As reign of Don Donaldo ends, curtain falls on opera


January 16, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

Since the summer of 1986, public events in Maryland have moved columnist Dan Rodricks to the operatic form. His Don Donaldo Ring Cycle, based loosely on the life and times of the Lord High Governor of Maryland, consists of six operas that appeared over the years in The Sun and The Evening Sun. Today, the grand finale.


The original "Don Donaldo" documented the mayor of Baltimore's ascent to the high throne of Maryland and his taking of the enchanted gubernatorial ring. This was followed by "The Merchant of Menace" and "Il Padrone Irato (The irritated boss)." Both dramatized Don Donaldo's battles with the Maryland Parliament, his legislative triumphs and defeats, his construction the Great Wall in the battle with Pennsylvania over off-track betting, and the redecoration of the Governor's Palace. Ominously, THOSE?? the two operas hinted at the darkness that lay ahead.

The fourth opera, "L'Infuriato (The Infuriated One)," told of Don Donaldo's rages after his re-election victory in 1990; his ultimate severance from the Lieutenant Lord Governor, Padre Michino; his verbal assaults on the Eastern Shore; and his doomed attempt to annex the District of Columbia.

The darkest opera was the fifth: "Don Donaldo, su l'orlo del precipicizio (On the edge)." In this gloomy psychodrama, the Devil appeared to Don Donaldo in a smoldering stump dump and offered instant relief from the state's financial woes in return for the Don's corruption. Priding himself an honest man, Don Donaldo resisted the demonic seduction.

The sixth and final opera is "Don Donaldo: Il disperato (The desperate one)." To date, three acts have been presented -- the execution of the insurance commissioner, Don Aho; the inquisition and torture of Cabinet members opposed to Keno gambling; and the assault on the governor's palace by corsairs of Mad Jack Cooke, the pirate-king and football team owner. In Act III, an enraged Don Donaldo used his magic ring to fend off the corsairs. It was successful, but took the last ounce of his gubernatorial power.

Don Donaldo: Il disperato

(The Desperate One)

Opera Six, Act IV

) Place: Legendary Maryland

The curtain rises on Oriole Park -- great symbol of Don Donaldo's reign -- crowded with men, women and children in festive apparel. The music is brassy, Sousa-like. A large balloon, shaped like the head of Don Donaldo and displaying his familiar visage, hovers above the crowd, tethered to a straw gondola. The gondola rests on a platform festooned with colorful banners.

Throughout the crowd are men and women in splashy robes and plumed hats -- Barbarina and Paolo, U.S. senators; Tollivino, the governor's chief of security; Giusseppe Currano, the ' mild-mannered consigliere; Miguel Millerino, the Senate president; Pietro D'Angelo, the owner of the Orioles; Lady Helena, the former congresswomen; Giusseppe di Franco, owner of racetracks; El Fumo, the mayor of Baltimore.

To stage right are members of the Merchant Chorus, the Muldoon Chorus, the Peasant Chorus, farmers, cows, watermen. Even Hulk Hogan, Don Donaldo's favorite wrestler, is in the crowd. Bereano, the lobbyist, holds up a sign that says: "Will Lobby For Food."

The music swells, then diminishes. One hears the avian trills of a flute. Millerino steps serenely to the platform and sings (to "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning"):

There's a bright golden haze on the Choptank,

And we're runnin' in black at the state bank.

My soul is as high as a blue heron's eye.

I'ma' so happy I think I could just about cry!

Chorus and Millerino (exchanging high-fives):

Yo, it's a Do-It-Now morning.

Ho, it's a Do-It-Now day.

We got that Do-It-Now feelin'

Let's watch the Don go away.


All his rockfish are runnin' through Rock Hall,

And his Keno's a hit in the beer hall.

The Don's goin' back to the place whence he came.

And 'Napolis Towne won't never be none the same!

Chorus and Millerino (high-fiving):

Yo, it's a Do-It-Now morning,

Ho, it's a Do-It-Now day.

We got that Do-It-Now feelin'

Let's watch the Don go away.

Millerino (pianissimo):

Let's watch the Don go away.

Silence hangs in the air a moment after Millerino completes his song. But, suddenly, there is a flurry of activity on stage. Heavy drums are heard. The music becomes something exotic, tribal, pagan.

Chorus (to Queen's "We Will, We Will Rock You):

Gotta be, gotta be . . . Don-al-do!

Gotta be, gotta be . . . Don-al-do!

The Lord High Governor, enrobed and seated on a gilded throne carried by six bald men in loin cloths, enters from stage left.

Gotta be, gotta be . . . Donaldo!

Gotta be, gotta be . . . Donaldo!

The leads and extras break into applause. Don Donaldo, who has heard the jubilant singing about his departure, frowns angrily. He steps from the throne to the platform beneath the balloon, and then into the gondola. Again, the music changes.

Chorus (to Handel's "Hallelujah" chorus): Don Donaldo! Don Donaldo! Don Donaldo! Don Donaldo! Don Don-ah-al-do! Don Donaldo! Don Donaldo! Don Donaldo! Don Don-ah-al-do!

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