Francis Burt: Mahan

Francis Burt Mahan
Mahan

Francis Burt: Mahan

Year of composition:
1997-2007
Scored for:
opera
Composer:
Francis Burt
Librettist:
Richard Bletschacher (01.01.1967)
Roles:
Mahan, a successful young man ... tenor Callaghan, his boyhood friend The female friend ... speaking part The first friend ... speaking part The second friend ... speaking part The old man ... bass The old woman ... mezzo-soprano The young girl ... high s
Choir:
SSAATTBB: acht Stimmen aus den Fenstern eines Zinshofes sowie später acht Stimmen im Dunkeln
Instrumentation:
3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(3), hp, cel, pno, sop.sax(Bb), e.guit, str
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
3rd oboe
1st clarinet in Bb
2nd clarinet in Bb
3rd clarinet in Bb
soprano saxophone in Bb (+alto sax(Eb))
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb
2nd trumpet in Bb
3rd trumpet in Bb
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
bass tuba
timpani
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
celesta
electric guitar
harp
piano
violin I
violin II
viola
violoncello
double bass
Dedication:
im Gedenken an meine geliebte Frau
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Work introduction

Mahan, a young man spoiled by good fortune, sails in his yacht into the harbour of a southeastern city. A voice from the noisy group of his friends calls him onto land. Mahan, thinking he recognises the caller as his long-lost friend Callaghan, follows him for, as he believes, a short promenade out of sight of the brightly lit ship.

But soon he finds himself abandoned on a rubbish tip among ruins. Wandering about erratically and calling for his friend, he stumbles and injures his knee. Two shady elderly people, searching for something usable amongst the detritus, notice Mahan seeking help and reluctantly take him away with them.

Yet instead of leading him into the open or back to the harbour, his guides take him to a narrow alleyway in a miserable slum quarter, where greedy eyes are peering out of the windows, looking for booty. The dwellers prepare to rob the strayed man, but he is saved by a young girl, who quickly resolves to lead him away along a secret path.

The girl brings Mahan to a compound which apparently houses refugees or forced labourers in desperate need and distress. As a sign of his gratitude, he presents the girl with a golden wristwatch. But she asks instead for his jacket and, as her fellows in misery crowd around the well-dressed man, begging, she pulls his jacket off him.

Before anything worse can happen, a uniformed guard comes between them to take Mahan into custody. Mahan has no papers and cannot identify himself, but the guard’s prize is snatched away from him at once by someone who is, apparently, his superior. Blindfolded, Mahan is led away by a gatekeeper to the luxurious chambers of an unhappy, sleepless woman, who expects his amorous attentions. But before he can do so in his embarrassment, the arrival of the lord of the house – also the island’s ruler – is announced; Mahan is chased away through the back door to the sounds of mocking laughter and gunfire.

Escaping the bullets, Mahan flees over a high wall, his clothes torn to ribbons, landing, to his astonishment, in a magnificent Oriental garden. An old man in a wheelchair, enjoying the sun’s warmth, asks him amiably about his whence and whither. But since Mahan does not want to accept any help, the old man disappears after welcoming his uninvited guest to an evening garden party, to which the native rich and beautiful are expected, along with foreign visitors to the island.

Hardly is he gone from view when three young girls appear from the bushes, vying to tend to the young stranger’s wounds - but the game soon begins to take a lewd turn, until the four of them are surprised by the old man’s return. The girls transform into Furies and fall upon the furtive lookout, dragging him from his wheelchair. He cries for help, his servants rush to him – but they find their master lying on the ground, dead. Mahan recognises his friends in the floodlights of a terrace and flees in panic.

Returning to the ship in the grey of dawn, his friends pass Mahan, left for dead by the wayside, without recognising him, on their way to the harbour. Mahan, waking from his torpidity, blames himself for the old man’s death and looks back on all the evil he has seen and suffered in only a few hours. He calls for Callaghan, his alleged friend, who had lured him away from his happiness and showed him the entire world’s misery.

On their way to work, two stevedores rob the injured man of his sole remaining possession, an amulet. Trying to defend himself, he is fatally stabbed. One last time, he looks out over the harbour, his ship ready to sail and out to sea, still enveloped in the morning mist. He bids farewell to the world, believes he hears once again the voice calling to him – and dies.

Richard Bletschacher

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