's garden

Dulcinée rejects her lovers; she is bored and longs for a different kind of love. Sancho Panza orders the servant to announce his master with a flourish and is angry at their laughter. Don Quichotte feels that his dreams are about to come true and promises Sancho an island in return for his devoted service.

Don Quichotte is sure that he is about to be married to Dulcinée, triumphantly producing the necklace as proof of his service; but when he speaks of marriage, Dulcinée derisively refuses to give up her freedom. Don Quichotte is desolate, but she dismisses everyone else and explains that because she gives love to whoever asks it, her refusal is a sign of her true friendship for him. She begs him to stay among them and declares herself blessed by his love. The crowd returns and Dulcinée tells them that although Don Quichotte is mad, he is sublimely mad. Throwing him a kiss, she leaves the room. Everyone laughs at Don Quichotte, and Sancho attacks them for their unkindness to the unfortunate idealist.

ACT V

A mountain path through a forest

Sancho lights a fire, trying to warm his master, who feels he is near to death. He remembers how he always fought for right and bids farewell to Sancho who, he says, will be happy back in his village. The only island he can now give is one of dreams. As he prays, the voice of Dulcinée is heard in the distance and he dies happy in the arms of the grieving Sancho.

Jules Massenet:
Manon

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 82

ACT I

The courtyard of an inn in Amiens

The innkeeper is serving Bretigny and Guillot and their companions Pousette, Rosette amd Javotte. The townspeople surge in to watch the arrival of the coach.

Lescaut tells his friends, fellow guardsmen, that he will join them in a drink when he has met his cousin, Manon. When the coach arrives, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers, he finds her. She is garrulous from excitement at her first journey. The crowd disperses, leaving them alone. Lescaut tells Manon to stay where she is and behave herself while he collects her luggage. Guillot catches sight of her and makes advances, at which she only laughs. He only leaves her when Lescaut returns, having told her he will send his coachmen later to fetch her.

Manon assures her suspicious cousin that it was Guillot who spoke to her first and he leaves her again, advising her how to conduct herself if anyone else ahould address her, reminding her that he is the custodian of the family honor. He then goes off to join his friends gambling and drinking, leaving her alone in the courtyard.

She is attracted by Pousette, Rosette and Javotte, wishing she had jewels like theirs and longing for a life of pleasure. The Chevalier Des Grieux, who is on his way home, sees her and is immediately attracted. When he speaks to her she is charmed by his manners and soon tells him her story: her family, who find her too inclined to pleasure, are sending her off to a convent. They fall in love. Catching sight of Guillot's coachmen, Manon suggests they take his coach and elope. They set off for Paris.

ACT II

The apartment of Manon and Des Grieux in Paris

Des Grieux is writing to tell his father about Manon, whom he hopes to marry. She reads the letter with him. He asks her about a bouquet of flowers in the room and she is evasive. The maidservant announces two visitors: one Lescaut, the other, aside to Manon, the gentleman living nearby who loves her.

Lescaut pretends to be in a rage about his family honor and asks if Des Grieux intends to marry Manon. Des Grieux shows him the letter and Lescaut draws him away to look at it, to allow Bretigny to speak to Manon. He tells her that Des Grieux will be carried off that night and warns her that if she interferes it will mean poverty for both of them, while he can offer her wealth.

Lescaut is apparently pacified by the letter and he and Bretigny depart. Des Grieux goes to post his letter and Manon, who loves him but fears poverty, bids farewell to the apartment where they have been so happy. When Des Grieux returns they begin supper but are interrupted by a knock on the door. Manon changes her mind and tries to stop him answering, but he does so and is taken away.

ACT III

Scene 1. The fair at Cours-la-Reine in Paris

There is a milling crowd, buying, selling and enjoying the sights. Guillot, rejected by Pousette, Rosette and Javotte, who have found other friends, plans to take Manon from Bretigny when he learns from him that he has refused Manon's request to bring the opera to her.

Manon rejoices in the luxury which now surrounds her. She leaves Bretigny to make some purchases but returns in time to overhear a conversation between him and the Count Des Grieux, the father of her lover. She learns that he is about to take holy orders and will preach that very evening. Sending Bretigny off on an errand, she approaches the count. Without identifying herself (though he does know who she is as Bretigny has pointed her out), she asks if his son had been grieved at parting from his mistress. The count tells her how much his son suffered and advises her to do the wise thing and forget him.

Guillot triumphantly announces the arrival of the opera, but their performance is virtually ignored by Manon, whose mind is distracted. To the surprise of her cousin, to whom she confides her intention, she sets off for the seminary of Saint Sulpice.

Scene 2. The parlor of the seminary of Saint Sulpice

People coming from the chapel praise the eloquence of Des Grieux. He is greeted by his father who tries to persuade him not to enter the church but to marry some good girl, but he remains firm in his intentions of taking vows, so his father promises him 30,000 crowns.

Des Grieux has not been able to forget Manon completely, but when she is admitted to see him he bids her begone, reproaching her for her treachery. But she realises that he still loves her and passionately reminds him of their happy days together. Eventually his reserve breaks down and he declares his love again.

ACT IV

The Hotel Transylvania in Paris, a gambling house

Lescaut is winning and tells Pousette, Rosette and Javotte that the lady of his heart is the queen of spades.

Des Grieux and Manon arrive, to the annoyance of Guillot. Their money is gone and Manon tells Des Grieux that a fortune can easily be found again. Lescaut advises him to achieve this by gambling. He consents reluctantly and plays against Guillot, whom he beats several times. Guillot stops the game angrily and leaves the room, promising to be back. He returns with the police, accusing Des Grieux of cheating and Manon of being his accomplice. The Count Des Grieux, who has also appeared, tells his son that he has come to save him from a life of shame, promising that he will soon be released. But for Manon there is no hope of freedom.

ACT V

The road to Le Havre

Des Grieux and Lescaut have prepared an ambush to rescue Manon, who is being deported, but their plans are foiled when their men take fright and run away. Lescaut rejects Des Grieux's suggestion that the two of them mount a rescue, as he has a better idea. When their quarry appears, a band of girls of easy virtue under the escort of a group of soldiers who feel this task is beneath them, Lescaut bribes the sergeant to let Manon stop and speak with them. Manon, half-dead with weariness, weeps at her reunion with Des Grieux and assures him that despite her frivolous inclinations she really loved him all the time. He tells her that liberty is at hand but she answers that it is too late: she is dying.

He is unwilling to belive this and tries to revive her with memories of their past happiness. She joins him in these recollections but then dies in his arms.

Jules Massenet:
Werther

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 89

ACT I

The magistrate's house, July

The magistrate is supervising his children's practice of Christmas carols, exhorting them to better efforts by reminding them that their sister Charlotte can hear them. Johann and Schmidt, two of his cronies, call in on their way to the inn. He decides not to join them till Charlotte is ready for the ball that night. Everyone is looking forward to the ball; even Werther, they remark, is less melancholy. The magistrate approves of the young man, though his friends find him too serious; but all agree that Albert, who has been away, will be the right husband for Charlotte.

Johann and Schmidt go to the inn and Werther approaches the house, musing on the beauties of nature and listening with pleasure to the children's voices as the magistrate continues with the rehearsal. Charlotte is ready for the ball, but the friends who are to call for her have not arrived, so she gives the children their supper. Werther is struck by the pleasant domestic scene. The magistrate introduces him to Charlotte and explains that she has taken the place of her dead mother in looking after the children. She welcomes Werther warmly.

Charlotte leaves for the ball and the magistrate, urged by Sophie, the next oldest, goes to the inn. When Albert arrives unexpectedly, he is pleased when Sophie assures him that he has not been forgotten and that they are busy with preparations for the wedding.

Werther brings Charlotte home after the ball and is unable to restrain his confession of love. Charlotte is about to leave him, without replying, when her father calls out the news of Albert's return. Charlotte explains to Werther that she promised her mother that she would marry Albert and Werther is in despair.

ACT II

The village square, September

It is Sunday. Johann and Schmidt go into the inn and Charlotte and Albert, who have been married for three months, prepare to go into church. Werther watches them, in agony at having lost Charlotte. Albert goes to him and sympathises with his grief and Werther assures him that he is calm after the storm and accepts Albert's friendship.

Sophie enters full of joy and claims a dance from Werther at a forthcoming party; but when she leaves with Albert, Werther wonders if he can ever be happy again. Despite his words to Albert, he realises that he still loves Charlotte and must go away, but is unable to bring himself to do so. His resolution is further weakened when Charlotte appears. He speaks to her again of his love and she reminds him firmly that she is married to a man who loves her. She tells him he must go, but relents at his despair and agrees that he may come back at Christmas. Left alone, he thinks of suicide and when Sophie comes to call him he rushes away, telling her he will not come back. Hearing this, Albert realises that Werther still loves Charlotte.

ACT III

Albert's house, Christmas Eve

Charlotte is reading Werther's letters, unable to destroy them, unable to forget him. Sophie tries to cheer her but realises that her sorrow has something to do with Werther. At the mention of his name, Charlotte is unable to restrain her tears. Sophie begs her to come to her old home and listen to the children's carols. She leaves when Charlotte agrees and Charlotte prays for the strength to resist temptation.

Werther appears in the doorway pale and almost fainting. He has tried to stay away forever, but as the appointed day drew near was unable to keep himself from returning. Trying to keep calm Charlotte asks him to read his translations of the poems of Ossian to her and he does so. It is a lament, and Charlotte is deeply moved.

Werther is convinced that she loves him and although she tries to restrain him, he seizes her in his arms and kisses her. She half yields, but recovers and tells him that he must never see her again and runs from the room. Werther decides that the time has come for him to die.

Albert comes home and is puzzled by Charlotte's obvious emotion. A note is brought from Werther, telling Albert that he is going on a journey and asking to borrow Albert's pistols. Charlotte is terrified, but at Albert's insistence she hands the pistols to the messenger.

ACT IV

Werther's study, shortly afterwards

Charlotte finds Werther lying on the floor mortally wounded. She confesses that she has always loved him, but married Albert out of duty.

The children's voices can be heard singing carols as Werther tells Charlotte where he wants to be buried and dies in her arms.

Peter Maxwell-Davies:
The Lighthouse

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Nov 84

PART I

Prologue. The Court of Enquiry

The scene is set in the courtroom, Edinburgh, moving back to on board the Lighthouse Commissioner's ship, and to the steps leading to the lighthouse door.

The three relieving officers addresss the audience together, making it clear that they are taking part in a court of enquiry (the voice of the investigator being represented by a solo horn). The court is enquiring into the "unnatural disappearance of three lighthousekeepers from the Fladda Isle lighthouse."

The relieving officers first describe their arrival at the lighthouse with provisions, then act out the situation. They say that weather conditions were unnaturally bad and that the approach to the lighthouse was dangerous and difficult, so that they felt there was a curse on the journey. They saw strange lights and each one described a different portent: one saw three black seals watching them; another, three black cormorants; and the third, three black cats.

When they got inside, there was no trace of the lighthousekeepers, only black rats. The table was set, with food still on it, and the only sign of disturbance was an overturned chair. "All was in shipshape order, clean and neat," the bunks were made, the lantern was in good working order, though not turned on, and the oil reservoir was full.

The relieving officers give as their explanation the theory that one of the keepers must have got into difficulties down at the jetty and the others must have fallen in trying to help, and all three had been swept away, probably a few days before their own arrival. The court records an open verdict, judging the disappearance as death by misadventure. Since it had proved hard to find replacements willing to go to such an ill-omened spot, the lighthouse was made automatic.

