Good evening, I'm Bernie Lukt, and this is An Evening At The Met, the longest continuous running sponsorship in radio. It’s nice to see a company that can prop up a tyrant in Nigeria can also prop up an ailing opera company in New York. I am joined by Karen Vanerhoop, a soprano with the Thunderbay Opera Company, and by Ralph Kiserbum, the janitor at studio 12 here at CBC. Good evening to both of you.
Let’s get on with our opera then. Tonight it is:
La Vela Noire - The Black Veil
A tale of adultery, jealousy, murder, executions, guilt and suffering. In short, a standard opera in the high Italian style.
The 21 year old lithe and beautiful Desora is played by Dame Greta Lipton, an overweight aging water buffalo with a soprano voice that has been compared to wounded macaw. Unfavorably.
The dashing essence of virility Rudolfo is played by none other than Pavorotti, a leviathan in his own right, and would someone please get the man a shower and a decent hair cut.
The ramrod military figure of Spinolleto is being played tonight by Ira Moshflank, a singer only by designation from the Equal Opportunity office. Ira is a blind double amputee with a tin ear. The doctors had attempted to affix a more natural looking prosthetic but they were rejected by Mr. Moshflanks body. Mr Moshflank would like to thank the Equal Op office for their support and his lawyers for their dogged determination to let him realize his dreams.
The opera opens on a poorly lit city street just as the sun is setting. There are a few people milling about and a lamplighter is going about the business of lighting the gas lamps. A shuttered window is opened and a light illuminates the figure of Desora, éand she sings the ruefully comic, “How the hell did I get in the mess I'm in”. She ends by laughing aloud, then resting her hands on the window sill and pressing her ample breasts together and looking down the street for her lover, Rudolfo.
Rudolfo, the town lace merchant wears a long red cape and a black scarf made of his finest lace. He comes up to a group of prostitutes that have gathered under the lamp and they greet him in song. The trilling chorus is a lyrical thank you note for the Rudolfo whose lace they all wear. He answers with his gratitude for their patronage and goes on to remind them that it is his hand work that cups their breasts and their big fat asses all day, would that he could do it in person. The prostitutes laugh and taut him by flashing their brassieres.
Rudolfo turns his attention to where his lover waits. He comes to the window and tells of her beauty, and how their affair is doomed, as all affairs are. She waves him up the stairs, and in a thrice he appears at her bedside and they sing the immortal “You can leave your hat on”
They embrace, he kisses the sweaty spot in her cleavage, and they fall out of sight.
On the street, two men begin to argue. One is dressed in a long red cape, similar in gross detail to that of Rudolfo. The argument gets heated. There is shoving and then swords are drawn. They clash, again, and then finally, the lesser swordsman is run through, and dies. The man in the red cape runs away.
The two lovers, oblivious to the commotion, part with a kiss and Rudolfo descends the stairs into the street. Only to be met by a chorus of “It’s him, it’s him, that’s the bastard that done it.” He is seized and confronted by the town ensign, Spinolleto, Desore’s husband, and Rudolfo’s childhood friend.
Spenelleto is incredulous. How can this be that his best friend, a lace merchant could kill a man. Rudolfo agrees that it is a case of mistaken identity and that it will all work out ›fine. He is taken away. Spenelleto sings a solo worrying about his friend but ends with the question what was he doing in this neighbourhood? He looks around and sees the prostitutes, and opines that he was probably just having his way with some slut in the vicinity. The prostitute chorus sings the immortal “I may be a slut but I only screw one man at a time” an allusion to his wife’s infidelity which is missed by Spenelleto.
The scene changes to the dungeons of the castle. Here Rudolfo sings “I am innocent”, joined by a chorus of cutthroats, thieves, lawyers, accountants, rapists, Jews and Gypsies, who all mock him with “I am innocent too!” Rudolfo wonders to himself how things will turn out when he exposes his affair with Desore, how his friend will feel, how things will be. He sings himself to sleep with the inspirational “The sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow.”
The scene moves to the court room. The judges is a huge bald basso profundo dressed all in black. His face is lit from below giving it a macabre quality. Upstage is the jury and the gallery of interested by standers.
The first case is a bread thief. He is sentenced to 10 lashes and is banished from the city. He protests his innocent and the jury sings “ you lying filthy bastard scum” in beautiful 6 part harmony.
The next case is a woman who has been caught in the arms of another man by her husband. She is sentenced to death by stoning; a crime and punishment prescribed by the holy scriptures. She is led away amongst anguished screams. The adulterous scab is sentenced to 50 lashes, castration, and banishment. The wronged husband is given the adulterers assets and ten lashes, and told to pay better attention to his next wife.
Rudolfo is frantic. If he tells the truth about his affair with Desore, he condemns her to death, and himself to mutilation and disgrace. If he doesn’t he will by hung for a murder he didn’t commit.
His case is called. The lights dim and the stage is dark except for the judge and Rudolfo. The judge sings “You can see that this is fair court, but strict.” Rudolfo hangs his head.
The lights come back up.
“How do you plead?” shouts the judge.
“Innocent!” returns Rudolfo
The chorus begins to hum “you lying filthy bastard scum”
“What is your alibi?”
“I have none.”
The prostitutes are lead in and they recount how he introduced himself and praised their wearing of his lace. On the very spot where the man was cut down.
"Opportunity!” shouts the judge.
Spinolleto asks his wife, who sits implacably, why does Redolfo not defend himself. “I can’t say,” says Desore, “perhaps he has a secret.” Spinolleto is confused, he shouts from the gallery “Redolfo defend yourself!”
Redolfo’s accountant is led in and asked if the man is known to the lace maker. “He was a client that was 30 days overdue. We don’t make a practice of murder until 120 days!”
“Motive!” shouts the judge.
“Snivelling bastard accountant!” rues Redolfo.
“My hands are tied, you understand.” says the judge. He then sings the haunting, “The law is a bitch!”
The gallows. The motley crew of haggards and fishmongers mill about in the shadow of the gallows. The judge, Rudolfo, Spinolleto and Desore are in attendance. The prostit“ute chorus is there as well. They sing “who will hold up our breasts when the lace maker is hung down.”
The judge challenges Rudolfo to defend himself, to answer the charge, but he can not. His friend Spinolleto implores him. Desore stands aside and says nothing. Rudolfo climbs the scaffold steps, and sings “eternity is near, the end I fear, I’d like a beer”. The priest commends his soul to god, and he steps up to the noose. He takes off the black lace scarf and throws it to Desore. The noose is placed, and he dies.
Spinolleto looks at Desore, who stands holding the black lace. She puts it on her head like a veil and in an instant, he understands. In anguish, he turns away from her and the curtain falls.
The wind howls, leaves blow across the desolate land. The ghost of Rudolfo appears over the weeping figure of Desore, who, clutching the black veil sings the hauntingly beautiful “Who will rotate my tires now that my good loving man is gone.”
The curtain falls.