No Comment — September 3, 2009, 2:00 pm

And Now: Fredo, the Opera

The career path of Alberto Gonzales provides perfect material for an opera in the tradition of George Frederick Handel. It has its earnest moments, flashes of heroism (involving Gonzales’s victims, of course, not the protagonist), and yet there is a steady undercurrent of opera buffa. I’d put it in the same genre as Radamisto, Handel’s rarely performed classic from 1720 dealing with a series of characters who appear at times heroic and then as tyrannical villains. Radamisto plays out during classical antiquity in Iberia of the east—that is, the space we know today as Georgia and Armenia. But its themes of political betrayal and regal double-dealing could just as easily be about life on the Potomac in 2006. As some of the modern stagers of Handel masterpieces have learned, the great composer creates works latent with such ambiguity that, while they were presented in his age as works of high drama, today they can easily be transformed into almost pure comedy. The Bush era is packed with this sort of tragicomic potential. Now the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports that an operatic concert based on the Washington travails of Alberto Gonzales is being readied for performance in Philadelphia:

The Gonzales Cantata, playing at this year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival, is a 40-minute choral work based on the hearings that punctuated the U.S. attorney-dismissal scandal back in 2007. (Actually, every word sung is from the transcript of the hearings.) Click here for WSJ reporter Evan Perez’s story on the hearings, which links to a whole trove of other goodies. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to watch a video clip of the Cantata. Other clips can be found through the show’s very cleverly designed Web site.)

The website is clever indeed—it’s a Drudge Report knock-off. And we learn that among the features is an aria with 71 variations on the theme “I don’t recall.” Here it is:

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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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