Riding the Rigatoni Cycle

Riding the Rigatoni Cycle April 16, 2014

Not much to report on the Watchman for Daybreak front, though I’m proceeding along the lines I indicated last week, and it’s working for me. John St. Cloude is going to be a much more interesting character this way.

In the meantime, my first novel has been available on my personal website for the last ten years. It’s called Through Darkest Zymurgia; it’s a fantasy novel about a scientific expedition in a rather odd world. I make no great claims for it, but I enjoyed writing it, and I think some parts are genuinely funny. Y’all can take a look for free. If there’s any demand, I can also format it up as an e-book.

Just as a teaser, here’s an excerpt from Chapter 4. Professor Leon Thintwhistle and the other members of the expedition have stopped in Lyricum Town on the way to Zymurgia, and Professor Thintwhistle is taking advantage of the stop to visit the opera:

For the sake of those who do not remember the story of Rotini’s Chianti, I offer this summary. It is considered a flawed masterpiece, for reasons which, I believe, will become clear as I continue; nevertheless, as the first opera of Rotini’s renowned Rigatoni Cycle, it is an essential foundation.

In Act 1, we find Alberto Chianti poling his barge down a Lyrican canal toward the Bay of Biscotti. It is raining, and the arpeggios of rain are a poignant counterpoint to his glissandos of despondency and despair. He is a poor man, and unable to support his new wife; in desperation he has undertaken to bring the barge to harbor for a few pennies. The barge stops at a lock, and as Alberto waits for the lock to fill so that he can continue his journey he spies a glint of gold in the murky waters of the canal. Diving in at great hazard to his health, he retrieves a golden ring, which he places on his finger. Rising remarkably unsoiled from the dirty water, Alberto sings at great length about his changing luck and good fortune.

In Act 2, Alberto is hailed by a young woman on the bank of the canal. She is Sophia Rigatoni, the lockkeeper’s daughter, and she claims the ring as her own. If he will return it, she will marry him and be his always. Alberto calls to her leap aboard the barge, and she does so. They consummate their union (lyrically speaking) in a duet of great beauty and passion, and she claims the ring. Strangely loath to release it (and well-aware of his previous marriage), he refuses, and they struggle. At last he smothers her under a bale of cotton. Alberto hides Sophia’s body under the bales of goods on the barge as he sings of his great love for the ring.

In Act 3, Alberto is hailed by Lucia Rigatoni, the lockkeeper’s second daughter. She claims the ring as her own, and says she will marry him and be his always. No wiser than Sophia, she comes aboard at his bidding, the union is consummated in song, and all is serene until she tries to take the ring from his finger as he sleeps. In the ensuing duet Alberto pushes Lucia over the side, and she is crushed between the bank and the barge. He pulls her from the water, singing of his ring, and hides her body beside her sister Sophia’s.

These things run in threes, of course, and in Act 4 Antonia Rigatoni, the lockkeeper’s youngest daughter, appears. She makes the same claim, and the same offer, she hops aboard, and so forth. She is somewhat brighter than her sisters and has brought a knife with her; it does her no good. Alberto stabs her with it, and hides her beside her two sisters.

The lock is finally full at the beginning of Act 5, and Old Rigatoni himself appears out of the lockkeeper’s hut. At first he hails Alberto as an honest bargeman, and they drink together, singing of the pleasures of wine, woman, and song. Worse for drink, Alberto sings that he is not just a bargeman but a collector of things of great beauty; has he not three treasures aboard his barge? Has he not this fine ring? Old Rigatoni questions Alberto about the ring, and Alberto lies, saying that it has been his always. At this the three slain women rise from the graves on the barge and denounce him. Old Rigatoni attacks Alberto at their urging, but is no match for the young man. Alberto throws him into the lock, and he is crushed by the water gate, and dies, but not before he curses Alberto (at great length) with eternal restlessness. He will feel at home nowhere, and everyone’s hand will be turned against him so long as he retains the ring of the Rigatonis.

In Act 6, Alberto abandons the barge and returns home by the speediest route, yet finds that the spirits of the three slain women have preceded him. His wife is not best pleased. She curses him, though not so completely as old Rigatoni, and he is forced to kill her before she shouts and summons her father and brothers to do away with him.

In Act 7, Alberto comes to his senses for the first time in the entire opera, and reasons that eternal restlessness is no reason to eschew comparative safety. Fleeing his crimes, Alberto seeks out a remote valley in the Lundt mountains. Here he builds himself a fortress, vast and impenetrable, and wanders, day and night, to and fro, fondling the ring of the Rigatoni, and cursing any who would take it from him, as the spirits of those he has murdered fly about him and accuse him in shrieks and wails.

Critics of the Chianti feel that its greatest flaw is the introduction of logical thinking in the last act, especially after so promising a begnning. Nevertheless, the opera establishes the premise for all that comes after, and is therefore indispensable.

There’s much more at the link.

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