'Don Donaldo, on the Edge'

Dan Rodricks

March 13, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

Good evening, once again, opera fans. Tonight we bring you '' the first act of "Don Donaldo, On The Edge," being the fifth and newest opera in the Don Donaldo Ring Cycle.

The first opera, composed in 1986, documented Don Donaldo's bloody ascent from tempestuous mayor of Baltimore to tempestuous Lord High Governor of Maryland. This was followed by "The Merchant of Menace" and "Il Padrone Irato." These two operas told of Don Donaldo's battles with the Maryland Parliament, his legendary temper tantrums, and the efforts of his longtime companion, Brunnhilde Mae, to redecorate the Governor's Palace. The last opera, "L'Infuriato," told of Don Donaldo's bitterness over what he considered less than stunning re-election victories in 1990. Goaded into demoniacal rages, Don Donaldo warned Eastern Shore voters of retribution. He convened a Grand Inquisition to determine which of his subjects had voted against him. Little has changed since then.

Now, as the curtain rises, we find the stout friar, Padre MichinSteinberg, sitting on a high wooden stool, writing with a quill on a piece of parchment. He works in light from large atrium windows. He is transcribing letters to Don Donaldo's subjects. As he writes, he sings (to "Dance of the Hours," by Ponchielli, better known as "Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda," the Camp Grenada song by Allan Sherman):

Hello, birdbrain,

Got your letter,

As a bashing,

I've had better.

It was nasty,

It was churlish,

But your signature is really rather girlish . . .

Here's another,

Shore epistle.

Such bad grammar,

Makes Don bristle.

It's from Missus

Shirley Graymouse,

She's from Denton, over in that great big s---house.

These are sad times,

At the palace,

Don feels lonely.

Full of malice.

Thank the Giver,

For his ego,

'Cause that's prob'ly Don Donaldo's best amigo!

As I compose,

Another letter,

I am hoping.

Don gets better.

A vacation,

Would be just great.

Take a cruise and take the waters in ole Ku-wait.

Padre Michino's wishful thinking is --ed when Don Donaldo enters the chamber. It's coronation day. He should be happy. Instead, he's still brooding. Too many nasty letters from ungrateful constituents. Too many peasants crying out for welfare money. Too many politicians wrecking his legislative plans. As he looks over the morning mail, the orchestra rises full. Don Donaldo sings his embittered aria (to "The Torreador Song" from Carmen):

I Don Donaldo, here to save the day.

I gave the state, Triple-A bonding rate.

I do things for people everywhere,

But they don't seem to care!

I gave you Camden Yards, oh hear my speech:

I gave you Reach-The-Beach.

Light rail and bridges, new roads to the shore.

Aid for the poor, you wanted more.

I spent all your taxes and your tolls,

Then you went to the polls.

And all you gave to me: Six-tee per-cent.

I couldn't car-ry Kent.

So Don Donaldo, sits upon his throne.

Somber in tone, I'm all alone.

Why is it so lonely at the top?

This coronation's a flop!!

I should be happy now, alas I'm not.

This sure ain't Cam-el-ot.

Mandel, McKeldin, Tawes and Harry Hughes.

I filled their shoes, I never lose.

Now, I feel like Spiro at the end.

Why can't I find a friend?

It's coronation day, but I see red.

I think I'll stay in bed.

As Don Donaldo exits to his private chamber . . . the curtain falls.

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