From the Towers of the Moon

 

FROM THE TOWERS OF THE MOON

Music by Robert Moran
Libretto by Michael John LaChiusa

This opera was commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera in 1992.
Four excerpts, written for string quartet, were recorded as “Music from the Towers of the Moon” Balanescu Quartet, ARGO label of London Records.

The opera is based upon the ancient Japanese legend of the Moon Goddess who comes to Earth, titled Kaguya-hime.

This one act opera is approximately 80 minutes duration, and is scored for:

flute/piccolo, oboe/english horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon;
trumpet, horn, trombone; three synthesizers;
one percussionist:  one timpani, triangle, two suspended cymbals (high and
low), large tam, suspended car coil, vibraphone, chimes, two timbales,
two sets of bongos (low to high, only 3 bongos used)
two violins, viola, cello  (or strings without bassi)

Cast:

The Peasant…….…………………………………………………….baritone
His Wife
…………………………………………………….mezzo soprano
The Girl
…………………………………………………………………soprano
The Emperor
…………baritone (or a newer version for tenor)
The Emperor’s Mother
……………………………….mezzo soprano
The Grand Consul
…………………………………………………….tenor
The Minister of War
……………………………………………………bass
The Consul’s servant
………………………………………………….tenor
The Minister’s servant
……………………………………………baritone

Chorus of moon gods, the court, etc. (sop, ten, bar.)

LIBRETTO:

I.
Dusk.  The moon rises.  Shimmering: silently it climbs the sky.

II.
(The peasant’s house. The peasant and his wife stand over a crib.)
Wife:  Am I dead?  Yes…no….living.  Dead. Empty.  Is it night?
Yes…End me.
Darkness is all I want to know…
(The peasant picks up a bundle from the crib: his dead child.  Together he
and his wife carry their child into the night.)

III.
(The peasant’s field.  The peasant places his child to rest.  The moon is
full in the sky, pressing close to the earth.  The peasant addresses the
moon:
Peasant:  Why are you shining so brightly?  What are you looking for?  There is nothing down here for you.  Only blood: only sadness.  Only the earth
under our nails and tugging at our feet: claiming us.  Claiming all we love.  You are safe in the
quiet up there: bloodless and alone.  Don’t shine too brightly: hide
behind the stars.   The earth       will see you and claim you as its
own….

(A sound fills the air, building to a deafening roar.  A white, dazzling
light pours down from the sky, stunning the peasant and his wife.  This
light seems to explode around them.  Just as suddenly, all is still.
Something glows in the weeds.)

Chorus:  There. In the weeds.
Peasant:  What is it?
Chorus:  There: near the ground.  A child.  A girl.  Three inches tall.  Glows.
Wife:  Where did she come from?
Peasant:  I don’t know…
Wife:  It’s a blessing.
Peasant:  Is it?
Chorus:  There: near the earth: she yawns.  She opens her eyes.   And grows…
(A miraculous thing happens: out of the weeds, a beautiful girl grows up
before their eyes.  She steps forward.)

Chorus:  Grass.  Air.  Step on grass.  Move through air.  Father…Mother…
Girl:  I feel…..I feel….Father…Mother….
Chorus:  Step.   Move.   Breathe….Feel….
Girl:  I ……feel….

Girl:  Warm…Hot….Green and purple…moving, running..spinning
around…and                                   underneath…a thousand
fingers touch a thousand trees and every leaf and every drop
of water: a thousand eyes and ears find proof: green: greener:
purple…warmer,
hotter…moving, racing, beating.  Through me, around me and inside…I
have a
thousand names and only one:   living!
(The peasant and his wife are amazed; fear gives way to compassion)
Peasant:  What are you?
Wife:  Come inside.  We can help you.  We’ll protect you.  You’ll be safe
here: here
with us.
Peasant:  Come inside.  We can help you.  We’ll protect you.  You’ll be
safe here:
here with us.
Wife:  Fill our house with light.  Fill our house with laughter.  You’ll
never know
sadness again…..

Peasant/Wife:  Come inside…..We can feed you.  We can love you.  We can love
again.
Girl:  Grass…air….Step on grass…Move through air….Living…Father.
Mother…..
Living…Stay….
Peasant/Wife:    Come inside.   And stay.  Safe in our arms:  Stay.

(The peasant and his wife take the girl’s hands to lead her to their house.
The girl stops to look at the moon.)
Girl:  What is that?
Peasant:  The moon.
Girl:  What am I?
Wife:  Ours….

