Monday, June 11, 2007

Too Twee for Two

'I never liked opera. You have two characters singing 'would you like a cup of tea' to one another.' - Tabitha Katt.

Well, that's true, there is something ridiculous about opera at the best of times. But I've never let the ridiculous stop me before; and as I get older, I seem to get more ridiculous. Anyway, Tabitha Katt's wise observation stuck with me, and in due course, I produced an opera about just this situation. I present it now as a Queen's birthday entertainment for your delectation.

The CUP of TEA,

An impossible opera in one scene and ten acts, for Soprano, Tenor, and Chorus, ranging from the Low C to the High Ts. (I told you it was impossible).

The curtains open on a living room. A man and a woman - imaginatively titled 'HE' and 'SHE' - are seated on chairs in the living room wearing whatever damn thing the costume designer tells them to wear. Don't ask me. SHE stands and says to the man:

SHE: Would you like a cup of tea?

HE: (Leaping from his seat with great alacrity) What's that you say? Tea? Tea? Tea?



TEA! The nectar of the Gods!
TEA! This beautiful ambrosia!
TEA! When I drink it, then I think
The world seems rosier!

TEA! The cup that soothes, calms, and relaxes!
TEA! It makes life seem cosier!
TEA! It never costs you, never taxes -

SHE: Well, good. Because I've put the kettle on.

HE: She's put the kettle on!
She's put the throttle on!
She's put that little bit of metal on
That little piece of stove - with love!

Oh God above!

It will be just a little while longer,
It will be sooner than you think!
Just a little while until we've run the mile
And get the drink!

Oh heavens, Help!

But what if that steaming piece of metal
Causes the stove to catch fire?
What if the oven explodes? And burns our abode?
The fate could be dire!

Oh thing from hell!

SIX-PART FUGUE (or, if the two singers can't manage that on their own, a FOUR-PART FUGUE with the other parts to be equally divided out amongst the audience - they can do with it as they see fit.)

HE: TEA! Thou foul demonic liquid!
TEA! Thou thing of anguish and of pain!
TEA! Thou serpent with a sweetened tongue -

SHE: Polly put the kettle on,
Molly put the metal on,
Holly put the throttle on -
We'll all have tea!

HE: I'm sorry - I don't know what came over tea... er, that is, me!

SHE: I'll just see how it is.

(Goes into the kitchen)

HE: Oh. Fair enough.



I once was young and happy,
With dimples and with curls,
Just a simple dimpled child,
Just a simple little ... guy
I frolicked through the tulips,
I lay down 'neath the trees,
I played my childish follies out between the hollies,
Wafted hither by a zephyr of a breeze...

(HE mimics this by skipping about the stage. Now a corner of the room lights up to show a gigantic landscape painting of a tree and a stream, which he approaches)

I think I'll lay my head
And dream
Besides this purling stream
And dream,
Of Caliphates
And Ottomans
And good old Araby...

(Turkish music)

Ah! What's that sound!
About, around,
Now lost, now found,
Now here, now there,
Now high, now low,
Now everywhere?

I see the Caliph of all Araby
Reclining on a purple lounge
With nymphs in veils
And peacock tails
Swirl around, around!

(As he sings, in a corner of the stage we see just what he is describing taking place. An opera just isn't the same thing without a couple of old stage stereotypes thrown in just for the hell of it.)

I see a smoking ewer,
Of myrrh and incense pure,
Waving hither,
Hither, thither,
Down, around, around!

(Enter incense wavers who spend the next few minutes wandering about the stage waving the incense around in one another's faces, banging one another on the head in a comically slapstick manner, and making general nuisances of themselves)

The Sultan takes, I see,
A steaming pot - of ivory!
He takes a creamy clot -
He drinks a lot -
It is quite hot - this tea!

(The Sultan pours himself some tea and drinks it withh the words of the song. I don't know what his cup should be made out of or shaped like. Something authentic, I guess, like an elephant tusk.)

But hark! What lurks!
Within the dark,
Within the murk?
Save me!
It is the Turks!
The Turkish guard
Have come, at last,
To take their meal,
And their repast:
To take their TEA!

(The Turkish Guards, who have been hanging around backstage since the last opera were getting bored, so I thought I'd throw them in there. They enter stage left, stage right, and every other possible way, all carrying small tea cups and tea pots. They are singing a TURKISH SONG. It is very complicated, as you will soon see.)


