Don Donaldo, Keno and the day of inquisition


December 19, 1992|By DAN RODRICKS

Ladies and gentlemen, events move us to the operatic form once again. The Don Donaldo Ring Cycle, based loosely on the life and times of the Lord High Governor of Maryland, continues today with its sixth opera.

The first opus, composed in 1986, documented Don Donaldo's ascent to the throne. This was followed by "The Merchant of Menace" and "Il Padrone Irato," both telling of Don Donaldo's battles with the Maryland Parliament, his legendary tantrums, and the efforts of his longtime companion, Brunnhilde Mae, to redecorate the Governor's Palace. The fourth opera, "L'Infuriato," told of Don Donaldo's demoniacal rages after his re-election victory in 1990 and his failed attempt to annex the District of Columbia. In the last opera, "Don Donaldo, On The Edge," the Devil appeared to Don Donaldo in a smoldering stump dump and offered a deal -- instant relief from the state's financial troubles in return for the Don's corruption. Priding himself an honest man, Don Donaldo resisted the devil's seduction and sought other answers to his state's fiscal crisis.

Now, the devil is back, and his name is Keno.

Don Donaldo: Il disperato

(The Desperate One)

Act One

Place: Legendary Maryland

Time: The Present

As the curtain rises, the music is dark, brooding, Wagnerian. We see the Lord High Governor, in his black-white-gold-and-red robe, pacing in the gloomy shadows of his winter palace. Things are not going well.

Don Donaldo's popularity is at an all-time low. He had to give up silly hats. He endorsed the wrong guy for president. He has been rebuked by members of his own political party. Now, his latest scheme, to bring a fast-paced gambling game called Keno to bars and bowling alleys, is running into opposition. Investigations are under way. There is the odor of corruption in the air.

Making matters worse, Don Donaldo's once-trusted sidekick, Padre Michino, the lieutenant governor, has turned against him. Michino opposes Keno. So does the mild-mannered consigliere, Giusseppe Currano. Even Fish Paolino, the mayor of Ocean City, doesn't like Keno.

"Tollivino!" Don Donaldo roars, and his loyal body guard rushes to his side.

"Tollivino, Tollivino, my loyal subject-o-rino! I need more support for Keno! Go get Currano, Michino and Paolino!"

This is the day of inquisition. All fear Don Donaldo, having seen him recently cut off the head of his insurance commissioner, Don Aho.

Now, as music starts to build, a dirt-faced peasant chorus emerges from behind the new drapes. The suspected subversives -- Michino, Currano and Paolino -- are brought before the scowling Don Donaldo. The music rises as they sing a sarcastic tribute (to the tune of Gaston's song from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"):

Paolino: No one whines like the Don.

Currano: No one snipes like the Don.

Michino: No one gripes that he can't get his way, like-the-Don.

Donaldo: Yes, I'm especially good at bel-ly-aching!

Chorus: He's a Keno head! He's the Don!!

Inexplicably, Don Donaldo delights in the song. He seems to brighten. Courtiers dance into the room from stage left. The singing continues.

Peasant: He sometimes is angry and mean-o.

Paolino: He wants you to gamble on Keno.

Peasant: It's cheaper than flyin' to Reno!

Michino: Next time why not vote for Michino?

Currano: No one broods like the Don.

Paolino: No one's mood's like the Don's.

Michino: Good for me, half the Don's final term's almost gone!

Donaldo: My weakness is something called acr-i-mony!

Chorus: He's a Keno head . . . He's the Don!!

Paolino: He wants Keno to balance the budget.

Michino: He'll bust heads if we try to begrudge it.

Currano: It's a bad thing, you want I should judge it.

Michino: And the contract, we'll just have to fudge it.

Peasant: No one cares, like the Don.

Paolino: Raises hairs, like the Don.

Michino: I'm so glad nobody here ever pairs me with Don!

Donaldo: I'll be a legend in all of the bowl-ing alleys!

Chorus: That's our big guy! A Do-It-Now guy! That's DON!!

Having humored Don Donaldo, the dirt-faced chorus, Michino, Currano and Paolino scurry off stage as . . . the curtain falls.

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