Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Tea Service (Unused Opera Scenaria (1))

Today, her fifth birthday, my daughter received a small-scale china tea service, and the most immediate parental concern was figuring out how best to store and handle all the little cups, saucers, pitchers, and sugar bowl, so that not a one would end tearfully in even smaller pieces.

I'd spent most of the past few days fighting a fever, which is not necessarily a total loss as sometimes I get my best ideas from a fevered mind. Okay, not always best or even usable, but it is possible to turn a fevered mind toward something other than self-pity. Today, I dedicated part of my fever to opera scenarios, and one of them came in a pleasant conjuncture with Emma's toy china.

A Tea Service. In the first scene, a couple receives a china tea service for twelve for their wedding. The successive scenes, which should each represent progress of three to five years, are each begun with the breaking of pieces so that the couple is able to invite one or more persons fewer to join them at their tea.

Sometimes the breaking of a cup or saucer is tearful, sometimes a source of laughter, once a reason for anger, once -- in connection with an odd number of places at the table --, for jealousy, and in the final scene, the duet during which service for two is reduced to service for one, some tenderness.

The music could start out, in the first scene, using all twelve tones, and with the loss of each place serving another tone would disappear. (Or is that too much like Stockhausen's Am Himmel wandre ich in reverse?)

Or, the music could change style with each scene. (Nah, the whole point of having a tea party is that it doesn't change).

Or maybe the libretto could be self-descriptive, like one of Tom Johnson's operas. (That's more like it, but that's what Tom does really well, better than I ever could).

The fever broken, and replaced by an ordinary headcold, this scenario is now officially abandoned, a pleasant companion for an afternoon's reverie, but not attractive enough to actually compose.

No comments: