An Opera Buffa for Children in One Act
(Yiddish and English librettos)
Catalog #: stagemus-02
Ofer Ben-Amots' chamber opera Fool's Paradise is inspired by distinguished Yiddish writer and Nobel Prize laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer's story of the same name. While it is a simple tale, it encompasses the full scope of life's experiences. Childhood, adolescence, love, death, burial, resurrection, and wedding all serve to make this a dramatic story which is bigger than life. Thus, upon reading the story, I immediately envisioned it in the form of an opera.
The opera is intended for children. In approaching such a project one must question whether composing especially for children is any different from composing for adults. Children do not ask for much, they have a great deal of intuition and a wealth of imagination. In fact, in many ways all they ask of the adult author or composer is to speak to them in clear simple language and allow for some mystery and magic. Ignite their imaginations and they can do the rest on their own!
There are seven characters in the opera. Each one of them is attached to an instrument or a specific group of instruments. The diversity of instrumentation and unique orchestration made the use of symphonic orchestra unnecessary. There is, in fact, no doubling of instruments except for the clarinets. The importance of each part is dramatically increased as the soloists display the full palette of their instruments' abilities. This use of only one instrument of a kind results in a large chamber ensemble with a new quality of sound and acoustic balance.
Finally, there is the beautiful message of Fool's Paradise. In it's absurd way, a simple but important moral lesson in conveyed. Life is better than death and wonderful Paradise is nowhere else but here - on earth. This is a lesson relevant to everyone, children and grown-ups alike.
Scene 1 (Prologue) - The first scene is a prologue showing Atzel (the protagonist) as a child at bedtime. He begs his Nanny to tell him the story he has heard a thousand times before - the story of Paradise. The Nanny tells of a place where nobody works and everyone eats delicious food reserved only for the righteous. Lulled into slumber by her sweet description, Atzel barely heeds her warning that only the dead can get there.
Scene 2 - Atzel, now a young man of eighteen, works alongside his father, Kadish. He is about to wed the sweet and beautiful Aksah. While Atzel should be feeling joy and enthusiasm, however, he is simply bored with his routine and resentful of the hard work expected of him. He recalls his childhood and begins to dream of Paradise. It occurs to him that Paradise is, in fact, the answer to his problems. Imagining that he is dead, he announces to Aksah and his family that a funeral should be planned, for he is on his way to Paradise. The scene concludes with Kadish's lament for his son.
Scene 3 - Atzel's desperate parents consult with the renowned Doctor Yoetz. The doctor promises to cure their son in eight days, declaring that the only way to treat the young man is to grant him his wish and to bury him. Bewildered but hopeful the parents follow the specialist's advice. A funeral is conducted.
Scene 4 - A fabricated Paradise is created in Atzel's room. Atzel is at first delighted by the visits of the Angels bearing cakes and fruits. But he grows restless and wishes to get out of bed and do things. He is reminded by the Angels that in Paradise you do nothing but relax and enjoy yourself. The daily routine of life in Paradise becomes too suffocating. Atzel is, once again, bored and resentful. He wants out of Paradise and wishes he were alive. Once he has made this declaration, the angels announce that a mistake had been made, he was not meant to die and he must leave Paradise.
Scene 5 (Epilogue) - Atzel is welcomed back to life, back to Aksah, and back to his family. He has discovered how good it is to be alive. A joyful celebration takes place when Atzel and Aksah get married.