PART II

The cry of the beast

The scene is set inside the lighthouse. The three lighthousekeepers are at a table.

Arthur pronounces a fulsome grace, to the derision of Blazes, who accuses him of hypocrisy. They have been on duty for months and their relief is overdue.

Arthur goes aloft to light the lantern while the others play cards, which he considers sinful. As they play, a mysterious voice "of the cards" makes cryptic utterances, unheard by them. Arthur returns as Sandy and Blazes are quarrelling over the game and rebukes them. To keep the peace they decide to sing in turn.

Blazes leads off with the account of his tough childhood in a Glasgow slum with drunken parents, his father mostly in jail and ill-treating the child when at home. Learning that the old woman upstairs had money, Blazes went one night to rob her - and beat her to death when she screamed. He hid the money in his own house. His father was hanged for the crime, and his mother then went out of her mind. The moral he draws is that "if you're both clever and lucky, you can do just what you please."

Sandy sings of a long-lost golden-haired, blue-eyed love who haunts his dreams, while Arthur's song is a blood-and-thunder religious affair, very confused, featuring a Calf of Gold which will return to bring destruction to a sinful world.

The fog has come down. Arthur starts the foghorn and the wild weather begins to get on the nerves of Sandy and Blazes. Blazes sees the old woman, whose face he has shut out all his life; and Sandy's ravings reveal that his long-lost love was a boy whom he had betrayed, and who now haunts him.

Arthur returns and announces that the Beast is coming, a Golden Calf with many eyes; and the others are swept away by this vision. They all prepare to kill the Beast, which they see coming towards them with flashing white and red lights. "All three join in a hymn before the intolerable dazzle of the approaching light."

After a shattering climax the lights are revealed as those of the relief ship. Blazes, Sandy and Arthur have vanished and in their places are the relief crew, justifying themselves: "We had to defend ourselves, God help us ... They were crazed, running amok."

They decide to concoct the story they had told at the beginning. They leave and the ghosts of the three keepers return to the now automatic lighthouse and begin their scene again.

Nicholas Maw:
One Man Show

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 79

ACT I

Scene 1. Joe's bed-sitting room, 10.30 Saturday morning

Joe is lying asleep on his bed, half-dressed, with the curtains still drawn. He is awakened by the landlady knocking on the door and complaining about the noise he had made coming home at 3am. Joe begins to wake up, and complains about his head. The door opens and his fiancee Audrey appears, opens the curtains and makes him some coffee.

She thinks how nice it will be when they are married and have their own house, while Joe tries to remember the events of the night before when he was out with the boys. He discovers that somehow he has managed to spend all of the pay he received the day before.

When Audrey presents him with a little money she has saved for their future home, Joe has to admit that he has no money. Audrey is upset and tells him to get dresed. As he turns his back she discovers that it is tattooed all over. The events of the night before begin to come back to Joe. He has a vague recollection of deciding to get himself tattooed, but that is all. This is obviously where the money went.

Audrey is so angry at his irresponsibility that she stamps out. Joe, realising that he will have to so something quickly to raise some money and restore himself in her eyes, decides to try and sell photographs of the work of art on his back.

Scene 2. Skew's picture gallery, later that morning

Two influential critics, Cress and Feather, are waiting for a pre-private view at Skew's gallery. Skew tells them that he is waiting for a third privileged viewer, the rich art patron Maggie Dempster. Joe comes in and offers to sell them his tattoo. They treat him with derision until Feather has the idea of selling it to Maggie Dempster, who likes to be thought a trend-setter. When Joe asks when the photograph is to be taken Skew is indignant. He is not interested in a photograph - "art is the real thing." He intends to sell Joe in person, and get a good commission for himself.

Joe wants to consult Audrey, so he rings her while Skew tries to locate the tattooist - only to learn that he has been found dead of a heart attack that morning. So Joe will be unique. Joe is sent out with an assistant to be prepared while Skew enlists the support of the critics, telling them that if Maggie Dempster buys on their recommendation their reputations will be enhanced.

When Maggie sees Joe's carefully framed back, she is not interested in "a pretty ordinary little abstract" and even when she realises it is a tattoo she is incredulous that they expect her to buy it. But Skew, supported by some enthusiastic jargon from the critics, convinces her that Joe's back is an epoch-making piece of art and she agrees to buy.

Audrey arrives just in time to hear the good news, but is not impressed. Maggie explains that Joe is to sit in her gallery from 10 till 4 and will receive handsome remuneration. Joe is fired by the thought of the money, but Audrey does not want him to sell himself. She distrusts Maggie's motives, accusing her of body-snatching. But Joe goes off with Maggie, leaving Audrey lamenting.

ACT II

Scene 1. The drawing-room of Maggie's town house

Joe is shown in, wondering about his fate. Maggie comes in and tells him her life-story, explaining that he and his new art form are to be a new departure in her life. And in his, says Joe, but he begins to feel nervous when she starts on the theme of how much they are going to mean to each other.

He tries to remind her that it is only a business arrangement - he is going to be married to Audrey. Maggie tries to sweep this aside, and when she moves on to protestations of love Joe announces his intention of leaving. The thwarted Maggie immediately decides to sell him; and to make sure he can't escape, she locks him in.

Interlude

A radio announcer's voice is heard giving the news that the live abstract has been bought by the Government and has become the State Gallery's most popular exhibit.

The curtain goes up to reveal Joe, seated in the gallery. A brick with a note crashes through the window, Joe reads it and dashes off.

Scene 2. The office of the director of the British State Gallery

The director of the gallery, Sir Horace Stringfellow, is standing on his head, doing his yoga exercises with the help of his secretary. When she tells him that the tattoo has been kidnapped, he is not unduly alarmed as he has a low opinion of it - until he learns the Government is worried.

Maggie, the two critics and Skew arrive to help in the investigation. They soon realise that Audrey is involved. She has been working at the gallery as a typist. At the height of the hue and cry Joe sneezes. He had been hiding in the office, waiting for a chance to creep out unnoticed, as advised by Audrey in the note which she had thrown through the window.

Joe says he has had enough of being bought and sold and recriminations break out all round - until Sir Horace stands on his head to think matters out and sees Joe's masterpiece upsidedown. The tattoo is simply the letters JOE upsidedown.

The "experts" are nonplussed for a while, but start to find new artistic significance in the work. Maggie will have none of this and gladly resigns Joe to Audrey, throwing in the money she had promised Joe as a wedding present. Sir Horace has to resign, but is glad to return to his academic researches. Maggie says she is finished with taking the advice of so-called experts. From now on she will trust her own judgement.

Richard Meale:
Mer de Glace

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 91

PROLOGUE

Florence, late 1870s

Claire Clairmont, the only survivor of the group, is haunted in her old age by the ghosts of Shelley, Mary Shelley, Byron and Polidori. She relives the tensions between herself and her step-sister Mary over their ménage à trois with Shelley and the time they spent together in Switzerland. Shelley and the two girls stand, as if sleepwalking, hands joined in a circle, on the glacier, the Sea of Ice (Mer de Glace) of Mont Blanc, overwhelmed by the immensity of their surroundings. A guide describes the glacier to a party of tourists, who strike up a hymn while Shelley continues to be lost in wonderment at the immensity of the spectacle. A hotel keeper appears and asks them to sign the register. Shelley gives his profession as Democrat, Philanthropist and Atheist and his destination as Hell. Amid chorus disappoval and prayers for deliverance from demons and anarchists, Mary proclaims Liberty and Claire the virtues of free love. The guide and tourists disappear as Mary, Claire and Shelley resume their dance and Mont Blanc appears, then recedes.

ACT I

Scene 1. The shore of Lake Geneva

Claire is singing the song Byron wrote for her, There be None of beauty's Daughters, as she and Shelley watch a boat approaching, bearing Byron and Polidori, his doctor. Although in love with Byron, Claire is reluctant for Shelley to leave her alone and unwilling to have an end to her relationship with him. Shelley joins her song as Byron and Polidori, who are singing Byron's So we'll go no more A-Roving, come to shore. The poets meet for the first time, and Shelley leaves Byron alone with Claire, who reproaches him with indifference. He tells her that he is an outcast from England, because his (half) sister has just borne their child. While approving him for flying in the face of convention, she continues to complain that he does not return her passion. Polidori appears and Byron, explaining that he has been paid to keep a diary, begins the first entry for him: Geneva, the Villa Diodati, May 26, 1816, leading into ...

Scene 2. Inside the Villa Diodati

Claire rages at the continuing rain, while the others are occupied with cards, a guitar, sewing. Polidori suggests telling stories, and Byron urges Polidori to recite the ballad of Lenore, whose lover returns from the wars as a ghost and carries her off to his grave. The others join in, Mary as the mother, Claire as Lenore and Shelley as William, her lover. Claire first objects then is genuinely afraid as Shelley changes the concluding words and keeps asking her: "And now my dear, are you afraid?" insisting on an answer and finally holding out his arms. She faints.

Scene 3. Mary Shelley's bedroom

Shelley soothes Mary as she tries to sleep, unnerved by the light from the icy peaks of the alps, which seem to her "like some great, sleepy beast." He sings her a lullaby, A Pale Dream came to a Lady Fair. Instead of falling asleep, she continues to be haunted by a vision of the stirring into life of Frankenstein's monster. Shelley becomes swept up in the vision and identifies himself as Frankenstein, "the great Prometheus, the the great darer, the creator, the defier, maker and breaker of laws. I have broken the laws of life, I have made myself the creator. I have made myself a monster."

The monster appears.

Scene 4. An open field near the Lake of Geneva

The monster wanders lost, and unaware of its own nature, watching as children sing and play. The monster tries to join them, but all flee except the boy William, who is blindfolded. The monster picks him up, but the child dies of terror. The monster is shocked, but recovers at the sound of music and watches in delight as village boys and girls dance. He tries to catch one girl, but she escapes and the monster is wounded and then pursued with pitchforks. Bathing his wound, the monster sees himself for the first time and is appalled, calling on his master and creator to account for his existence.

Two young men carry in the dead child, whose mother (Mary) laments and Frankenstein mourns the brother killed by the monster he created, vowing to hunt him down and kill him.

ACT II

Scene 1. The Mer de Glace

The others watch as Frankenstein/Shelley confronts the monster, reproaching him with his crimes at the same time as the monster explains his own sufferings - denied by his creator, cast out by humanity. The monster begs for deliverance from loneliness, for a female of his own kind, threatening to be with Frankenstein at his marriage feast if he is denied.

Scene 2. A field by Lake Geneva

A wedding chorus accompanies Frankenstein's wedding, but as he is about to take Elizabeth (Claire) by the hand, the monster appears, demanding his own bride. Frankenstein curses him, Claire/Elizabeth moves in a trance twoards the monster and faints as he clasps her. Mary calls for lights. Polidori tells Byron that Claire is carrying his child, though Byron has doubts of his paternity.

Scene 3. Beside the lake

Claire is waiting for Shelley, who brings word from Byron that he accepts the child as his, but insists it be born in England and in secret, then handed over to him. Shelley tries to comfort the desolate Claire by reminding her that she can continue to live with him and Mary. She realises that her attempt to live a free life has ended, that she cannot live by the laws of nature but is bound by the laws of men. The sene changes back to the dream scenario of the prologue. In answer to Shelley's question "how does it end?" Mary answers that "there is no end ... Out there, on the edge of reality, on the sea of ice, they pursue one another for ever." Claire, unanswered, asks Byron and Shelley where her child is.