TURKS: We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!
Huzzah! Huzzah!

We work! And we lurk!
In the dark! and the murk!
Nothing do we shirk!
Huzzah! Huzzah!

We are the Turks!
We are not Clerks!
But one of our perks -

(They proceed to pour tea into their cups in a stylish fashion, dancing while they do it. Linking arms, they drink tea out of one another's cups. They do this several times to dance music.)

We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!


TURKS: (In a Turkish accent) We drink tea when we fight a war!


TURKS: Tea is lovely! Tea is great!

ALL: We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!
We are the Turks!

(They all leave by doing a complicated march/dance around HE, who is rather perplexed and bedazzled by all these shenanigans.)

HE: It is but a dream I have
Sometimes, it seems I have...

(He is interrupted by a high whistle. SHE walks from the kitchen bearing the the pot and cups.)

SHE: It's done! Would you like your tea with milk, or without?

HE: With or without? Without or with?


O, ye shades from hell
That do accurse me!
Now do my choices tell,
Advise, rehearse me!

I, that am torn betwixt
These two foul fates!
It's all there in black and white -
It's as clear as day and night -
I, that am torn betwixt
These two foul fates!

So do ye shades from hell
Know how to afflict me well
In my position!
O, GREAT GOD ABOVE, do help me now
In my indecision!

(Clasping his hands together and looking to the heavens)


HE: To be, or not to be,
It's just a cup of tea!,
Can't she see? Won't she see?
What it could mean to me?
It's just a cup of tea!

It's tea, tea, tea, tea,
Tea, tea, tea, tea,
Thou little cup of terror!
SHE: It's ready! It's ready!
Get it while it's hot!
It's ready! It's ready!
White or black, black or white?
Get it while it's hot!

It's ready! It's steady!
Get it on the double!
It's steady! It's ready!
Get it while it's hot!
It's ready! It's ready!
Get it now - or not!

HE: White or black? Black or white?
With or without?
O, ye foul fiends of hell
That do accurse me!

(Turns, trembling, to her. She weeps in his hands briefly before facing her, and saying in a tremulous voice...)

HE: Er... white, please.

SHE: (Pours him a glass) There you go!

HE: (Falls to the ground in a faint) Ah!

SHE: This always happens! (She stoops to revive him. Once he is awakened, she gives him the tea.)

HE: (Sipping) Not bad! Not bad at all!

(For the FINALE, the entire Turkish Guard enter onto stage, this time wearing can-can outfits they borrowed from the cast of Ziegfield's Follies, or something. I don't know. They proceed to do an exuberant TEA DANCE while HE and SHE sit contendedly and sip at their respective cups of tea until the curtains fall).


nailpolishblues said...

Should I fawn?

TimT said...

My ego says yes, my conscience says no. If you wish, perhaps I could arrange for a delegation of Turkish Guards to visit your house to perform their dance/march/ritual thingy? (If I can get them out of the Can Can outfits, that is.)

nailpolishblues said...

I'd prefer them in the Can Can outfits. I can see fun at the Imperial with that.

It's quite cute, Tim.

TimT said...

Thank You Very Much. You don't know how I can get those duets to appear in the centre of the screen, do you? I put it in tables, but the tables won't centre align!

nailpolishblues said...

Oh dear, did you OD on the sarcastic pills?

Of course I don't know, otherwise my blog wouldn't look so much like someone ate a book and then vomited [clearly not a chewer].

TimT said...

That sounds an apter description of my blog.

TimT said...

Apt, apter, apterest. I'm not even sure if that's a word!

nailpolishblues said...

Quite true. My blog's more like someone wrote a [very bad] diary which was eaten by a dog who then vomited.

nailpolishblues said...

That may have come out ruder than I intended it to. I did not, of course, mean that I think your blog in any way resembles vomit. And I think we all know that I'd say it if I thought it...

Karen said...

That far surpassed my wildest expectations of what tea opera could be. So much so that I had to go away and digest it for a little bit over a cup of sencha. And I return to find that you've very thoughtfully added some bone china too. Oh Calou! Calay! Indeed, I found myself inflamed with a burning desire to write to Her Majesty's representative and inquire where your OAM for services to opera and long-weekend amusement might be. Clearly, you was robbed!

It's a sort of kitchen-sink, Orientalist opera, going a bit lightly on the odalisques. I imagine you could draw quite a large audience with the strippergrams you have so thoughtfully inserted into the piece. I think the Chippendales meet the Pirates of Penzance should be your angle.

