Premiering July 3, 2009, at 4 PM PST (an ImprovFriday Event)
The Man Who Lives Inside a Piano Finds a Hornet’s Nest
A Miniature Opera for Text and Audio – Dedicated to David Toub
by Lee Noyes, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, JC Combs
Lee Noyes as Bartolomeo Cristofori
Piano – Improvisation
Dennis Bathory-Kitsz as Franc the Piano Tuner
Extended Voice – Improvisation
Sound Synthesis – Libretto
Libretto – by JC Combs
The Background: It had been no more than two years since Franc took up residence inside a piano. An unfortunate dwelling, but not by choice. You see Franc, a piano tuner by trade, was tricked and pushed into a Steinway Grand D by a concert pianist with a surprisingly sinister side. His name was Bartolomeo Cristofori. He had phoned Franc earlier in the day complaining that a penny had somehow dropped into the soundboard, apparently making somewhat of a persistent rattling noise. “No, look further in, down there. You must retrieve the penny so I can sufficiently practice for the concert at the estate of Prince Ferdinando de Medici this coming Friday.” Those were the last words Franc remembered hearing before falling headlong into the gigantic grand. He passed out for some time and woke up only to find the piano nailed shut, with him in it! Inside, he realized that the piano had been converted into a sort of prison cell.
Franc tried for days on end to kick the lid open but to no avail. However, a peculiar thing happened one day when his captor first played the piano while he was locked inside. As Bartolomeo played, Franc lost the ability to speak and all he could do was make vocal gestures, as if he had forgotten the English language altogether. Another strange thing happened when the pianist struck a note: Franc became extremely happy, and so it wasn’t long before Franc decided that should one day his captor free him, he would stay in the piano of his own will. Every day henceforth was wonderful for Franc, as he would wake up early and clean and tune the inside of the piano in preparation to play along with the pianist. Franc had become quite proud of his ability to pluck the strings and beat strong rhythms on the aged wooden walls which enveloped him. Together the sinister pianist and Franc the piano tuner created brilliant masterpieces. That is, until one day while carefully tending to the inner workings of the grand he came upon a hornet’s nest.
Where We Catch Up With the Players: Play Now (TheManWhoLivesInsidethePianoFindsaHornetsNest.mp3): As Franc cannot call out for help, he attempts to befriend the hornets by singing softly without words. However, the pianist (not aware that a hornet’s nest is inside the piano) is busy playing and Franc, ever so frightened of the hornets, starts frantically plucking and hammering away at the strings. The hornets become curious and fly around and about Franc. Many sit on his shoulder. Sadly, the plan backfires when a hammer hits the nest. The hornets become angry and swarm and sting and sting and sting! Alas, the hornets stings are too much for Franc and as he sings one last note, he dies. His master finally hears the swarm of the hornets and rushes over to pry open the lid in the hope of saving his prisoner, but it is too late and as the lid opens the hornets sting Bartolomeo Cristofori without mercy.
The scene closes tragically with captor and captive together, dead inside the piano.