Richard Meale:
Voss

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 86

ACT I

The Bonners' house, which also serves as the location for Voss's gathering of his party and their departure, the action being continuous.

Voss proclaims his intention of following his vision and crossing the continent.

The Party at the Bonners

The guests laugh at Voss behind his back. Mr Bonner introduces him and Tom Radclyffe tries to make fun of him, but is momentarily quelled by the power of Voss's vision. Mr Bonner assures Voss of his support for the expedition.

Voss remembers the solid German home from which he fled in search of adventure. He tells Bonner he has no need of maps; the country is his by right of vision. He is swept away by the power of his dream.

In the garden Laura Trevelyan, Mr Bonner's niece, assures his daughter Belle that she is right to be happy in her expectation of married life with Tom. Laura, alone, reflects on the strange nature of her first meeting with Voss, and her feeling of belonging to him. Voss appears, drawn to her. He sings an old German song which he says she reminds him of and asks if she will pray for him. She answers that she does not pray but will be with him in spirit. They stand absorbed in one another while the others watch. To Mrs Bonner Voss seems lost already. The idea makes Belle nervous, and Tom comforts her by reminding her that he will always be there to protect her.

Voss Calls his Followers

The Bonners, Laura and Tom continue to watch and comment as Voss gathers his expedition team. First comes the boy Harry Robarts, eager to fetch and carry for Voss, and hoping to find an inland sea. Frank Le Mesurier, in search of himself, is promised by Voss that if he joins the expedition he will discover the genius of which he is possessed, even if it kills him. Voss calls on Topp to play his flute. Palfreyman, the religious ornithologist, joins the expedition.

The Departure

Voss and his party speak of their intention to cross the country. The bystanders comment, and Laura promises to be with him in spirit.

ACT II

An open space that is sometimes Sydney, sometimes the desert, sometimes both at the same time.

Voss Finds Judd

Judd, the ex-convict, has been recommended as a useful member of the expedition and Voss seeks him in his house in the country.

First he meets Mrs Judd, who is convinced that her husband, who is good at fixing things, would be the right man to lead the expedition. Judd arrives with the blacks Dugald and Jacky and Voss interviews him. Judd assures Voss that he knows the country as he knows himself and is willing to join the expedition. The blacks will also come, because they know the land, but Judd warns that they "will blow away with the wind or turn into lizards when they are bored with their present shapes."

Nightwatch

On one side of the stage Laura and the pregnant emancipist servant Rose Portion are sewing; on the other, Palfreyman is sketching a lily.

Rose finds Voss incomprehensible but Laura tells her that she understands him in her heart. She sees Rose's child as a pledge of her love for Voss. Palfreyman admires his lily while Voss thinks of Laura. Rose is lulled to sleep by Laura.

Voss and Palfreyman sleep, but Voss cries out in his sleep and he and Laura engage in a dialogue in which they express their difficult love for one another. Voss writes to her and entrusts the letter to Dugald who casts off the white clothes he has been given, tears up the letter and scatters the pieces. Voss and Laura commune in spirit.

Christmas Day

Palfreyman reads the Christmas lesson to the party, except for Voss, who sits apart. Judd, who has cooked a sheep, offers some to Voss, who rejects it roughly.

Laura, nursing Rose's child, tells Voss that Rose is dead. She has adopted the baby girl, which she has called Mercy, and offers it to him as a gift. His rejection of the meat also appears a rejection of her offer, as he cries "I do not accept the terms."

Voss Sleepwalks

Judd and Harry watch as Voss, walking in his sleep, slashes a bag of flour. Harry warns that it will be dangerous to wake him, but Judd, realising that the expedition is in the hands of a sleepwalker, is worried.

Delirium

Judd nurses the raving Voss, who keeps repeating "I do not accept the terms." Judd tells him that he has decided to go back.

The Bonners dance past to ghostly music. Frank Le Mesurier has gone mad and dances wildly. Harry refuses Judd's invitation to go back with him and when Judd tells him he is trying to save him, Harry answers that they will all die. Voss calls out Laura's name.

Aborigines gather round the camp and when Palfreyman approaches them he is speared and dies. Le Mesurier cuts his throat. Judd leaves and Voss lies down with Harry at his feet.

Laura is in a high fever, tended by Mrs Bonner and Belle, who urge her to recover because the child Mercy needs her. Laura and Voss seem to communicate in their states of delirium. Jacky, who had run away and joined the other Aborigines, creeps into the tent and cuts off Voss's head. Laura cries out triumphantly: "When man learns that he is not God, then he is truly nearest God. And Man is God decapitated."

EPILOGUE

Tom and Belle Radclyffe's house (formerly the Bonners') in Sydney 20 years later.

Belle and Tom are giving a party. Children play at Blind Man's Bluff.

Laura, now gaunt and clad in black, incongruous among the guests, appears with Mercy. They sit apart as the guests gossip about Laura's appearance and past history. A reporter tries to interview her about Voss, to whom a statue has just been erected. He introduces her to the survivor, Judd, who tells her that Voss left his mark on the country. Judd claims to have been present at the death, and to have seen Voss with a spear in his side.

Laura has a vision of the people inheriting the country and making it theirs, and of Voss becoming a legend.

Gian Carlo Menotti:
The Consul

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 85

The opera is set in a European city. The country is not named, nor is that represented by the consul.

ACT I

Scene 1. The home of John Sorel

The music and words of a French song being played in a cafe can be heard coming through the window. John Sorel staggers into the empty room, wounded and calling for his wife Magda. While she and his mother tend his wound he explains that a meeting of his group of freedom fighters had been surprised by the police, who are following him. He hides on the roof when they arrive and interrogate the women. Finding nothing, they leave, but the secret police agent makes threats to Magda as he goes.

John declares his intention of leaving the country, instructing Magda to go to the consulate, tell their story and obtain visas so that she, his mother and his baby will be able to join him. He arranges a signal so that they will know when there is news, and says goodbye.

Scene 2. The waiting room at the consulate on the same day

An impersonal secretary rejects Mr Kofner's documents because one of them is not in order. He translates for the foreign woman who explains that she urgently needs a visa to be able to see her daughter, who had run away with a soldier, and who is now deserted and dying with a child; but the secretary says it will take months to get a visa.

Magda explains that her husband is a freedom fighter and asks to see the consul because her life is in danger, but the secretary says the consul is busy and insists on Magda filling out forms. The magician, Nika Magadoff, tries to cheer another woman, Vera Boronel, but she is afraid of him. Magda joins the others in the waiting room in a lament for their situation.

ACT II

Scene 1. The Sorel home a month later

Magda tells the mother of her fruitless visits to the consulate. The mother tries to amuse the baby, but it is too ill to respond, so she sings it to sleep. Magda falls asleep at a table and dreams of John and the secretary from the consulate, who seems to be a harbinger of death for the child. She wakes in terror and the mother tries to calm her. A stone is thrown through the window - the signal that there is a message from John. Magda rings Assan the glass cutter, who will deliver the message while replacing the window.

The secret police agent tells Magda that her visits to the consulate have been noticed, and makes it clear that if she told him the names of John's friends, she might find it easier to join him. He leaves as Assan arrives and she apologises for not having been able to warn Assan. He tells her that John is still hiding in the mountains and refuses to leave the country till he is sure she will be able to come too, so she sends a message that they will join him soon.

When Assan has gone, Magda realises the baby is dead. The mother, who feels that she too is dying, mourns for the son she will never see again and who will never see his son again.

Scene 2. The consulate later the same day

Anna Gomez, a refugee without documents and with nowhere to go, is told to fill out a form. The magician tries to entertain the secretary with his tricks, but she remains unmoved and demands his documents. He hypnotises the others who are waiting and makes them dance, but is turned away because he has no papers.

When Magda explains that she cannot obtain certain documents, the secretary's continued unhelpfulness makes her break out hysterically. She calls the secretary a liar, doubting the very existence of the consul and complaining about the forms and questionnaires. The secretary is so far moved out her usual calm as to promise to see if the consul is free. She tells Magda that he has an important visitor, but that she can see him afterwards; but when the visitor leaves, Magda sees that it is the secret police agent and she faints.

ACT III

Scene 1. The consulate several days later, just before closing time

Magda insists on waiting, though the consul will not be in that day. Vera Boronel obtains her visa and fills out the appropriate forms as Assan comes to see Magda. He is worried because John is now determined to come back, so Magda gives him a note which says she will convince him that there is no reason to do so.

When everyone has gone the secretary prepares for an evening out, having to make an effort to regain her composure, which is briefly disturbed by the thought of all the waiting peiople.

John rushes in looking for Magda. He is being pursued by the police, but the secretary tells him he may not stay - though when the police arrive she denies their right to arrest him on consular premises. But he agrees to go with them of his own free will and the secretary promises to ring Magda and let her know.

Scene 2. The Sorel home immediately afterwards

The phone is ringing, but it stops before Magda enters. She makes preparations to gas herself, sitting by the stove, with a shawl over her head. In a nightmarish vision she sees her husband, his dead mother, the secretary and all the people from the consulate. As John and his mother fade away she gets up and tries to join them, but falls to the ground. The magician seems to take her by the hand and lead her back to the stove. As she dies the phone rings again, unanswered.

Gian Carlo Menotti:
The Medium

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 86

ACT I

The apartment of Madame Flora

Monica, daughter of Mme Flora, is combing her hair and singing while Toby, who is dumb, is pulling beads and scarves out of a trunk and dressing up. Monica warns him that her mother, whom she calls Baba, will be angry with him for touching her things, but is so struck by his handsome appearance that she joins in his game: she is the princess and he is a king.

When Mme Flora comes in she rages at Toby for touching her things and for not being ready for the seance. She is pleased with herself for having collected an outstanding debt, but Monica is distressed because the debtor is so poor. They get ready for the seance: Monica puts on a white dress and veil, Toby hides in a puppet theatre where he manipulates wires and levers, and Mme Flora sits down at a table.

Mr and Mrs Gobineau, regular seance attenders, appear with a newcomer, Mrs Nolan, who explains that she wants to make contact with her daughter Doodly, who died when she was 16. The Gobineaus tell her how good Mme Flora is, and that they always make contact with their son, who was drowned many years ago at the age of two. Since he had not learnt to speak, they only hear his happy laughter.

When the seance begins, Monica impersonates Doodly and tells Mrs Nolan not to mourn for her, but to burn all her things except for a locket which she is to keep. Mrs Nolan is puzzled, as there was no locket. Then it is the Gobineaus' turn, Monica laughs and they address the voice as if it was their son.

Suddenly Mme Flora breaks off in terror, crying that someone has touched her. The guests find nothing strange in this, but she chases them away and tells Monica she will not conduct any more seances, as she had felt a cold hand touch her throat. Taking a drink to steady her nerves she accuses Toby of touching her and Monica tries to protect him from her rage. Mme Flora calms down as Monica sings her a lullaby, but she then hears a ghostly voice repeating the words Monica had used to Mrs Nolan. Toby looks outside, but there is no one, and Mme Flora tries to pray; but again her calm is disturbed, this time by childish laughter.

ACT II

As in Act I

Some days later, Mme Flora is out and Toby has been staging a puppet show for Monica. Then she dances and sings happily until she realises that he is upset. Half realising his love for her, she playfully sings a love duet, taking his part and her own, pretending to be a queen listening to a suitor.

When they hear Mme Flora coming back, quite drunk, Monica runs into her room. Mme Flora harrangues Toby about how she had found him as a starving gipsy child and taken him in. She promises him a new shirt and never to punish him if he will confess to having touched her, and even promises to let him marry Monica, but when he makes no answer, she whips him.