One slight criticism though: It is my firm belief that persons who contaminate their tea with milk should be shot at dawn and I was very disappointed when the execution finale I had been expecting did not take place.

TimT said...

Karen, I think I had better not tell you how I drank my tea while writing this piece, then. What are strippergrams, something in Playboy? And thank you.

Nails, always happy to accept an unsolicited comparison between my blog and vomit. Maybe I could do a post about it. With pictures...

THAT would work, surely?

Karen said...

Next time I'm in Melbourne I will arrange for you to be shot at dawn then, at the most convenient firing range and on a date of your choice.

What are strippergrams, something in Playboy?

I was just picking up on the idea of the delegation of Turkish Guards being dispatched to Nailpolishblues' house.

nailpolishblues said...

I never said it didn't work. It's just, well, this kind of thing is a little too easy for you, isn't it? I think it shows. I also think I've been reading this blog for too damn long.

Fuck, is that fawny enough?

By all means, post vomit with pictures [?][possibly post vomit pictures] - but please put up a warning cause I don't want to ruin my laptop.

nailpolishblues said...

Yeah, I so need strippers dispatched to my door. Only, I don't quite understand why...?

Karen said...

Maybe I misunderstood the joke- my brain just made the connections: men in fancy dress, Can Can... Perhaps it says more about me!

TimT said...

One of my favourite Simpsons jokes involves fake vomit.

I really have no comment of substance to add, but - 16 comments! Already! Hoorah!

nailpolishblues said...

Comment whore.

TimT said...

You make it sound so wrong.

nailpolishblues said...

Yes, well, I may just be bitter that I've scared off my ENTIRE readership by posting too much angsty drivel. Even Mark doesn't come to tease anymore...


Karen said...

The man did write an opera about tea and then, what's more, he typed it up. That merits at least 20 comments, Comment Whore or no Comment Whore.

nailpolishblues said...

What man?

TimT said...

Hmmmph. I do feel, though, that I should have given more character development to the imaginatively titled 'SHE' of the above play. What sort of personal and moral crises could one have while cooking a meal or preparing a drink?

Karen said...

Well, I was going to type "boy" initially!

I just imagined something akin to She in the H. Rider Haggard novel of that title. I'm sure you were exploring patriarchy and the representation of women in Western art in a very knowing, self-referential way. That's why she had to be the one who made the tea, right?

(One of my friends keeps shouting "Fist of Patriarchy!" at me. It's getting very old. Should I opt for physical violence or simply ignore it?).

TimT said...

I was more hoping the Turkish Guards in Can Can outfits would do that. Having a H Rider Haggard theme to the characters sounds intriguing, though. Bad puns about 'This music sounds Haggard!' aside.

Fist Of Patriarchy is an acronym for FOP, so maybe they're really saying that. Is that an insult? It's pretty poor, but it's the best interpretation I can come up with at this hour of the morning. If it is an insult, violence. Definitely.

Karen said...

an acronym for FOP

I'm a bit confused. Do you mean calling me this sort of fop covertly? That would be a bit strange, since fops are really my "type", unless it's therefore implying, by extension, that I am a narcissist.

Definitely violence!

nailpolishblues said...

Personally, I like to embrace my inner narcissist. It helps keep me warm at night.

TimT said...

That fop looks quite entertaining, Karen. Maybe it's not intended as an insult.

Also, what Nails said.

nailpolishblues said...

Today 'nails' has mostly said 'yawn' and has made a number of jokes about the name Adam Smith THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS GOTTEN. These people just kill me.

Karen said...

I'm very cosy with my inner narcissist too, but my inner narcissist wants to be mellifluous and therefore does not like it when its existence is pointed out.

I was going to say that the fop picture on wikipedia is a pearler. I am certainly eager to be introduced.

TimT said...

The top fop!

TimT said...

Fop Cat!

TimT said...

But who will be The Top of the Fops?

Okay, I'll stop. For the moment.

Karen said...

Fop Rock!.

Why ever stop? Look at that fantastic still and sing in rounds with me:

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky,
We know Major Tom's a junkie!

TimT said...

He's the fop that won't stop.

Karen said...

I often find myself wishing I could be carried over to a microphone and then carried away again whilst wearing clown pants. Revel in the glory of David! Let's indeed hope he never stops!

Email: timhtrain - at -

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