IV.
(Time passes.  Word of the peasants’ adopted daughter travels.)

Chorus:  she stood in a field and made the rice grow thick around her.  I
saw.  I heard.
Who is she?
(The girl drops a bowl.  It breaks.)
Wife:  You cut yourself…
(She looks at the girl’s finger)
Wife:  It healed…but how?
(The peasant picks up a fragment of the broken bowl)
Peasant:  It’s gold.
Wife:  What?
Peasant:  Look:  It’s gold!  Pieces of gold….
Wife:  But how?  How?
(They look at the girl.  She smiles)

V.
(Word travels)
Chorus:  She called to the birds and they sang their lovesongs for her.  I
saw.  I heard.
Who is she?
(The peasant’s house has been transformed into a mansion.  The peasant and
his wife now wear expensive clothes.)
Peasant:  You’ve made us very rich.
Girl:  Rich?
Peasant:  The neighbors are impressed.
(His wife covers her face.)
Girl:  What are you doing?
Wife:  I’m crying.
Girl:  Why?
Wife:  I’m happy again.  You’ve made me happy again.
(The girl takes a tear from the wife’s face and tastes it.)
Girl:  Ocean…

VI.
(Word travels.)

Chorus:  Something within glows:  is it her soul?  The sun is jealous of
her.  I saw. I
heard.  Who is she?

VII.
(The girl is very happy.  Each day brings new wonders: rain, music, the
change of seasons.  The girl is celebrated by all.)
Chorus:   She stood in a field, and made the rice grow thick around her.
She called to the birds and they sang their love songs for her.
Something within
glows.  Is it her soul?  The sun is jealous of her.
I saw.    I heard.   Who is she?   She is proof that angels dance on earth.

Girl:  Is there anything more beautiful than earth?  I look: I hear:  I
taste: I feel…Proof:

Peasant/Wife, simultaneously with Girl and Chorus:
Peasant/Wife:  Nothing on earth will take you from us.  Nothing on earth.
Girl:  There is nothing more miraculous, mysterious, more beautiful than earth.
Chorus:  She is proof that angels dance on earth.

VIII.
(Night.  The moon is alone in the sky.  The girl is alone with the moon.)

Chorus:  Soon….soon…
Girl:  Soon?

IX.
(The Emperor’s court.  The Emperor has received word of the girl.  The
Emperor’s
mother counsels him.)
Emperor:  Bring her here.  I command it.
Mother:  What is she?
Emperor:  Mine.  I own her.
Mother:  Wait.  Use other eyes.  Use other ears.  Wait.  Be careful.
Prepare.  The
creatures of perfection may be gods.  If so, she must be fed.  Sacrifice
will sate them.
Let her hunger prove what she is.  Wait.
Emperor:   I can see her.  Even as I wait.  I can hear her:  Even as I
wait, I have power.  I
am power.  If I wish it.  If I say it, I will see her.  I will hear her.
I will own her:
Mine:  Even as I wait.
Mother:   Wait…Use other eyes.   Use other ears.  Let her hunger prove
what she is.
Wait.

(The Emperor’s mother issues an order to the Grand Consul.)
Mother:  Go to her.  Offer your poems.  Offer your gifts.  Offer your love.
Prove what
she is.
Emperor:  Mine….

X.
(The Grand Consul writes a poem.  He dictates to his servant.)

Consul:  “I am a grasshopper swept away by the flood of your beauty.
Dragged down:
Drowned: but happily, happily.”
Servant:  Drowned?
Consul:  “Happily.”

XI.
(The peasant receives the poem.)

Peasant:  Men who’ve only heard of you are in love.
Girl:  Love?
Peasant:  Look: poems.
Girl:  Why?
Peasant:  They want to see you.
Girl:  Why?
Peasant:  You need someone to protect you after we are gone.
Wife:  Someone you can love.
Peasant:  Brave men, good men.  Rich men:  they are in love.
Girl:  Love?
Peasant:  Let them prove their love.
Girl:  Prove.  Love.
Peasant:  Will you see them?
Girl:  Yes.  Prove. Love.

XII.
(With great ceremony, the Grand Consul presents himself to the girl.)

Consul:  I have twenty-seven palaces.  I have twenty-seven hundred
soldiers.  I have twenty-seven thousand poems dedicated to you.  Let me
prove my love.
Girl:  Prove. Love.
(She thinks for a moment.  Then:)
Girl:  High on top of the highest mountain, near the birthplace of the
clouds.  The
golden tree with the silver roots grows.  On its branches hang
snow-white pearls.
Take one branch.  Bring it to me.
Consul:  Impossible.
Girl:  Prove.   Love.

XIII.
(The Consul issues orders to his servant)
Consul:  Hire twenty-seven pearl fishers.  Chop down the largest branch of
pine.
Hire twenty-seven craftsmen.  Create a work of art.   She’ll never know.

XIV.
(His project completed, the Grand Consul returns, his work of art is
wrapped and ready to be revealed.  He bows to the girl.)