The bell rings. It is the Gobineaus and Mrs Nolan, back for the next seance. Abruptly Mme Flora tells them there will be no more seances, gives them back their money and confesses that she has been cheating them; but even when she exposes all the tricks, they are still firmly convinced that they have seen and heard their dead children. Mrs Nolan has even found the locket, and her faith is unshaken even when Mme Flora says that that too is an old trick: there is always a locket.

She eventually succeeds in driving them out and then turns on Toby and drives him out, telling him never to come back, ignoring Monica's protests and sending her to her room. She sits down drinking by herself, trying to drive away her fears, and eventually falls asleep.

Toby creeps back in, wanting to see Monica, but he makes a noise and Mme Flora wakes suddenly and shoots him. As Monica runs off, screaming for help, Mme Flora tries to question the dead boy: Was it you?

Gian Carlo Menotti:
The Telephone

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 86

Lucy's apartment

Ben comes to propose to Lucy, bearing a gift of a piece of modern abstract sculpture, and having only an hour before he has to catch a train.

After Lucy has admired the sculpture, he begins to speak, but is interrupted by the telephone ringing. It is one of Lucy's girlfriends and she talks animatedly for some time. The phone rings again, but this time it is a wrong number.

Ben reminds Lucy that he hasn't much more time, so she rings to check the exact time. He begins again but is again interrupted. This time it is a boyfriend, George, who starts a quarrel with Lucy. At the end of this conversation, she retreats to her bedroom in tears in search of a handkerchief and Ben approaches the phone with a pair of scissors and evil intentions. The phone rings, as if in alarm, and Lucy comes to its rescue. Before Ben can get started on his proposal, she explains that she must ring yet another friend, to discuss the quarrel with Geroge and put her story in first.

As she does so, Ben sadly reflects that the phone seems always to come between them. Struck by an idea he leaves the apartment, leaving Lucy somewhat disconcerted and worried because she is sure he has something on his mind.

Ben goes to the nearest public phone, rings Lucy and manages to get his proposal uttered. Lucy accepts and tells him there is one thing he mustn't forget when he is away: not her eyes, lips or hands, but her phone number, which she dictates to him over the phone.

Giacomo Meyerbeer:
Les Huguenots

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 90

ACT I

An apartment in the castle of the Comte de Nevers

A group of young Catholic noblemen is waiting to sit down to dinner when Nevers, their host, announces the imminent arrival of a young Huguenot who is to join them in accordance with the current policy of King Charles IX of rapprochement between the warring Protestant and Catholic factions.

They receive the newcomer, Raoul de Nangis, condescendingly, though he is flattered to be received in such company. The talk turns to love and Nevers announces that he will have to give up love, being on the brink of marriage. They decide to describe their exploits in love and elect Raoul to begin.

He relates how he saved a beautiful girl, whose name he does not know, from the rowdy attentions of some students, and fell in love with her at sight. The gathering is disturbed by the arrival of Marcel, Raoul's old retainer, who disapproves of finding his master among the Philistines. The nobles only laugh at his vituperations and incite him to sing. He readily obliges with a Huguenot battle song, by which they are greatly diverted.

Nevers' valet announces that an unknown young woman wishes to speak to his master. The others spy on the meeting through a window and Raoul is horrified to recognise his beloved apparently having a clandestine rendezvous. While his friends applaud him for what they imagine is another conquest, Nevers is privately disconcerted at having been asked to give up his marriage plans.

The page Urbain brings a note to Raoul, instructing him to allow himself to be led blindfolded to an unknown destination. Nevers and his friends, realising that the note is from Marguérite de Valois, overwhelm the puzzled Raoul with professions of friendship.

ACT II

The grounds of the castle of Chenonceaux

Marguérite and her ladies are desporting themselves by the river. Valentine, one of the maids of honor, tells Marguérite that her errand to Nevers has been successful - he has agreed to allow her to break off their intended marriage - and Marguérite assures her that she is working to bring about her marriage to Raoul.

As the ladies prepare to bathe, Marguérite dismisses Urbain, who had hoped to remain undetected, but he returns at once with the news of the arrival of a blindfolded man, who has aroused the curiosity of the neighbourhood.

Raoul is led in, the ladies leave and Marguérite orders him to remove the blindfold. Not recognising her and struck by her beauty, he determines to put his supposedly faithless beauty out of his mind, and addresses her in terms of passionate admiration. She is flattered by his devotion, which is suddenly checked when Urbain returns and he realises who she is.

As part of the policy of her brother the king and her mother, Catherine de Medici, to unite Huguenots and Catholics, she explains, she has arranged a marriage for Raoul with the daughter of his old enemy, the Comte de Saint-Bris, who arrives with his friends. Both parties swear eternal friendship, to the accompaniment of dissenting utterances from Marcel, who has turned up uninvited here as well; but when Raoul realises that it is Valentine who is his prospective bride, he rejects her (she is the unknown beloved whom he now believes to be Nevers mistress), though refusing to say why.

Saint-Bris and his friends are furious and swear vengeance. Raoul is ready to meet Saint-Bris in a duel, but Marguérite intervenes and enforces a temporary state of peace.

ACT III

Paris, near the Seine

Evening approaches as the citizens relax, Huguenots (including a group of soldiers celebrating the exploits of their leader Admiral Coligny) and Catholics in separate taverns.

The wedding procession of Valentine and Nevers goes into a church. Hostility between the opposing groups is defused by the singing, dancing and fortune-telling of a party of gypsies. Nevers and Saint-Bris emerge from the church and the former leaves, explaining to his father-in-law that Valentine wishes to remain inside to pray and he will return later to fetch her.

Marcel delivers Raoul's challenge to Saint-Bris, who is easily persuaded by his friend Maurevert that there are safer ways of disposing of an enemy than risking one's life in a duel. They retire into the church to plot further.

An archer disperses the crowd with the announcement that it is time for the curfew. Saint-Bris and Maurevert leave the church, followed by Valentine, who has overheard their plots and is desperate to save Raoul's life. She warns Marcel, who has come back to watch over his master's safety, and overcomes his distrust of women by her obvious devotion to Raoul.

When Raoul arrives for the duel he rejects Marcel's warning, and the duel is interrupted by the arrival of Maurevert with a band of assassins. Marcel calls on the Huguenot soldiers from the tavern and only the arrival of Marguérite stops a full-scale battle from developing.

Mutual accusations of treachery are capped by Marcel's explanation that he had been warned by a veiled woman of the treacherous attack on his master, pointing to Valentine as his witness. Puzzled by her concern for his life, Raoul asks why she visited Nevers, and learns that she had gone to break off their marriage; but as Saint-Bris points out firmly, that marriage has now taken place. Nevers returns to claim his bride and the wedding party moves off, leaving the warring factions muttering beligerently.

ACT IV

The Paris house of the Comte de Nevers

Valentine cannot forget Raoul, but is horrified when he suddenly appears in her new home. Fearing for his life, she hides him as Saint-Bris, Nevers and other Catholic nobles appear. Saint-Bris announces that the attempt to make peace has been abandoned, and orders have now been given for the murder of all Huguenots. Only Nevers dissents from the general enthusiasm, declaring that his honor forbids him to join in a murder plot, though he promises not to bertray his co-religionists.

Valentine is moved to admiration of her husband for the first time, but Saint-Bris hands him over to a group of magistrates and citizens for safe-keeping. Urged on by three monks, who say it is the will of heaven and bless their weapons, the Catholics agree to the massacre.

Raoul wishes to warn his friends but Valentine tries to hold him back, fearing for his safety. Her confession that she loves him detains him briefly, but the bells to announce the massacre have begun to ring and he tears himself away and jumps from the window as she faints.

ACT V*

A street in Paris

Raoul, Marcel, who is wounded, and Valentine find one another in the confusion. Raoul refuses to save himself by putting on the badge of the Catholics and accepting their religion.

Valentine tells them that Nevers has been killed by his own side, She is now free to belong to Raoul, so she adopts his religion and they ask Marcel to bless their union as Huguenots taking refuge in a nearby church are murdered. A group of soldiers led by Saint-Bris orders them to recant, but they refuse and are shot down. Saint-Bris recognises his daugther too late. Marguérite goes by, unable to stop the slaughter.

* The Opera Australia version omits Scene 1, where Raoul bursts in on the ball celebrating the marriage of Marguérite to Henry of Navarre to announce the massacre, and combines scenes 2 and 3, which take place in different parts of the city during the massacre.

Richard Mills:
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Synopsis by Alison Jones and Terence Clarke

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 96

The opera is set in an early 1950s summer, and takes place in the front parlor and hall (the libretto, as distinct from the playtext, does not specify the locale; there is, however, a suggestion that part of the kitchen is seen) of a terrace house in Melbourne's Carlton - then very much a working-class suburb - where live Olive and her widowed mother, Emma. The only unusual thing about the decor is that there are kewpie dolls ev-erywhere: were an obsessive to count them, he would find 16. Olive is a barmaid who has had a 16-year relationship with Roo.

Roo and his mate Barney are cane-cutters from Northern Queensland; each year they come down to Melbourne for the five-month lay-off to resume their relationships with their girls. In the year before the action commences, Barney has been ditched by another barmaid, Nancy, who has got married (the opera does not make this as clear as the play does). The opera takes the three-act structure of the play.

ACT I

Scene 1.

As Olive excitedly tries to decide what to wear for Roo's arrival, Pearl nervously awaits her meeting with Barney as a possible replacement for Nancy. Although also a barmaid, Pearl is sniffier than Olive; she has been married (she introduces herself to Barney as "Mrs Cunningham"), has a daughter, and isn't at all sure that she likes the idea of Barney, or of being his blind date.

She is also doubtful about the idea of waiting seven months for five months of happiness, unconvinced by Olive's assurance that it is worth it. Bubba, the young girl from next-door, ready for romance, urges Pearl to stay: "You'll have such fun."

Scene 2.

Olive and Roo move outside for an ecstatic reunion, while Barney and Pearl exchange wary greetings. She is horrified to learn that he has three children by three different mothers in three states. When Roo takes his luggage upstairs, Barney tells Olive that this 17th summer is going to be different: Roo is broke, "his back gave way," and he has been challenged as leading ganger by a much younger man, Johnny Dowd. Olive blames Barney for not having left the canefields with Roo, whom he found on the coast at the end of the season, drunk and moneyless. Roo is angry that Olive knows and rejects her offer to support him, but nevertheless in a small ritual presents her with the 17th kewpie of their relationship, each doll symbolising a summer of happiness. Emma and Bubba join them for a welcome party - "Love is coming for me" and "Things will be as good this year." Emma, however, has doubts about both relationships.

ACT II

Scene 1.

Emma's night thoughts, "a lullaby, a benediction for the couples"; yet she is aware that "something seems wrong this year."

Scene 2.

Over breakfast, Olive massages Roo's back as he scans the papers for local work. Both Emma and Barney offer to lend him money, but Roo is proud. He still blames Barney for letting him down. Barney woos Pearl in a comic duet. While she continues to resist, complaining of his drunken beatings on her door in the night, she is impressed by his assurance that he has paid the bills for the mothers of his three children. She begins to hope that a relationship may develop, but the eavesdropping Emma is sure it won't.

ACT III

Scene 1.

Some weeks later; it is New Year's Eve. Children are heard playing outside; Roo and Olive play cards; Olive contemplates, in her knitting aria, the possibility of a life with Barney as she unwinds a skein of wool he holds. Barney wants to go out on the town, but Roo is tired - he has a job in a paint factory. Barney, who has been drinking with the boys, tells Roo that Johnny Dowd wants to see him and clear the air, but Roo is sure he only wants to crow over him. He refuses to join the others on the annual fruit-picking.

Bubba, unsettled by domesticity on such a special night, goes out to celebrate at a party.

Emma tries to get things going with a singalong at the piano - Valencia - the orchestra tells of darker things; after a tiff she storms out. The children outside serenade the household with Auld Lang Syne. For Olive, Pearl, Roo, and Barney, New Year's Eve does not promise hope for the new year, but rather regret for what is lost: "The old year ends, and with it 17 other years before" is their refrain.

Scene 2. The following Friday, 6:30 pm

Dowd, at Barney's suggestion, arrives for a reconciliation with Roo. They will all go to the Saturday races. Barney is drunk (these are the days of early closing) and proposes first Pearl's daughter, then Bubba, as a date for Dowd. Things are near the end for Barney and Pearl. Dowd and Bubba get on well. Roo's long-festering resentment surfaces as an argument, which becomes a brawl with Barney. The truth emerges: Roo never had a bad back - Dowd was the better and younger man.

Scene 3.

Next day. The walls have been stripped of the dolls; Olive sits on the floor clutching a doll. Pearl comes downstairs with her bags packed; she is leaving. The women exchange home truths: Olive believes that Pearl is to blame. Pearl thinks that Barney had no love left for her.

Scene 4.

Emma speaks plainly to Roo: he won't face the truth about himself or about Olive ("a grown woman crying over a doll") and their relationship. Barney has been out all night: he, too, is leaving - to pick grapes with Dowd and the boys; he and Roo agree to split up for a time. Barney hopes they will get together on the canefields next season, but Roo says he is never going back.

Roo and Olive are for the first time alone for the summer. He proposes marriage to her. Olive's response is shattering: settling down with a factory hand is not what she wants. Emma, entering with Barney, is unable to comfort Olive, who rushes from the room, distraught. Emma tells Roo and Barney to clear out. Roo smashes the remaining doll; Barney tries to inspirit Roo. There will be no more doll summers.

Claudio Monteverdi:
L'Incoronazione di Poppea

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 93

PROLOGUE

The Goddess of Fortune claims that virtue is of no use without fortune, and the Goddess of Virtue angrily refutes this from the height of her spiritual superiority, but both have to yield to the powers of Amor, the God of Love as prime mover of the world.

ACT I

Scene 1. Outside Poppea's house in Rome

Ottone, Poppea's discarded lover, pining outside her house at dawn, wakens with his lamentations the two soldiers supposedly on guard. They complain of their duty and discuss the parlous state of the Roman Empire, neglected by Nerone in his infatuation for Poppea, for whose sake he has abandoned his wife Ottavia. The guards agree that it is safer to seem to see nothing.

Nerone is departing, and Poppea is reluctant to let him go, but he is anxious to preserve her reputation until he can repudiate Ottavia and marry Poppea. He promises to return.

Scene 2. Inside Poppea's house

Poppea exults in her coming glory, but her old nurse Arnalta warns her to be cautious, reminding her that Ottavia's enmity is to be feared.

Scene 3. Ottavia's apartments in the palace

Ottavia laments her wrongs and curses Nerone for his treatment of her, but she rejects Drusilla's advice to take a lover, declaring that she will remain virtuous. The philosopher Seneca reproves her for weeping, arguing that she should be grateful for the way fortune gives her the opportunity to show her powers of endurance, and she accuses him of offering only high-sounding phrases. Her servant Valetto is even more outspoken in his rejection of Seneca's comfort and threatens to burn his library if he can't come up with something more helpful.

The Goddess of Wisdom, Pallade, appears to Seneca, warning him that his death is near. He is unafraid, and when Nerone tells him of his intention to divorce Ottavia and marry Poppea, he tries to argue with him, in the teeth of Nerone's obvious displeasure.

Scene 4. Inside Poppea's house

Nerone, having spent another night with Poppea, tells her of his intention to make her empress, and she complains that Seneca has claimed that Nerone is dependent on his approval for his power. Nerone summons the captain of the guard and sends the message to Seneca that he must die by nightfall.

Scene 5. Outside Poppea's house

Ottone reproaches Poppea for her faithlessness and she makes it clear that she intends to marry Nerone and become empress. Drusilla reproaches Ottone for thinking only of Poppea, when she loves him, and he declares that he now loves her, not Poppea; but when she has gone, he has to admit to himself that Poppea still holds sway in his heart.

Scene 6. The palace garden

Ottavia's servant and maid discover and confess their mutual love.

Scene 7. Seneca's garden

Seneca's contemplation of his peaceful retreat is disturbed by the expected arrival of the captain of the guard, reluctantly bringing Nerone's order for Seneca's death. His calm preparations for death are interrupted by his friends begging him to live, but he bids them a last farewell.

ACT II

Scene 1. Nerone's apartments in the palace

Nerone carouses with his friend, the poet Lucano, celebrating the death of Seneca and the beauty of Poppea.

Scene 2. Ottavia's apartments in the palace

Reminding Ottone that he owes his rank to her ancestors, Ottavia orders him to kill Poppea, advising him to disguise himself as a woman to avoid detection and threatening to tell Nerone that he has attempted to rape her if he disobeys. He seeks out Drusilla, who is rejoicing in Ottone's declaration of love for her, and confesses that he has to commit a murder. He asks for the loan of her cloak as a disguise and she gladly helps him.

Scene 3. Poppea's house

Still rejoicing in her happy fate, Poppea falls asleep, watched over by Arnalta. When she leaves, her place is taken by Amor, who prevents the disguised Ottone from killing Poppea. Poppea wakes up and cries out that she has seen Drusilla armed with a dagger and Arnalta calls for help.

Scene 4. A street

Drusilla, waiting for Ottone to kill Poppea, is apprehended by Arnalta and a lictor.

Nerone appears and when she protests her innocence, orders her to be tortured to find her accomplices, so she declares that she was the only guilty one. Nerone commands her instant execution, but Ottone appears and confesses. Nerone orders his banishment and pardons Drusilla because of her noble attempt to shield him, but she asks to go into exile with Ottone. Nerone declares that he will banish Ottavia as well, sending the lictor to carry out this intention. He tells Poppea of his decision.

Scene 5

Ottavia tries to control her grief at leaving Rome as she departs for exile.

Scene 6

Arnalta rejoices in the elevation of her mistress and the importance she herself will now have.

Scene 7. The coronation

Poppea is acclaimed as empress and she and Nerone rejoice in their love.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
La Clemenza di Tito

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jan 91

ACT I

Scene 1. Vitellia's apartments

Vitellia, daughter of a previous emperor of Rome, who had hoped in vain to marry the Emperor Tito (Titus), incites Sesto (Sextus) to prove his love for her by killing Tito, despite the fact that he is a friend.

Annio (Annius), a friend of Sesto, brings him a summons from the emperor. Vitellia makes an insulting remark about Tito's love for the Jewish Queen Berenice, only to learn that Tito has parted from her and sent her back home. With renewed hopes of becoming empress, she tells Sesto to defer his assassination plans, giving him no reason, demanding that he trust her. Sesto consents with delight when Annio asks for the hand of his sister Servilia.

Scene 2. The Roman Forum

The people acclaim Tito. He calls Sesto and Annio to him and asks Sesto for the hand of Servilia. Both are taken aback, but Annio collects himself sufficiently to congratulate the emperor on his choice, and is given the task of conveying the news to Servilia.

Tito keeps Sesto at his side, remarking that the joy of rewarding friends is the only pleasure he derives from his position. Annio laments the loss of Servilia and when he tells her of her fate, she also grieves for their lost happiness.

Scene 3. The imperial palace on the Palatine Hill

Publio, commander of the Praetorian guard, brings Tito a list of those who have defamed him and his predecessors. Tito deplores the investigation which has produced the list and forgives those named on it.

Servilia confesses to the emperor that she loves Annio, but agrees to marry him if he still wishes. He releases her from any obligation to him, while wishing that all around him were as frank as she. Vitellia greets Servilia ironically as future empress and beloved of Tito, but Servilia answers cryptically that Vitellia may still be able to marry him. Not understanding, Vitellia rages at having first Berenice, then Servilia prefered to her, and threatens vengeance. She stirs up Sesto again and he promises to avenge her, but when Publio brings the news that Tito has now chosen her as his wife, she regrets the haste with which she sent Sesto off.

Scene 4. The square before the Capitol

Sesto, torn between love and friendship, resolves to die rather than betray his friend, but his plot is already under way and the Capitol is burning. Feeling that he is now committed, he enters the Capitol in search of Tito. A crowd gathers and Sesto appears, announcing the assassination of the emperor. Vitellia warns him not to betray himself.

ACT II

Scene 1. The square before the Capitol

Sesto has learnt that he stabbed another man in mistake for Tito. He confesses his attempted crime to Annio, declaring that he will leave Rome as a repentant exile. But he is not yet suspected, and Annio advises that he should continue to serve the emperor and by his fidelity atone for his crime.

But Vitellia counsels him to leave at once, fearing not only for his life, but for her honor as the instigator of the attempt. Sesto swears that her secret is safe with him.

He is arrested by Publio, as the man he had stabbed had not died and had been able to reveal the identity of his attacker. Sesto is led off to be tried by the Senate, leaving Vitellia a prey to remorse.

Scene 2. A great hall

The people rejoice in the safety of Tito and he expresses his gratitude for their devotion. He asks Publio about the progress of the proceedings against Sesto, trying to find excuses for his friend, but Publio can give him no comfort.

Annio begs for mercy for Sesto, but is interrupted by Publio, bringing news of the condemnation of Sesto, who is to be thrown to the beasts in the arena. He hands Tito the death warrant to sign, but the emperor, torn between justice and mercy, decides to hear Sesto before signing. He offers Sesto the chance to exculpate himself, but his lips are sealed by his promise to Vitellia and he says that he deserves and desires death.

Servilia and Annio beg Vitellia, as their future empress, to intercede for Sesto, reproving her when she seems to hesitate. Vitellia is moved to admiration by the steadfastness of Sesto, examines her conscience and resolves to confess, even though it will cost her the throne she has sought and may even mean her death.

Scene 3. The Amphitheatre

The people have gathered for the games in which Sesto is to die. Vitellia confesses, explaining that she had misconstrued Tito's customary affability into expressions of affection and felt spurned when he seemed to choose others instead of her. In the face of so much treachery, Tito decides to be magnanimous, to forgive and forget.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Così fan Tutte

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 89

ACT I

Scene 1. A cafe in Naples

Two young men, Guglielmo and Ferrando, are protesting that their sweethearts, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, are as faithful as they are beautiful. The cynicism of their elderly bachelor friend Don Alfonso provokes them to accept a wager on the fidelity of the girls.

Scene 2. A garden by the seashore

Fiordiligi and Dorabella go into raptures over the miniatures of their lovers as they await their arrival; but it is Don Alfonso who comes, bearing sad news: the young men have been ordered away on military service. Guglielmo and Ferrando take a sorrowful farewell of the girls, who wish them a safe journey and express grief at their departure - to the amusement of Don Alfonso, who does not expect this grief to last very long.

Scene 3. A room in the house of Fiordiligi and Dorabella

Despina, the girls' maid, is unimpressed by their display of extravagant grief, pointing out that there are just as good fish in the sea. In her view, men, not excluding the just-departed soldiers, are faithless, and women should serve them in the same style. The girls leave indignantly and Don Alfonso seizes the opportunity to enlist the support of Despina, telling her that he wants to introduce two young men who should be able to console her mistresses for the absence of their lovers.

He presents Guglielmo and Ferrando, elaborately disguised as Albanians. Despina does not recognise them, but her laughter at their appearance attracts the attention of her mistresses who reprove her for entertaining men (Don Alfonso has hidden).

The apparent strangers fall at their feet, with impassioned protestations of devotion, which are rejected. Don Alfonso appears, claims the intruders as two of his oldest friends and presents them to the girls. They remain impervious to the blandishments of the supposed Albanians - Fiordiligi declares that her fidelity is like a rock - and leave. In answer to the jubilation of Guglielmo and Ferrando, Don Alfonso reminds them that the bet is not won yet, to which Ferrando replies that their victory will be the sweeter if they have to wait.

Scene 4. In the garden

The girls' peaceful walk in the garden is shattered by the appearance of the Albanians, who claim to have taken poison in their despair at being rejected.

Despina and Don Alfonso go for help. Left alone with the strangers, the girls express timid signs of pity. Don Alfonso returns with a doctor (Despina in disguise), who cures the victims by the latest method, magnetism. As they recover, they declare that they are in paradise, attended by goddesses. The girls, though relieved at their recovery, are indignant when asked for kisses.

ACT II

Scene 1. A room in the house

Despina continues to scandalise her mistresses with her views on life, love and men. Tentatively contemplating a mild flirtation to pass the time, the girls express a preference for one another's former sweethearts.

Scene 2. In the garden

Accompanied by musicians, Guglielmo and Ferrando wait for the ladies, who have agreed to appear, but when they come all become tongue-tied and have to be prompted by Don Alfonso and Despina, who eventually leave them to their own devices.

They pair off, Fiordiligi with Ferrando, Dorabella with Guglielmo. Guglielmo wins over Dorabella, who gives him her miniature of Ferrando in exchange for a locket; but Ferrando has no success with Fiordiligi, even though she has to admit to herself that she has been attracted more than she thinks proper - to her shame and remorse.

The young men compare notes. Ferrando is in despair and Guglielmo, though jubilant at the fidelity of his Fiordiligi, reproaches the female sex for its inconstancy. He asks Don Alfonso for his share of the money, but Don Alfonso wants one more chance.

Scene 3. A room in the house

Not trusting her strength of purpose, Fiordiligi decides that she and Dorabella should join their lovers on the battlefield, but she is intercepted by Ferrando, who wins her admission that she loves him, shattering the complacency of the watching Guglielmo. Don Alfonso tells the unhappy lovers that the only way to be avenged on their faithless sweethearts is to marry them, pointing out that all women are the same (CosÏ fan tutte), and making them repeat this lesson after him.

Despina announces to the less than delighted young men that her mistresses are now ready to marry their new suitors.

Scene 4. A room in the house

The wedding is in progress, with Despina disguised as a notary, when a martial chorus signals the return of the original lovers. The Albanians hide, but quickly reappear as their real selves. They pretend surprise, and indignation when they discover the notary (who quickly reveals her identity) and the marriage contracts. The girls beg forgiveness, the deception is revealed and Don Alfonso's advice of reconciliation is accepted.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Don Giovanni

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 90

ACT I

Scene 1. The garden of the Commendatore's house

A disgruntled Leporello keeps watch while Don Giovanni tries to add Donna Anna to his list of conquests. Don Giovanni runs from the house, followed by Donna Anna, who is trying to unmask him and calling for help. Her father, coming to her aid, challenges Don Giovanni and is killed by him. Don Giovanni and Leporello make their escape before Donna Anna reappears with her betrothed, Don Ottavio, whom she calls on to avenge her dead father.

Scene 2. A street near an inn

Don Giovanni and Leporello come upon Donna Elvira, who has been seduced and abandoned by Don Giovanni and who is pursuing him. Don Giovanni slips away, leaving Leporello to explain to her that she is but one of many.

Scene 3. The countryside near Don Giovanni's house

Don Giovanni and Leporello come upon a peasant wedding. Don Giovanni orders Leporello to distract Masetto, the bridegroom, while he attempts to seduce the bride, Zerlina. He is interrupted by Donna Elvira, who warns Zerlina and persuades her to come away.

Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, not realising that Don Giovanni is the villain they are looking for, ask for his help. Elvira appears again and accuses Giovanni of faithlessness, and he tries to convince the others that she is mad. As he leaves, something in his voice and manner convinces Anna that he is her attacker and the murderer of her father.

Leporello reports to his master that he has all the peasants feasting and drinking, and Giovanni orders him to ply them wine, as he intends to add to his list of conquests.

Scene 4. The garden of Don Giovanni's house

Zerlina manages to convince the reproachful Masetto that she has done nothing wrong, but he is again suspicious when she is alarmed by Don Giovanni's voice. Another attempt on Zerlina foiled by Masetto's presence, Don Giovanni leads the couple into the house.

Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio return wearing masks. Accepting Leporello's invitation to join the party, they hope this will make their revenge easier.

Scene 5. A ballroom in Don Giovanni's house

As the guests feast, dance and sing, Leporello distracts Masetto again and Don Giovanni lures Zerlina into another room. When she screams for help Giovanni accuses Leporello. But Elvira, Anna and Ottavio reveal themselves and confront him with their knowledge of his villainy. He makes his escape in the confusion.

ACT II

Scene 1. A street near an inn

Don Giovanni soothes Leporello's indignation with money. He has his eyes on Donna Elvira's maid and changes clothes with Leporello so he will look like one of her class. Elvira appears at a window and laments her continuing love for Don Giovanni. He answers from the shadows that he still loves her, while Leporello, dressed in his clothes, mimes in the street. Elvira comes down and Don Giovanni instructs the disguised Leporello to lead her away while he serenades the maid.

Masetto and his friends appear, armed and in search of Don Giovanni, who, pretending to be Leporello, sends the villagers off in different directions, then catches Masetto off guard and beats him. Zerlina finds Masetto and comforts him.

Scene 2. A courtyard near Donna Anna's house

Leporello has not managed to free himself from Donna Elvira, who still takes him for his master. Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto find them and accuse Leporello of Don Giovanni's crimes. Elvira tries in vain to intercede for her "husband" but Leporello reveals his identity, pleads innocence and succeeds in making a getaway. Don Ottavio's promises to avenge his beloved's wrongs.

Scene 3. A cemetery, where the Commendatore is buried

Don Giovanni and Leporello have escaped from their pursuers. Giovanni's narrative of a girl who took him for Leporello is interrupted by the voice of the statue of the Commendatore reproving him for his levity and libertinism. Undeterred, he orders the terrified Leporello to invite the Commendatore to dinner. The statue accepts.

Scene 4. A room in Donna Anna's house

Don Ottavio tries to calm Donna's Anna's grief by reminding her that they will soon be married, but she begs to him to delay their wedding.

Scene 5. A banquet hall in Don Giovanni's villa

Don Giovanni is interrupted at supper by Donna Elvira, who wants him to change his ways. He laughs at her and she leaves, but runs back screaming. Investigating, Leporello returns in terror: the statue has come. The Commendatore enters and, refusing to touch earthly food, invites Don Giovanni to dine with him. Don Giovanni accepts and is engulfed by the flames of hell, steadfastly refusing to repent.

The other characters sing an epilogue about how the wicked receive their just deserts.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Die Entführung aus dem Serail

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Apr 80

ACT I

Outside Pasha Selim's palace

Belmonte, a young Spanish nobleman, arrives at the pasha's palace in search of his beloved Constanze. He comes upon Osmin, the pasha's surly servant who is rumbling away about the desirability of keeping one's sweetheart locked safely away from temptation. With reluctance he tells Belmonte where he is, but when Belmonte asks him about his servant Pedrillo, Osmin chases him away muttering a tirade against Pedrillo.

Pedrillo greets Osmin cheerfully, but the latter abuses him roundly and stamps off. Belmonte returns and is greeted joyfully by his servant who tells him that he, Constanze and her maid Blonde had been captured by pirates and all bought by the pasha. The pasha wishes to make Constanze his favorite wife, but she refuses steadfastly, being still faithful to Belmonte.

Belmonte tells Pedrillo that he has a ship near at hand ready to carry them off. The only problem is to gain access to Constanze. Pedrillo plans to present him to the pasha as an architect, thus allowing him a foothold in the palace. The two Spaniards hide at the approach of the pasha and his court. The pasha pleads with Constanze, but finding her obdurate, he becomes angry and tells her that she only has one day to decide.

When Constanze leaves, Pedrillo introduces Belmonte to the pasha who receives him favorably, but when Pedrillo and Belmonte then try to enter the palace, their way is blocked by the jealous and suspicious Osmin. They push him aside.

ACT II

The garden of Pasha Selim's palace

Osmin is having no success in trying to make Blonde love him, as she is in love with Pedrillo and his methods are wrong since he tries to browbeat her. She routs him thoroughly and he leaves, discomfited. Constanze arrives still full of sorrow at her separation from Belmonte. The pasha comes and threatens her with torture and death if she continues to refuse him, but she remains firm.

When they have gone Pedrillo and Blonde meet, the former to pass on the news that Belmonte has come to rescue them. Pedrillo plans to give Osmin a sleeping draught and offers him a flask of wine which he refuses first, like a good Muslim, but later accepts to such good effect that he is carried off practically insensible.

Belmonte and Coinstanze are reunited and the two pairs of lovers rejoice until Belmonte expresses doubts about Constanze's fidelity and Pedrillo wonders whether Blonde had yielded to Osmin. The ladies react characteristically, Constanze with wounded dignity and Blonde indignantly. All is then forgiven.

ACT III

Scene 1. In front of the pasha's palace, midnight

Belmonte and Pedrillo are waiting for the ladies, After Pedrillo sings a romance as a signal, the ladies begin to climb down the ladder. But Osmin, surprisingly still on his feet, has been watching and has them detained by the guards. He waxes gleeful about their probable fate.

Scene 2. The pasha's apartments

Constanze explains to the pasha that Belmonte is the man she has always loved. Belmonte offers ransom and gives his father's name, which the pasha recognises as that of his deadliest enemy. He goes out to decide their fate and Belmonte and Constanze grieve more for each other than themselves, though they take consolation from the prospect of dying together.

The pasha is magnanimous, however, freeing all the prisoners. Only Osmin objects to this, while everyone else joins in praise of mercy.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Idomeneo

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 93

ACT I

Scene 1. A room in the royal palace

Idomeneo, King of Crete, is expected home after the Trojan War. He has been preceded by his Trojan captives, including Ilia, one of the daughters of King Priam.

On arrival in Crete she had been rescued from a shipwreck by Idamante, son of Idomeneo, and the two have fallen in love, though not yet admitted this to one another. Ilia bemoans her fate as a captive deprived of her home and family, a slave in love with the son of her captor. She also fears that Idamante's affections have been won by Elettra (Electra), daughter of Agamemnon, who has fled from her home after the murder of her mother Clytemnestra and sought refuge in Crete.

Idamante tells Ilia that his father's ships have been sighted and announces his intention of setting free the Trojan prisoners. He confesses his love, but she rejects him, refusing to admit her own love and reminding him of the gulf which separates them. Elettra reproaches Idamante for freeing the Trojans. Arbace, Idomeneo's counsellor, reports that Idomeneo's ships have been wrecked in a storm and he has been drowned. All rush out except Elettra, who has perceived Idamante's love for Ilia and gives vent to her own jealous love for him.

Scene 2. A rocky part of the coast

Idomeneo has not been drowned. Washed ashore on the coast of Crete, he laments a vow he made to Neptune, God of the Sea, that if he was spared he would sacrifice to Neptune the first person he met on land. The first person he meets is his son, who is searching for him. Having been separated for 10 years they do not recognise one another at first. When recognition comes, Idamante tries to embrace his father, but Idomeneo rushes away in horror, leaving his son thinking he has angered his father. Joined by their wives and families, Idomeneo's troops rejoice at their safe homecoming.

ACT II

Scene 1. The royal apartments

Idomeneo confides his predicament to Arbace and begs him to find some way of saving Idamante from the consequences of his rash vow. Arbace can only suggest sending Idamante away and Idomeneo seizes on the hope thus offered and decides to send his son to escort Elettra on her journey home. Ilia congratulates Idomeneo on his safe arrival. He begs her to shake off her sadness and confirms Idamante's action of setting the Trojans free. Ilia is comforted and feels that she has gained a new father in Idomeneo. He realises that she is in love with Idamante and grieves that his rash vow will prove the death of three people, as he and Ilia will die of grief at the death of Idamante.

Elettra is delighted when Idomeneo tells her that Idamante is to escort her, as she hopes he will learn to love her when he is parted from Ilia.

Scene 2. The port of Sidon

Preparing to embark, Elettra bids farewell to Crete. Idamante grieves at having to leave his new-found father and his beloved. They are prevented from embarking when a storm springs up and a monster emerges from the sea, a sign of Neptune's anger. When the people wonder who can have aroused the god's wrath, Idomeneo confesses that he is the guilty one, without explaining the details of his sin.

ACT III

Scene 1. The palace gardens

Idamante tells Ilia that he now seeks death since his father has rejected him and she does not love him. She confesses that she does love him, even though her honor advises against it.

They are interrupted by Idomeneo and Elettra, both distressed, for different reasons, by the love between Idamante and Ilia. Idamante again begs his father to explain the reason for his sternness, but Idomeneo is still unwilling to reveal his vow. Arbace tells Idomeneo that the people are waiting to hear his intentions.

Scene 2. A public square

The high priest of Neptune begs Idomeneo to do somthing about the monster, which is killing innocent people. Idomeneo confesses his vow, explains that the victim is his son and promises to carry it out.

Scene 3. In front of the temple of Neptune

Preparations for the sacrifice are interrupted by Arbace, who announces that Idamante, seeking death, has killed the monster. Arbace feels that they are saved, but Idomeneo fears that the wrath of Neptune will be even greater.

Idamante appears, ready to undergo the sacrifice, glad that his father's apparent severity was only distress at the consequences of his vow. He tells his father not to hesitate to carry out the scarifice, and commends Ilia to him, but she wishes to take Idamante's place as the victim. The voice of Neptune is heard, announcing that love has triumphed. He frees Idomeneo from his vow, but demands that he abdicate and yield the throne to Idamante and Ilia. All rejoice except Elettra.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Le Nozze di Figaro

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 92

ACT I

A half-furnished room in the castle of Count Almaviva

Figaro's satisfaction at the location of the room assigned to him and his prospective bride, Susanna, is shattered when she points out that the Count (who has done away with his hereditary right to the first night with any bride on his estate, but regrets it) has designs on her and the location of the room will assist him.

Marcellina plans to marry Figaro, who has signed a contract promising marriage if he is unable to repay money borrowed from her, and Bartolo is eager to be revenged on Figaro by assisting her. Cherubino tells Susanna that the Count is sending him away because of his amorous inclinations. He hides behind a chair as the Count approaches. Susanna tries to avoid the Count's advances. He hides behind the chair when Basilio appears, and Cherubino hides in the chair. Basilio warns Susanna that the Count will be angry if she encourages Cherubino and the Count emerges from hiding and discovers Cherubino. The Count accepts the praises of his servants, led by Figaro, but postpones the crowning of Susanna as a bride. He assigns Cherubino a place in his regiment and orders him to leave at once.

ACT II

The Countess' bedroom

The Countess is sad because her husband neglects her. She joins in Figaro's scheme to disguise Cherubino as Susanna, who is to agree to an assignation with the Count, who can then be caught in the act. But the Count arrives unexpectedly. Cherubino hides, but betrays himself by knocking something over. The Count is ready to break down the door, but when he goes to get tools, Susanna lets Cherubino out and he jumps from the window, and she takes his place, surprising not only the Count, but the Countess, who takes her time about forgiving her husband for his suspicions.

Figaro comes in to announce that all is ready for the wedding, but is confronted by the Count, who knows it is Figaro who has written an anonymous letter telling him the Countess will be receiving a lover in the garden (part of Figaro's elaborate plot). Antonio, the gardener, arrives with the complaint that someone jumped from the window into his garden. When Figaro claims that it was he who jumped, Antonio produces a paper which dropped from Cherubino's pocket, challenging him to idenfity it. With the assistance of the women, he does so - it is the page's commission. Marcellina, supported by Bartolo and Basilio, arrives to press her claim for Figaro's hand, as he has no money to pay her back.

ACT III

A big drawing room

Urged by the Countess, Susanna pretends to agree to an assignation with the Count, but he overhears her telling Figaro of the success of the plan.

Marcellina and Bartolo arrive with a lawyer to demand that Figaro fulfil his contract, but it is discovered that he is the long-lost son of Marcellina and Bartolo. Susanna boxes Figaro's ears when she sees him embracing Marcellina, but explanations prove satisfactory to all except the Count, who storms out.

The Countess laments her sad life with a faithless husband. She gets Susanna to write him a note agreeing to a meeting in the garden, sealing it with a pin which is to be returned as his answer. Peasant girls, including Barbarina, Antonio's daughter, and Cherubino, whom she has dressed as a girl to hide him from the Count, bring gifts to the Countess, but the Count and Antonio appear and unmask Cherubino. The Count is about to send Cherubino away, but Barbarina, reminding him of promises made when he was making advances to her, successfully asks for Cherubino as her husband.

There is a double wedding ceremony - Marcellina and Bartolo as well as Susanna and Figaro. Susanna slips her note to the Count. Figaro is amused to see him prick his finger with the pin, but does not realise the note is from Susanna.

ACT IV

The garden, at night

Barbarina, entrusted with taking the pin to Susanna, has lost it, and Figaro learns that it was Susanna who wrote the note. The Countess is to take Susanna's place in meeting the Count, and they have changed clothes. Marcellina warns Susanna that Figaro is hiding, planning to trap her, and she sings an alluring love-song, intended for him, but which he interprets as being directed at the Count. Cherubino makes advances to the Countess, under the impression that she is Susanna. Susanna intends to be revenged on Figaro for doubting her, but he penetrates her disguise and turns the tables, pretending to believe she is really the Countess and making love to her. Explanations and reconciliation ensue and, realising that the Count is listening, they resume the apparent love scene between Figaro and the Countess. The Count summons everyone to witness his wife's disgrace, ignoring pleas for mercy. He is silenced when the Countess herself adds her plea and in turn asks her forgiveness, which she grants.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Die Zauberflöte

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 95

ACT I

Scene 1. Among rocky mountains

Pursued by a serpent which he is unable to kill because he has run out of arrows, Prince Tamino faints. Three veiled ladies kill the serpent and fall in love with the handsome stranger, each wishing to stay with him while the others tell their queen what has happened. Eventually all go. A feather-clad, pipe-playing figure arrives: Papageno the bird catcher, who claims to have killed the serpent. The three ladies padlock his mouth to stop him telling more lies. They give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night and when he falls in love with it, they tell him she has been carried off by an evil demon called Sarastro and he swears to save her.

A clap of thunder heralds the arrival of the queen, who promises that her daughter shall be Tamino's bride if he rescues her. The ladies remove Papageno's padlock and give Tamino a flute to help him in his quest and, ordering Papageno to go with him, give him a set of bells to use in time of need, explaining that three spirits will guide Tamino to Sarastro's domain.

Scene 2. A room in Sarastro's palace

Pamina tries to escape from the advances of the moor Monostatos, who is supposed to be guarding her. She faints and Papageno appears. He and Monostatos take each other for the devil and Monostatos flees. Papageno tells Pamina about the handsome prince who has fallen in love with her and is coming to rescue her and she consoles him on his wifeless state with the assurance that a loving heart will surely find a partner.

Scene 3. Pillars leading to the temples of wisdom, reason and nature

The three spirits leave Tamino in front of the pillars. He is turned back by unseen voices as he tries to enter the first two temples and a priestly figure bars his way to the third. From this man, the speaker, Tamino learns that although Pamina is in Sarastro's realm, things are not as the Queen of the Night has represented them. But Tamino is not yet fit to understand the mysteries of the temples where Sarastro rules in wisdom. The Speaker disappears, but the voices tell Tamino that Pamina is alive. He expresses his joy by playing the flute and animals gather round to listen. He hears Papageno's pipes and sets off to find him. Meanwhile Papageno and Pamina have been following the sound of the flute. They are overtaken by Monostatos and slaves who are about to drag them off in chains when Papageno remembers his magic bells. Monostatos and the slaves dance off, forgetting their intention.

Sarastro and priests of the brotherhood arrive and Pamina tells him that she has tried to escape because of Monostatos. Sarastro is kind, but tells her that she cannot yet be set free because of her mother's evil influence.

Monostatos has captured Tamino. Pamina and Tamino rush into each other's arms. Sarastro orders that Monostatos be whipped and Tamino and Papageno be led into the temple to be purified.

ACT II

Scene 1. A grove in Sarastro's domain

Sarastro urges the brotherhood to allow Tamino to undergo the trials that will make him worthy to join their band, explaining that the gods have ordained Pamina as Tamino's wife; it is for this reason that he took her from her mother, whose aim is to destroy the temple.

Scene 2. A temple courtyard at night

Two priests ask Tamino and Papageno if they are prepared to undergo the trials. Tamino is ready. Papageno demurs, but weakens when told that the gods have a wife in store for him, just like himself and called Papagena. The priests impose silence on them, warn them against the wiles of women and leave them in the dark. The three ladies appear and threaten vengeance, but Tamino ignores them, advising Papageno to do the same. The ladies are driven off by the brotherhood. The priests commend Tamino for his steadfastness and lead him and the reluctant Papageno off to the next trial.

Scene 3. A garden lit by the moon

Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina, but is frightened off by the arrival of the Queen of the Night, who gives Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro and bring back to her the circle of the sun which had been given to Sarastro by her late husband. When Pamina expresses her revulsion at the though of killing, Monostatos tells her that she can only save herself and her mother by loving him. Sarastro drives him away and assures Pamina that her mother is safe from him, since no thoughts of vengeance are permitted in his realm.

Scene 4. A hall

Tamino and Papageno are led in by the priests and left alone. Papageno complains of thirst and an old woman gives him water, tells him he is her sweetheart and disappears. The spirits bring back Tamino's flute and Papageno's bells, which had been taken from them. They also bring a feast which Papageno attacks with gusto, while Tamino abstains, playing the flute instead.

The sound draws Pamina, who is distressed when Tamino refuses to speak to her. Even Papageno, his mouth full of food, does not answer. She longs for death.

Scene 5. A subterranean vault

The priests rejoice at Tam-ino's progress. Sarastro tells Tamino and Pamina to bid each other farewell for ever. Papageno is rejected by the brotherhood, but replies that there are more of his kind than theirs in the world. All he wants is a wife. The old woman appears; and, when he reluctantly promises to be faithful, changes into a young and beautiful girl, Papagena. But she is taken away by the priests.

Scene 6. A garden

The three spirits stop Pamina from killing herself, assuring her that Tamino would be heartbroken; they offer to take her to him.

Scene 7. Two mountains, one spitting fire, the other with a waterfall

Two men in armor guard the approaches. They tell Tamino that he may now speak to Pamina, and together they undergo the ordeals of fire and water, Tamino playing the flute as they go.

Scene 8. A garden

The boys prevent Papageno from committing suicide in his despair at the loss of Papagena. Following their advice, he plays his magic bells and she appears. They make joyful plans for a philoprogenitive future.

Scene 9. An underground vault

The Queen of the Night, her ladies and Monostatos, who has joined them in the hope of getting Pamina, attack the temple but are repulsed and defeated.

Scene 10. The temple of the sun

Sarastro leads the brotherhood in celebration of the triumph of light, and Tamino and Pamina are united in marriage.

Thea Musgrave:
A Christmas Carol

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Nov 81

ACT I

Scene 1. Scrooge's House

It is a cold, foggy Christmas Eve. Ebenezer Scrooge is in his office, scolding his clerk Bob Cratchit for being late. Bob excuses himself by saying that his son Tiny Tim is ill and then goes on with his work.

Scrooge's nephew Fred comes in to wish his uncle a Merry Christmas but Scrooge answers angrily that Christmas is humbug: "Every idiot and dunderhead/Screeching 'Merry Christmas'/Should be boiled in his own pudding/And buried with a stake of holly/Through his heart!"

Fred answers with warm praise for the spirit of Christmas and leaves his indignant uncle with further Christmas greetings. A gentleman comes to ask Scrooge to contribute to a charitable fund but Scrooge answers that the poor should be in orphanages and workhouses and the gentleman leaves in a state of shock. Scrooge reluctantly gives Cratchit the next day off on condition that he makes it up by coming early for a week.

Scene 2. Marley's Ghost

Supernatural signs precede the arrival of the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's former partner who has been dead for seven years. Torn between terror and disbelief, Scrooge listens to Marley's account of the remorse he now suffers for his meanness and miserliness on earth. He says he has come to save Scrooge from the same fate. Scrooge will be visited by a spirit in three guises. When Marley has gone Scrooge collapses exhausted into bed.

Scene 3. The Spirit of Christmas Past

As the clock strikes one the curtains of the bed are pulled aside and the Spirit of Christmas Past summons Scrooge to follow it.

Scene 4. The Schoolroom

Scrooge's room is transformed into a schoolroom, where a solitary child is sitting. Scrooge recognises himself, left alone at school at Christmas time. His little sister appears with the news that he may come home after all. When the vision fades Scrooge remembers his sister, now dead.

Scene 5. A Party at Mr Fezziwig's

Scrooge is now an apprentice with Mr Fezziwig and the next vision is of a Christmas party at Mr Fezziwig's where all is jollity and good humor. Scrooge dances with Belle, one of Mr Fezziwig's daughters, and confesses his love for her. Belle sings a song and Mr Fezziwig leads the company in a dance, the Sir Roger de Coverley. The watching Scrooge feels like joining in and advises the ghosts to dance and enjoy themselves while they still can.

Scene 6. Belle Says Farewell

A year has passed since the last scene and Scrooge has become obsessed with money. Belle, to whom he is engaged, tries in vain to get him to leave his figures but he tells her he must save to safeguard them against hopeless poverty when they are married. She offers to ask her father for help but Scrooge wishes to be independent and rejects her attempts to comfort him. When he spurns her talk of love she becomes angry and reproaches him with avarice and bids him farewell.

Scrooge urges his younger self to follow her, expressing bitter regret for his past actions.

ACT II

Scene 1. The Spirit of Chrsitmas Present

The Spirit of Christmas, now transformed into a 'jolly giant of middling years with genial face and sparkling eyes' appears.

Scene 2. The Cratchits Celebrate

Scrooge is shown Christmas dinner at the Cratchits' and is impressed by the happiness of the occasion despite the meagre fare. When Bob Cratchit calls for a toast to Scrooge, his wife angrily refuses but she is calmed by Tiny Tim, their youngest child who is crippled, and they drink the toast. When Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live the Spirit points silenty and accusingly at him.

Scene 3. The Spirit of Christmas Future

Scrooge complains that the misery and poverty of the world are not his fault and remembers his lonely childhood. The Spirit of Christmas Future appears, its face hidden by a cloak, from whose folds wretched children, including Tiny Tim, appear and run towards Scrooge.

In desperation and hunger they are rough and vicious. Scrooge tries to push them off, but they cling to him all the more. Finally Scrooge throws them violently to the ground. Tiny Tim is hurt and dies.

Scene 4. The Cratchits Mourn

Bob has become embittered by having to beg for a living and he and his wife have become estranged in their grief; but in the course of the scene they turn to one another for comfort.

Scene 5. The Graveyard

A group of men discusses someone recently dead, for whom it is evident they cared little. A laundress and a charwoman quarrel over meagre clothes, bed curtains, and so on that they have stolen from the room of the dead man.

At last the terrified Scrooge is able to read the inscription on the tombstone: "Ebenezer Scrooge, miser/Who lived unloved and alone." He cries out that he will change, he is no longer the man he was, he will keep the spirit of Christmas and change the future.

Scene 6. Scrooge Awakens

It is morning, the spirit has gone and when Scrooge awakens he remembers his visions and repeats his resolution to change.

Rushing out into the streets he finds it a sunny Christmas Day; he hasn't missed it after all. He sends a boy to buy a prize turkey and take it to the Cratchits. Meeting the charitable gentleman, he astonishes him with a promise of a large donation. Bob Cratchit appears with Tiny Tim on his shoulder and Scrooge, first pretending to be angry, promises to raise his salary and gives him money to buy presents for his children.

Scene 7. Finale

A Christmas party is in progess at Fred's house. The company jokes at Scrooge and his meanness. Scrooge, laden with parcels, enters and wishes a Merry Christmas to all and joins in singing with the rest of the party.

Children are heard singing the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Modest Mussorgsky:
Boris Godunov

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 80

PROLOGUE

Scene 1. The courtyard of the Novodyevichy monastery near Moscow, 1598

Russia has been left without a tsar. The people, oppressed and apathetic, have been herded into the courtyard and ordered to beg Boris to consent to become tsar. As he continues to seem reluctant the crowd is ordered to reassemble the next day in the Kremlin.

Scene 2.

Boris has agreed to become tsar and the coronation takes place. He is acclaimed first by Prince Shuisky and the boyars (nobles) and then by the people.

Oppressed by forebodings, Boris prays for a blessing on his reign.

ACT I

Scene 1. A cell in the Chudov monastery in the Kremlin about five years later

The old monk Pimen is finishing his chronicle of Russia. The young monk Grigory, who shares his cell, asks him about his early life as a soldier in the service of Ivan the Terrible. He also asks particularly about the death of the Tsarevich Dimitri which Pimen had witnessed. Pimen tells Grigory that the tsarevich, murdered by the orders of Boris Godunov, would have been about Grigory's age if he had lived. Grigory declares that the punishment of God and man will strike Boris.

Scene 2. An inn on the Lithuanian frontier

Two vagrant monks who have run away from their monastery, Varlaam and Missail, arrive with Grigory, disguised as a peasant, who has joined with them.

Varlaam drunkenly sings a song about the siege of Kazan and its defeat by Ivan the Terrible. Grigory is particularly anxious to get across the border to Lithuania and the hostess explains that although the border is guarded there is another way across.

Police officers come in search of Grigory, who is being sought by the authorities. Since only Grigory claims to be able to read they give him the warrant to read. Coming to the description, he substitutes a description of Varlaam for the description of himself. As the police move towards Varlaam he seizes the warrant and painfully makes out the words - giving the true description of Grigory, who escapes out the window.

ACT II

The interior of the tsar's apartments in the Moscow Kremlin

Xenia, the tsar's daughter, grieves for her dead betrothed while her brother Feodor and their nurse try to comfort her. Xenia and the nurse leave when Boris arrives. Feodor shows him the map of Russia he has been studying. Bidding him continue, Boris broods about his six year reign of peace which has brought him no joy. Russia is plagued by famine and unrest and men curse the name of Boris. The vision of the murdered Dimitri haunts him night and day.

A boyar announces that Prince Shuisky requests an audience and informs Boris that Shuisky is suspected of plotting against him. Boris warns his son to beware of Shuisky when he is tsar. When Shuisky appears Boris threatens him, but then forgives him. Shuisky tells him that a pretender to the throne has appeared in Lithuania and that he claims to be the Tsarevich Dimitri.

Sending Feodor away, Boris questions Shuisky, who saw the ded child, as to whether it was indeed Dimitri. Shuisky answers that it was and goes on to tell how the body remained uncorrupted and bathed in light. Boris sends him away. He feels as if he is suffocating. The bloodstained child seems to be in the room with him. He begs God for mercy for his sins.

ACT III

Scene 1. Marina's dressing room in the castle of Sandomir in Poland

Marina is finishing her toilette, surrounded by a chorus of admiring handmaidens. She tells them she has no need of flattery or of lovers pining at her feet. She longs only for glory and greatness and these she hopes to find in the Pretender Dimitri. She looks forward to the time she will sit on the throne of Russia.

Rangoni, a jesuit, comes to proclaim to her her duty to convert the Russians to Catholicism when she is tsarina. She resents his attitude, but he cows her with threats of hellfire.

Scene 2. The garden of the castle of Sandomir

Dimitri is waiting for Marina but Rangoni comes to prod him into declaring his love for her. Marina, leaving her guests, comes to him and he professes his love; but she makes it clear that his love will only move her when he is tsar.

Thus jolted out of his lovesickness, he turns to thoughts of future glory and they are reconciled, to the joy of the watching Rangoni.

ACT IV

Scene 1. A hall in the Moscow Kremlin

The duma (assembly of the boyars) is in session, to pass judgment on the pretender. They pronounce a solemn condemnation of him and his followers. They wish for the advice of Shuisky who, although a rebel, is wise. He appears and they reproach him with treason because he now says that the tsarevich is alive. He declares that he has been maligned and then describes how he has just seen Boris, shivering with torment, haunted by the spirit of the murdered child, crying "begone child."

Boris enters the hall, uttering these very words. He is about to address the boyars, but Shuisky tells him a pilgrim waits outside to tell him a strange story. It is Pimen, who tells of a blind shepherd cured by the martyred Dimitri.

Deeply affected by the story, Boris feels that his death is upon him. He calls for his son and the penitential garment in which it was customary for a tsar to end his days, as a sign that he had renounced the world. He orders the boyars to leave and gives Feodor advice for his future rule. He begs the mercy of heaven not for himself but for his children. As the boyars return, he presents his son to them and dies.

Scene 2. A clearing in the forest near the town of Kromy

Vagabonds torment Krushchov, a boyar loyal to Boris whom they have caught. A simpleton arrives, followed by boys teasing him.

Varlaam and Missail come from Moscow with stories of Boris' tyranny. They say that the sufferings of Russia are a punishment for his sins. Two jesuits, although supporters of Dimitri, are dragged off to be hanged as heretics. Dimitri appears and is proclaimed tsar by his motley collection of followers. He prepares to march on Moscow.

The simpleton laments for the future of Russia and her hungry people.


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