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An Opera—of all things!

A while ago when I was searching for a poetic, suspenseful, action-packed play to put on I came across exactly what I was after. It was a play that Oscar Wilde had bequeathed to this "contemptible" world, but that was, alas, unfinished. As I hate to see good things go down incomplete—a play or a person—I finished the thing and in due time I put it on. (Now it's playable and in print and anybody with guts to spare can stage it. You can read the preface I wrote and download the first few pages by clicking here.)

Time passed and an idea waltzed into my mind. You know how a poem sometimes seems to yearn for a tune to go with it and lo, there's a song. Or sometimes a comedy wants a bit of music and there you have a musical. And sometimes a tragedy cries out to be—an opera! Well, this play, A Florentine Tragedy, should be an opera! It's got illicit love, lovers from different levels of society, lust, suspicion, suspense, violence, death. Opera, opera, I tell you. Like Oscar's Salome that Strauss operasized. Now what do I know about opera? What I know about opera I experienced at our family's Sunday dinners back in Brooklyn. And grand opera it was. So who is out there that can turn this Renaissance tragedy into an opera?
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The Lady or the Tiger ?

Frank Stockton - Author of The Lady or the Tiger

The other day I got to thinking about choice and how it seems that sometimes we have it and at other times we have no choice at all. And how I've proclaimed—talking out of both sides of my mouth— "I'm a free man; it's a free country and I'm free to choose whatever I want," as well as " I really had no choice." Or in another version: "You leave me no choice!" (which sounds like a threat out of a B movie or since they've stopped making A movies out in the dream factory it could come from any new A movie). Then, sailing into my mind, like a paper airplane, came the recollection of a tale I read way back when, one that has rattled in my memory ever since.

The story is The Lady or the Tiger? and it was penned by a moustachioed Canadian called Frank Stockton about a century ago. It purports to be about choice, and maybe a few other things. As the story goes, there was a king in some far-off, semi-barbaric kingdom who built a great arena in which his brand of justice could be displayed. Now, this king had, as you might expect, a "semi-barbaric " daughter and she fell—well, I won"t give it away. You can experience the story for yourself. It's a haunting tale that used to be required reading in the barbaric days of the last century. Here's a condensed version I recorded recently with some friends.

Give it a listen and then read the rest of the post...


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