The Carnival : a circus opera
by Chloe Charody (2007)
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The story of 'The Carnival' centres around Mischa, a young woman who is beautiful, unencumbered by a job and elated by her impending marriage to a wealthy stockbroker. It seems as though her life is a picture of perfection. Mischa's world however is turned upside-down when a shock encounter at her family's annual Masquerade Ball reveals that her Romeo has a Romeo of his own…
Distraught and alone, Mischa is desperate for release from a life she now perceives as meaningless. Mischa stares into her bedroom mirror and contemplates suicide. However the mysterious minstrel Freckle, who speaks only through a violin, has other plans. Freckle, the muse, the inner voice, represents instinct and humanity. Slightly impulsive, idealistic and mischievous, Freckle symbolises the essential goodness within Mischa.
As Mischa steps forward toward a noose, she is catapulted into the air. Clinging to the noose for dear life, she falls headfirst through her bedroom mirror. Frantic mayhem around her reveals she has fallen through a ripple in time, into an eccentric Carnival inside a magical Spiegelhaus.
Mischa is met by a troupe of bizarre and bewitching characters whom, led by Freckle, welcome her into their land. Dazed and utterly bewildered, Mischa is greeted by the ringmaster of The Carnival, Orlenda, who is overjoyed by her sudden arrival. Orlenda is the voice of knowledge & wisdom, representing the sum of a Mischa's experiences.
Orlenda alludes to Mischa that the sovereign of The Carnival, a magical Firebird, has gone missing and Mischa's purpose is to retrieve the bird and bring itback to it's domain.
After the elaborate welcoming to The Carnival Mischa is accosted by Freckle, donned in an ornate gold and scarlet feathered cape. Freckle and Orlenda perform for Mischa the tale of The Phoenix, a famous mythological Firebird whom, every thousand years, ignites itself and it's nest. From the ashes arises a new Phoenix, a symbol of strength, power and rebirth. Together, Orlenda and Freckle embolden Mischa to grow a strength to embark on the tumultuous journey to find The Carnival's missing Firebird.
Mischa has no time to think before she & Freckle are swooped upon by the 'Baltic Ballerina Bats Of The Vodka Loft' who fly with the pair into their giant Vodka bottle. Mischa is fed more and more Vodka by the Bats, with Freckle encouraging Mischa to release her crippling inhibitions. As Mischa attempts to maintain her balance in the Vodka loft with the self-indulgent & inebriated Vodka Bats, she becomes drunker and drunker until she falls headfirst into the Vodka. Freckle, in panic, puts her violin over her head, and jumps in after her.
A strong rip sweeps Mischa and Freckle out of the Vodka bottle through a channel and into an ocean. They swim toward a deserted island and clamber ashore where they find a giant mirror containing what look like two large rocks, but are in fact the coiled form of two enormous Mermaids. The Mermaids suddenly spring to life and are delighted by the presence of their unexpected visitors and Mischa's youthful beauty. The vain and utterly self-obsessed Mermaids attempt to keep Mischa as the Cinderella of their Mermaid Sanctuary in order to gain the attention of their Prince Charming.
After a lengthy ordeal with the Mermaids, Mischa frees herself from their exhausting weight and clambers outside of the mirror. As Mischa turns to see that the Mermaids have left, she is met by menacing pink eyes, which eventually dilate to form the figures of two Scorpions, ominous contortionists who try to take Mischa's clothes and steal her beauty. The Scorpions taunt Mischa, however Freckle, knowing their greatest fear, performs a menacing fire routine. Freckle then hands a flaming torch to Mischa who frantically spits fire as the Scorpions cower away.
Exhausted, Freckle leads Mischa to an enchanted pond. Having encountered the vain Mermaids, the self-indulgent Bats, and the viciously self-obsessed Scorpions, Mischa finally realises that these creatures are in some way simple reflections of herself. Flustered and reeling, she leans to take a drink. As she does so, magical water nymphs spring out from the pond, striking Mischa with their exquisite beauty. Orlenda suggests to Mischa that these sublime creatures may too be a reflection of herself.
Freckle leads Mischa through one final mirror, bringing her back to the world of The Carnival, to the ornate and spectacular chamber of mirrors - The Firebird's Domain. Faces of the creatures Mischa has encountered appear in the mirrors then gradually fade, reflecting the extinction of Mischa's superficial values. As Mischa ascends in a cloud of fire, she is reborn a woman of virtue and strength.
Copyright © Chloé Charody & Sonja Schebeck 2011
Instrumentation: 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo sopranos, 1 violinist, 1 pianist
Duration: 121 min.
First performance: 2011. London's West End.
The Carnival is a circus opera composed by Chloé Charody and developed by Chloé Charody and Sonja Schebeck. The Carnival debuted on London’s West End in March 2011, running a sold out season, and then went on to run a series of sell-out shows in Australia. Schebeck and Charody’s innovative fusion of classical music, opera and discipline of circus received acclaim from audiences and press alike.
Performances of this work
2011: London's West End.
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