Thursday, October 18, 2012

Welsh Opera

Jensen and I have decided we’re going to write one. We talked about it a bit over the summer and then last night, Jensen actually started on it (Impressed face).

I’ve always thought writing an Opera would be an interesting challenge. It’s been years since I’ve tried to write music and maybe even longer since I really tried to annotate any of it, which means this is going to be pretty rough, I’m sure. Luckily, because Jensen is a genius, we’ve already got the plot and some of the lyric medio-formed. I’m fighting for the word owl (gwdihw, in Welsh) to appear somewhere.

So, get back to me in ten years and it’ll probably be done-ish. Jensen wants to do it full-tilt classic style. Economy of sets, just a few principle singers and a chorus, classical feel for the music. None of this modern stuff. We’re both a little sick of that.

Anyway, I scribbled up a summary for the plot that I’d love to share. Keep in mind, this is not the summary as it will appear in the program, this is the summary that I made up so that I could remember stuff.

The principles will all have names when we’ve had longer than a few hours to think about it, but right now our main singers are…

Howel – our tenor
Gruffudd – our baritone
Wise Woman – yay, alto!
EM – our soprano (I’d kind of rather her be a mezzo-soprano, but…)
Currently unnamed Welsh Citizen who gets the spotlight in the first act of the second half – another tenor, probably one of the noblemen hunters who accompanied Gruffudd out in the first act.
Then, a hearty Welsh chorus.

Part 1
Act I
Gruffudd reveals his plans as he stalks beasts in the forest. His father, the great king Llewellyn has died leaving the throne and the fate of Wales with his eldest son Howel. Gruffudd thinks this is a crap idea and expands upon all the reasons why Howel is a crap king and he'd be a much better one. Also, this hunting trip, like so many throughout history is really just an excuse to do some assassinatin'. The other hunters join him, including Howel, who clearly loves his treacherous little brother a whole ton. They carry on into the woods to hunt beasts/commit fratricide.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the woods, an elven maiden, EM (that’s not her name, it stands for Elven Maiden), is gathered with beautiful elven children, telling wonderful stories of how humans used to be subservient to elves, once upon a slavery ago. (This can easily be changed to other elven maidens since some people immediately want to sepuku upon hearing that they have to cast kids in this thing) anyway, their merriment and story-telling is interrupted by lusty hunters (our princes and their hunting buddies) the elves spy on them as Gruffudd and the others as they murder Howel--except he's not really dead, spoiler--triumphant, Gruffudd and his pals vacate the woods, leaving Howel gravely injured, but technically still alive, which our elf maiden discovers when she falls upon his "corpse" with tender tears.
Possible song titles for this act

The unworthy brother (We start off with an aria, because really, why not?)
Of on the hunt (we/I) go
Elven bedtime at noon
Slaying the boar/I put my trust in bloody hands
Elven lament (a lovely number that will be interrupted by a somewhat dissonant high-note-of-surprise when EM sees that Howel isn’t dead.)
I’m not going to go on about the songs all the way through, are you getting the idea?

Act II
Howel awakes in the kingdom of the elves and fairies, being nursed back to health by a wise witchy woman. Their duet is a mixture of her giving him "the call" which he of course refuses, encouraging him to go and take back his kingdom and rule his people justly and fairly as his father did. Howel is interested in going back alright, but just so he can lay the smackdown on Gruffudd and with any luck die himself in the process "For how can I go on living after I've shed my dear brother's blood?!" It's all very tortured, but our witchy lady is over it. Howel feels strong again and keeps trying to flee the elven city, only to be comically deterred by the elves themselves and the witchy lady as they continue their duet. Half the chorus is all for revenge, the other half isn't, divided by gender? Works with the duet, I think. Anyway, we'll probably need to add some more things, probably with the elven maiden and the withy woman planning to bring Howel back to the path of righteousness and/or unite their two kingdoms with marriage and baby-makin'.
Gruffudd returns to the city and with big crocodile tears and an Oscar-winning performance as he describes a fantastic and completely fictional account of how his brother was killed by a (big red dragon/lion depending on what kind of symbolism you what, or what you're trying to get Gruffudd to imply--has the dragon chosen him as the true ruler of Wales, or is it significant that it was a Lion in that he is the only one who can defend them from the English?) anyway, this is the big hammy villain song-and-dance. Think "No-More-Mister-Nice-Guy" from the Swan Princess. He's saying that his glorious reign is just beginning and let the lavish festivities continue!
Part 2
Act I
Howel attempting to woe coy EM. Very. Very funny. This is the big epic love number, but it's also the last truly light-hearted note in this whole production. Things gettin' pretty heavy from this point on. Basically EM has realized that she has true feelings for Howel and doesn't just want his kingdom, but wants him, whether he claims his destiny or refuses it, she'll stand by his side. But she'd still pretty sassy and not exactly leaping into his arm, ya know? Until the end, then there can be some snoggy-time. This will turn into a duet as well, though it starts out as two separate arias, if that makes sense. I'm thinking two totally different melodies that are in different keys, but both have key changes that eventually put them on the same level with each other, before the melodies adjust to become a duet. It makes sense in my head, and I think it'll be lovely.
Anyway, happiness is interrupted as a citizen of Howel's rightful kingdom is brought dying into the elven kingdom. He tells his sad story of how the new king Gruffudd has lived lavishly in his palace with all his friends and has taxed the people to the bone. He'd suffered a fatal injury hunting for food to save his starving family. He exhorts his king to take up his rightful place and his responsibility to his people, and dies of his wounds.
Howel sees now that revenge is not important, and neither is his brother or himself, what is important is the people of Wales! He will take the elven army and go forth to defend them, not for his own sake but for the sake of the Red Dragon! Cymru am byth!
Act II
The battle! It shall be EPIC! Lots of hacky/slashy and the final notes of conflict between EM and Howel, does she come with him, or does she stay behind? Howel goes to confront his brother and their final fight ends with Howel sparing his brother's life after Gruffudd openly confesses his crimes. Then, Gruffudd springs to kill his brother and revenge his own humiliation. EM jumps in at the last moment and kills Gruffudd to save her love. Howel's final song is a lament for his brother, whom he hopes will find a similarly faithful maiden in the spirit world, who can make him a better man, as EM did for Howel.
The End!

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