Cassandra and Midas
A psychoterratic ‘heavy’ opera based loosely on the themes of the book, Earth Emotions, by Glenn A Albrecht.
Scene 1: A street. An old, black woman, Truganini sits chained to a street tree. She is under a streetlight. She wails and moans.
Truganini’s Lament: Sitting on My Land. She sings of her land and its loss to invaders. She sings of slavery, bondage and the loss of her people.
She sits in this position for the next few scenes. She occasionally taps sticks.
Scene 2: Cassandra, a young woman is also sitting on the street pavement holding a placard “your house is on fire”
People file pass her by, look at her, but ignore her … they don’t even see Truganini.
She begins by singing the “your house is on fire” aria (soprano):
The House Fire Aria contains themes of false hope and never-to-be-realised promises and harks of a future filled with fear and dread. She sings of nostalgia and solastalgia and other maladies of the mind.
Why don’t you see that your house is one fire?
Why don’t you put the fire out?
A colourful crowd (the chorus) slowly appears to watch and listen to her.
Together, they sing of the best and worst of times song:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”
Then they split into two groups. The rainbow kaftan chorus and the black suits and gold tie chorus.
The gold tie ones sing happily about how the times have never been better with themes of increasing power and wealth.
The green ones sing passionately about how the times have never been worse with themes of the apocalypse, pandemics and chaos.
The groups sway into and intimidate each other … as their voices clash.
Cassandra resumes her vigil beneath her sign. The crowd departs, not noticing Truganini.
Scene 3: A restaurant (named Bacchus) near the square (The Anthropocene)
A well-heeled, ample sized, mature couple, Dora (Wagnerian soprano) and Midas (Basso profundo), are celebrating their good fortune at a table laden with gold food and other gold things. Dora is in all gold and drips gold jewelry. Midas wears a gold tie and dark suit. They are ebullient.
A waiter, John-Paul (counter-tenor), sings an apology to them about for crowd outside and the fuss caused by the young woman, Cassandra. He is scathing of the wastrels that ruin life for everyone else. (Cassandra can be seen to one side, lit up in the dark)
He offers them food and wine of the Gods. They have a ‘grande bouffe’.
Dora and Midas then engage in a conversational duet about the crowd in the street and the poor little girl singing about fire.
Dora makes fun of the girl in the street with a barbed wit … she is mad and needs ‘treatment’.
He calls Cassandra “chicken little” and that she must manage her anger better and get better educated. She would be better off selling flowers in the street to earn her keep.
Dora sings about the beauty of gold and how it above all else represents real wealth. She wants to mine the Earth for more minerals … more spaces for development. Echoes of “Goldfinger” in her adoration of metal.
Midas sings about his greatness and how he wants his genius to be admired by all.
They laugh at Cassandra’s naivety and innocence and entwine arms in a wine goblet, vinous embrace.
A chorus comes to entertain them. They are all wearing dark suits with gold ties (men and women)
A big number, the Wall Street aria, speaks of wealth, success and the joys of the Dow.
Dora and Midas leave stage dancing as the chorus cheers. Midas almost trips over Truganini, but throws some money at her feet.
Scene 4: A forest with Protectors (The Symbiocene)
A digital backdrop representation of a forest where a group of protesters and protectors form a blockade and some are chained to machinery. Truganini is there, she too is chained, but to prison cell bars, she remains silent except for occasional stick tapping.
They are all overlooked by a young woman, Angel (soprano). She is a forest protector and is preventing it from being logged. She is high in a tree bower, complete with wings. She sings of the beauty of the forest and wants to protect all that live within it.
A young man, Andronicus (Tenor), is on a platform in a tree. He sings the forest giants song … they are the lungs of the Earth and have been here for 2000 years, he is also present to protect them
They leave their respective platforms and perform the Andronicus and Angel Duet. The song is an intellectual and romantic exchange … they promise to save the Earth … they promise to marry one another.
The ‘green’ chorus sings to both Andronicus and Angel, giving them solace and support.
They leave the stage in a shower of flowers.
Scene 5: A scene where the street and the forest meet. Cassandra is sitting in her spot in the street, as is Truganini. Angel and Andronicus are still protecting the forest. (Generation Symbiocene)
Act 1: The two choruses enter and there is a continuation of Scene One where there is obvious tension between the two.
A mature man, Atlas (baritone), enters wearing green.
He sings a solo about:
“Our hearts beat with the pulse of the Earth, the one place we know where life exists. We love and care for our children and all life.”
Atlas is joined by Andronicus
Atlas and Andronicus sing a duet (that has echoes of the Pearl Fishers) where they pledge that their allegiance will never be broken and that they will work together to help Cassandra and the Earth.
The green chorus gravitates toward the singers Atlas and Andronicus. They support and cheer them.
Act 2: Enter Dora and Midas in a golden hand-coach carried by the gold tie chorus. John-Paul is their footman
They sing a duet based on the growth is good theme
Their gold tie chorus supports them and there is much cheering and jeering.
Cassandra and Angel come to the front of the green chorus
The two sopranos sing a ‘eutierria’ (merging with nature) duet (reminiscent of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, “Pur ti miro – Pur ti godo”). Their voices interact in beguiling harmonious ways.
Their green chorus supports them and there is hugging and cheering.
However, the Earth destroyers in the form of Dora and Midas, with John-Paul and the gold tie chorus, try to ‘out-sing’ the Earth creators with loud, vulgar refrains from previous songs. The chorus adds to the drama with the playing-out of jeering and insults.
Act 3: They are shocked as Truganini rises to her feet, frees herself of the chains, and sings of the Songlines that unite all good people and the places they love. Her song is of forgiveness and reconciliation. It gives strength to the green chorus.
The impact of Truganini’s song is so great that the Earth creators in the form of the green chorus, Cassandra, Angel, Atlas and Andronicus overwhelm the gold tie chorus with refrains from their past songs.
Most of the gold chorus is gradually silenced and they, with Dora, Midas and John-Paul are transformed into green versions of their former selves via subtle removal of clothing. Those remaining ‘gold’, run away in defeat.
Midas and Dora sing a song of repentance about their destructive ways.
The two choruses merge and the soloists join them in the celebration. Truganini is placed at a position centre stage where she commands a position of preeminent respect. Final Song (all participate): ‘The Terraliben chorus’ (let the Earth live), a song of triumph and hope for the future (echoes of Beethoven’s 9th).
Cast of Characters
Cassandra based on Greta Thunberg
Truganini: A significant Indigenous woman of colonial Tasmania
Dora (Pandora): Based on the female mining magnate Gina Rinehart
Midas: Based on Donald Trump
John-Paul: based on John-Paul Sartre’s famous depiction of ‘bad faith’ with a waiter.
Angel: based on a young woman who defended the forests of Tasmania (Allana Beltran)
Andronicus: based on a young man who defended the forests of Tasmania (Ben Morrow
Atlas: Based on Dr Bob Brown, Australian conservationist.