Don Donaldo at stump dump

Dan Rodricks

December 04, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

At long last, we come to Act III of the fifth opera in the Don Donaldo Ring Cycle, inspired by the legends of the Lord High Governor of Maryland. In Acts I and II, Don Donaldo worked futilely to save his empire. Yet, goaded into rages by angry mail from peasants, spurned by a Parliament he alienated, Don Donaldo became increasingly morose and isolated from his once-adoring public. He has become painfully aware that, without drastic action, his empire will totter further.

Don Donaldo, On The Edge Place: A smoldering stump dump Time: The present

As the curtain rises, we see the darkest setting in all the Don Donaldo operas. The vista is murky purple, the barren terrain gnarled and jagged. Steam rises cobralike from holes in the earth. Everything -- the twisted trunks of trees, a large crater in the foreground -- evokes something hellish, like the burning oil fields of Kuwait.

A lone figure, wrapped in crimson robe with high collar, paces this dismal landscape. It is a brooding Don Donaldo, seeking the solace of Baltimore County's smoldering stump dump. The music is ponderous, then ominous in the Wagnerian style. It builds, then brightens slightly. Don Donaldo sings a melancholy aria (to "Send In The Clowns"):

Isn't it clear What's happenin' here? The state of Merlin is broke. Oops, sorry, my dear. Can't have new tax. Send in the ax. Isn't it rich? Isn't it queer? Losing my mandate this late In my career. Where is my crown? Get me my crown. Think you feel bad? I'm feelin' worse. I thought this job would be fun. But it's a curse. Send in a clown. Break up my frown. I need a clown. There is a vivid flash of light. Mephistopheles, dressed in Pagliacci's clown costume, steps out of a burning stump. The clown-devil announces himself to the Lord Governor.

Mephistopheles: Yo, Don Donaldo! My man! I hate to see you down in the dumps like this. Don't be so blue, baby. Mr. Fisto is here to cheer you up.

Donaldo: How?

Mephistopheles: I can grant you anything. I can get the peasants off your back. I can tame those bad boys in the Parliament. I can get Padre Michino Steinberg to like you again. I can teach you to mambo. I can do anything.

Donaldo: Can you get me 450 million bucks by Tuesday a week?

Mephistopheles: No problem.

Donaldo: How will you do it?

Mephistopheles: Graft, corruption, extortion and bribes -- you know, just like when Spiro was in power. Those were the good old days.

Donaldo: But I'm an honest man.

Mephistopheles: Don't worry, Don baby. Shake my hand. In two weeks, you'll have a balanced budget.

The orchestra supports Mephistopheles as he breaks into a sorcerer's song (to "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo"):

Do it now, doo-doo. Do it now, doo-doo. Snoopity-snoopity-snoo Put 'em together and what have you got? Plenty of moolah for you. I can raise lots of dough Kickbacks will start to flow. And the thinga-ma-jig That makes this gig? Finding a contract to rig. Do it now, doo-doo Don't go 'way goo-goo. Snoopity-snoopity snoo Shake on this deal and what have you got? Plenty of moolah for, plenty of moolah for Plenty of moolah for you. As Don Donaldo stares quizzically at the clown-devil's hand . . . the curtain falls.

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