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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From The Fallen Bassoonist (work in progress)

(The bassoonist [a Frenchman] is writing a libretto. Unfortunately for him, it must be in English. He's better at German and Italian.)


The stage is dark. One can hear only the voices.

Violette: Oh oh, my back seems to be split in two but I can feel nothing, nothing at all. Shit. It is too dark! Where is it that I have been borne?

Voice (bass, masculine): You haven’t. Yet. If, in fact, you will never to be. Again. One would think, perhaps.

Violette: Fear grows in darkness, spreads fast. But this fear is oddly abstract, coming from a great distance like weather. My heart screams like a broken cuckoo clock, though still.

Voice: Soon there will be no fear. No heart. Weather is absent. Time is vacancy.

Violette: Who are you? And why are there no lights? Please to put them on.

Voice: There are no lights. There are never the lights save moons, on occasion and unpredictable. No import who I am or . . . was.

Violette: But where is it that we are? Oh, oh, where? Where?

Voice: You are neither here nor there nor the other place. Neither from whence you came nor where to whence you have arrived. Then. To put it as it is, as a matter of fact, you are dead, obliterated, past imperfect.

Violette: I am totally confusing.

Voice: Soon, you will not be confusing and realize the absence of death.

Violette: That gives me more greater fear. I think.

Voice: You will get over it soon. Soon you will get over everything and you will feel nothing, nothing at all. Only some boredom on and off.

Violette: Then well, is this what one calls Hell?

Voice: Well, it is certainly not Heaven, as far as I know and I is not.

Violette: But is it not Hell, is it not?

Voice: One says that Hell is overcome by a tyrant fascist totalitarian who enjoys to inflict the pain. So there is much pain in Hell. But not here. There is no pain. Soon there will be no I, no one, for you. No you. No applause.

Violette & Voice: No joy. No hunger. No applause. No sex. No arguments. No passions. No reveries. No dreams. No hope. No despair.

Chorus (2 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 basses, 2 tenors): No joy. No hunger. No applause. No sex. No arguments. No passions. No reveries. No dreams. No hope. No despair. No fear. No I. No you. No one. Soon. No time. No place. No soon.

Violette: I can feel almost numb. To say I begin to not feel. But is there a way out of this how to call it . . . condition?

Voice: Only one way. But one says it is extremely difficult this way. One would have to come over the not feeling first and then second to grope about to find a what is known as one’s true love. One of course must have to have the faith in that sort of thing. But then, one is not one here in no place.

Violette: But but . . . then, the way out of no place?

Voice: Then that is to say it is said that after communion it is necessary to foreswear the true love with abnegation and humility. And prostrate one’s self before the Ideal which is not the Ideal which is not not the Ideal. But listen, one says there is the maze full of fowl beasts breathing the fire. An apparency, of course.

The bassoonist saves the document, thinking he’s accomplished enough for one day. The plot has been laid out and it’s quintessentially operatic.

When his housekeeper arrives at 7:00 pm with home-made dinner, he is asleep in his wheelchair, dreaming about the woman across the square. She is nude, playing a cello solo with an orchestra. The conductor, who resembles his father, is leering at her, while his mother is trying to turn his attention away from the cellist. She is screaming, compelling his “father” to stop conducting. He pushes her away and resumes. His ”mother” withers to a bag of bones.

The soloist is now a reed thin woman who resembles the bassoonist’s ex-wife. She is playing a tenor clarinet out of tune. The audience cheers.

The scene shifts. He is now in a concert hall with dim lights. There are plump nude women writhing all over the floor, tongues flapping. He stumbles on tongues and breasts, and falls. He looks desperately about for his mother as the women encircle him, licking their lips, ravenous. He tries to escape the dream but can’t. He’s still in the room with the women dreaming that he’s trying to get out of it.

The housekeeper awakens the bassoonist and gives him his dinner out on the patio. She busies herself with cleaning and helps him into bed when she’s finished. He is too tired to read Sartre.


(Violette is the woman the bassoonist is obsessed with, though he doesn't know who she is. She lives across the square and he watches her every morning, with the assistance of his opera glasses. She's always nude at that time.)

Violette opens her French windows, looks out at the morose early morning sky and virtually vacant square, stretches and combs her hair with her fingers. She looks down at her body, tightens her stomach, frowns. A pity that exercise bores me, not that it would help.

Violette pops her morning dose of the antipsychotic drug she can hardly pronounce. If she stops the meds, the shrinks might haul her back to the hospital for another round of shock therapy. They could do anything to her, without her agreement or knowledge. I’m beyond being shocked. I feel nothing. And that is what they want.

Violette catches movement coming from the patio in the building directly across the square. Her eyesight is poor. She can barely see the man who sits there every morning, can’t be sure that he’s aiming binoculars in her direction. If so, she doesn’t care. Let him look. There is nothing to look at but a baggage of lard with the brain of a goose. If she were off her meds, she might perform a belly dance and gesture lewdly. She might even sing Voi, che sapete Then her horrible old neighbors would call the police and she’d be back in the hospital.

There are 16 framed photographs perched atop Violette’s living room mantel-piece. Many of them depict younger versions of Violette in various operatic costumes and with various opera stars. One of them depicts a very young version of a vibrant and scrumptious looking Violette in an ivory and gold wedding gown. The black bearded bridegroom on her arm resembles famous tenors There are several photographs of Violette and her husband, at apparently different ages, then one of him on a mountain, spreading his arms wide like Christ of the Andes. Then there is formal portrait of her parents in their house in Cannes with Violette and her younger brother when they were children.

Of course, she didn’t fall off a mountain in the Andes. Some said that her descent prompted her husband’s disappearance. Others said that her husband’s disappearance propelled her fall. He was gone, her guide and god. Possibly, he’d been gone for years. In any event, his actual departure was a shock with foreseeable consequences. Violette was always so “high strung” and “eccentric,” her brother told reporters.

Nobody knew why Violette screamed and trembled from delusions, hallucinations of hearts sliming the floor with blood, swiftly marching tubas with sharp teeth, Violette’s dead father striking her with a metronome -- nothing that made sense to anyone without sufficient imagination to comprehend the over-riding realism of metaphor. A few psychiatrists had theories, but neither the psychiatrists nor the theories were fool-proof.

Once, during her years at the conservatory, Violette had flushed a toilet in a British soprano’s house and announced loudly to everyone present: I am flushing Cannes from zee can. The guests had laughed politely when she emerged dancing the can-can, lifting her dress up to her chin, exposing purple polka-dotted bikini’s. The guests were present to launch the soprano’s new album, popping champagne and making idiotic toasts: Down the hatch, all the way to the snatch. “Violette gets that way,” the soprano remarked to one of her friends. “I sometimes think she doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t care.” There were other incidents displaying Violette’s “outrĂ© artistic temperament,” her tendency to mock and humiliate herself and engage in “inappropriate,” exhibitionist behavior.

Violette does what she does every weekday, slowly and methodically, as if one misstep will catapult her into vertigo. She showers, dresses, feeds and waters Carmen the cat, in that order. She makes espresso, spreads toast with butter and raspberry jam, and eats it She retrieves her sheet music from the piano bench, places it in her shopping bag, and inspects the living room, in that order. The room is dull and listless, she imagines hard of hearing -- but in order. Violette calls the lift and walks three blocks to the music school where she teaches budding mezzo’s how to sing with their throats open to the voices of her past perfect gods.

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