05 April 2014

The Haushofmeister’s 2014 Diary

Rehearsals are underway now for the Fort Worth Opera’s 2014 Festival, and it has come to my attention that I have not yet received my invitation to participate. This is surely an oversight, since, after all, every single one of the operas presented this season would benefit tremendously from the inclusion of an imperious Viennese butler of some sort, who brings his own special magic to any and all proceedings. Granted, I can’t sing, any more than I could last year, but that’s no excuse.

Consider, for example, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. It’s in French, it’s set in ancient Ceylon. It’s about people who fish for pearls, or something, and it’s got some gorgeous music — notably the duet for tenor and baritone, “Au fond du temple saint.” Beautiful. Exotic. French. In other words, what’s missing is some echtes ordnungsliebendes anbefohlenes Feuerwerk. Metaphorically, I mean. So picture this: Nadir and Zurga are arguing over who gets Léïla, and then a Major-Domo steps in. “Hurry it up, we’ve got the next show waiting,” I say. “And put some clothes on, for Heaven’s sake!”

Failing that, I would be happy to play the previously overlooked character of Pearl’s nephew, Sheldon Fisher, a dentist from Long Island. Bizet totally intended to write this character. He’s in all the sketches in the Bizet Archive, I promise. So really, we’d just be fulfilling the composer’s original intentions.

Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte already has a troublesome servant, of course: the saucy maid Despina. But here again, you need somebody to tell people how to conduct their affairs, which are all over the place in this opera. Don Alfonso persuades Ferrando and Guglielmo to test the fidelity of their lovers, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi, and everybody winds up confused. Well, my gosh, what does a butler do but organize the place settings at dinner? “You sit with her, and you, sit with her. Despina, I believe Mrs. Patmore wants you in the scullery. Now.”

Plus, Mozart lived in Vienna. I rest my case.

Including a Haushofmeister in Kevin Puts’ prize-winning Silent Night is almost too easy. The opera is based on a true incident during World War I, when enemy armies found peace and, however briefly, recognized their brotherhood at Christmas. Need I remind anybody that the Austrians fought in World War I? Heck, they even had a navy, despite being a land-locked country. (See The Sound of Music.) So, naturally, I could step in while everybody is celebrating, and announce a special holiday fireworks display.

And then Ava Pine could be hoisted on a wire to fly over the trenches, scattering gifts for all the soldiers. I’ve always wanted to work with Ava, and the audience will go wild. It’s pure theater!

A little more challenging, Daniel Crozier’s With Blood, with Ink is also based on a true story, that of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a 17th-century nun who ran afoul of the Inquisition. But really, the difference between an Inquisitor and a Haushofmeister is a matter of degree (and also accent) — just think of the way I tortured the poor Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos last season. Plus, Crozier, unlike Strauss, is still around. I’m sure he’d be willing to tinker just a little bit with the score to allow for an extra scene or two.

It is not given to many composers the opportunity to write for an artist of my caliber. (Kevin Puts, I’m looking at you, too.)

So there you have it. Fort Worth, I await your call.


Fort Worth Opera’s 2014 Festival runs from April 19 to May 11. For information and tickets, click HERE.


Anonymous said...

The first post in four months is most welcome! May your hands not tire.

-- Rick

William V. Madison said...

Thank you! I submitted the revised manuscript of the Madeline Kahn biography this week, so with any luck, I'll be posting more often.