Sunday, May 20, 2012

Still Life: An Opera

And now for something completely different -- an entry for the English National Opera's mini-opera contest. They want the scripts posted to blogs, and this is the blog I've got handy, so here you go. One thing I've learned about writing a libretto is that singers don't do well with contractions, so this reads a little more stiffly than a play script would.


The Conductor (soprano)
Hillary, our protagonist (alto)
Benjamin (baritone)
The Minister, a part of the Chorus (tenor)

Hillary stands Down Center and the conductor is somewhat to her right. They remain stationary until the end. The rest of the cast will be in constant smooth motion crossing from Stage Left to Stage Right, returning to Stage Left backstage -- the metaphor here is train travel. Benjamin will drop out of this motion with his first line; the Minister will pause briefly to perform his lines.

As this is a compressed journey through a person's entire life, costuming and props can be minimal. As Hillary and Benjamin "age," members of the Chorus can give them appropriate new accessories. Such changes should be evenly paced, like one year flowing into the next. The Conductor does not change.

CONDUCTOR: All aboard!

HILLARY: So bright! Too fast! He hit me!

C: Tickets please.

H: I'm already bored. Are we there yet?

C: Do not disturb the other passengers.

BENJAMIN: (to Hillary) You are bossy.

H: You have cooties.

B: You are so weird!

H: And you are mean!

CHORUS: You two are driving us crazy!!!

CONDUCTOR: Next stop.

H: The journey scares me. I don't know where I'm bound. Everything I had is lost just as it is found.

B: Very deep.

H: What a creep.

B: And you are a clever one. What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

H: Waiting for a man with a better opening line.

C: Kindly secure your baggage.

H: I look and I look and I think it will be you.

B: Me?

H: Could be.


H and B together: We do! (to each other) I will never leave you...

C: Make room! Make room!

CHORUS: Juice! Sweets! Tell me a story! Toys! Games! Tell me you love me! (continues in background until the Conductor's next line, becoming quieter but more cacaphonous as H and B sing)

H: What were we thinking?

B: As I recall, it was not "thinking" at all.

H: At least we will never be lonely.

B: Or bored.

H: Or have any money.

B: I will always have you.

H: This is true.

CONDUCTOR: We will now be accelerating.

H: So strange to just be us. We have done so much.

B: We have many things yet to do.

H: True.

B: Work.

H: Travel.

B: The grandchildren. (B leaves stage, not to return)

H: And plenty of time with you...

C: Be prepared for sudden stops.

H: No. No! Nooooo...

MINISTER: Ashes to ashes.

CHORUS: Dust to dust. (Minister and chorus leave stage, not to return)

H: We only just met. You called me bossy, I called you mean. And then it was wonderful. Now I am lost. Alone. Cold.

C: Prepare for your final stop.

H: The trip just started. I am not ready. My bones ache, my mind fills with fog -- but I cannot believe the ride will end.

C: You have reached the end of the line.

H: Is this a one-way ticket?

C: One-way is the only kind. No refunds. (Both exit Stage Left. Curtain.)

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