Consul:  I’ve proved my love.  The mountain was high.  The snows were
abundant.
Look:  Ice in my boots.  Yet I reached the top: stuffling.  Clawing.
Freezing: and  it was
there, as you said:  the golden tree with the silver roots with
twenty-seven branches
of ice-white pearls.   But there was something else which you didn’t
predict:  a
demon-bird with twenty-seven horns guarded the tree of your desire.  But
I was
brave.  Courageous.  Handsome:  and with a flick of my sword the demon-bird
was killed.  Look: a feather to prove it.  I chose one branch of
ice-white pearls.  One
is all you asked for.  One is all I have to give.  The mountain was
scaled.  The
demon-bird killed and for your love I live.
(He unveils a magnificent work of art.  His servant enters.  He hands the
Consul a bill)
Servant:  “Twenty-seven hours of fishing for pearls: twenty-seven hours of
chopping  down              trees: twenty-seven hours of glueing and sewing
comes to: twenty-seven pounds of gold.”  Pay       now or pay sooner with
your head.
Girl:  Shake the ice from your boots.  Toss your feather in the air.  Plant
a tree for every
one you spoiled.  Sell your work of art and pay your bills.
(The Consul exits, rejected)

XV.
(The Emperor’s court.  The Emperor and his mother.)

Mother: Send the Minister of War.  And wait.

XVI.
(The Minister of War writes a poem.  He dictates it to his servant.)

Minister:  “You outshine the gleam of the sharpest sword.  You are the surge of
breath before the plunge into battle.  You possess more beauty than a
thousand
horses.”
Servant:  Horses?
Minister:  “Horses.”

XVII.
(The peasant receivs the poem.)

Peasant:  Braver men, better men:  richer men:  others wait to see you.
Girl:  Why?
Peasant:  Look: gifts.  They are in love.  Let them prove their love.
Girl:  Prove. Love.
Peasant:  Will you see them?
Girl:  Yes.  Prove. Love.
Wife: (reading the poem)    “……Horses”?

XVIII.
(The Minister of War presents himself to the girl with great pomp and
circumstance.)

Minister:  I’ve waged enormous battles.  I’ve reinvented modern weaponry.
I’ll
dedicate my upcoming war to you.  Let me prove my love.
Girl:  Prove.  Love.
(She thinks for a moment.)

Girl:  Far to the south in the burning desert, the fire-rat makes its home.
It precious
fur cannot be burned.  Capture its fur and bring it back to me.
Minister:  Ridiculous.
Girl:  Prove.  Love.

XX.
(The Minister of War issues orders to his servant)

Minister:  Go and steal the neighbor’s cat.  Feed it everyday until it’s
plump.  Skin the  cat and            hang the fur to dry.  Dress it up with
jewels.  And she’ll never know.

(His mission complete, the Minister of War returns to the girl)

Girl:  The fur cannot be burned.  (From her fingertips, a blue flame
appears.  She
touches the fur.  It immediately burns up.)
Girl:  Take your sand and fishheads, shave your beard and give it to your
neighbor’s
cat.  Sell your weapons and battle plans and feed the poor.

(The Minister of War exits, quite rejected.)

XXI.
(The Emperor’s court.  The Emperor and his mother.)

Mother:  Send the Deputy of Justice
Emperor:  No.
Mother:  Wait.
Emperor:  No.  I have to see her….

XXII.
(Evening.  The girl is alone.  The moonlight streams through her window.
She tries to touch it.  The peasant and his wife enter.)

Peasant:  Others wait to see you.
Girl:  Why?
Peasant:  They love you.
Girl:  Why are you doing this to me?
Peasant:  For your happiness….
Wife:  We’d never hurt you…
Peasant:…for your future.  Someone to protect you….
Wife:  Someone you can love.
Girl:  Future.  Someone.  Love.  What am I?
Wife:  You’re tired.
Peasant:  You need your sleep.
Wife:  We’d never hurt you.
Peasant:  Sleep…
(They exit)

Girl:  What am I?

(The moonlight seems to wrap itself around the girl.)
Chorus:  Soon…
Girl:  Come back.  I hear it.  I feel it.  Come back.  It owns me.  It
wants me.  Am I
this light? Invisible, and brief?  Touching earth:  shimmering: fading:
returning…To
where?  To where?  I feel it.  “Come back”  “Soon”    Too soon…..

(The Emperor emerges from the shadows.  He steals in.  The girl sees him.)

Girl:  Who are you?
(The Emperor is speechless.  Something happens to him.  He’s weak and confused.
The girl is radiant before him.)
Emperor:  I am…I am no one…
(They regard each other for a long, tense while.  Finally:)
Girl:  Why are you here?
Emperor:  I don’t know….
(They circle each other slowly)
Girl:  Brave men.  Good men.  Rich men….Which are you?
(He doesn’t respond.)
Girl:  Braver men.  Better men. Richer men…Poems.  Gifts.  They love me…
Emperor:  Do you love them?
Girl:  Love?  Prove.  Love.
Emperor:  What proof is there?  What causes happiness?  What causes sadness?
Girl:  Sadness…..Prove sadness.
Emperor:  You would have to love.
(The girl looks into his eyes.  after a moment:)
Girl:  Across the ocean: across three oceans: sweeping through the waves a
crowned
dragon waits.  Win its crown for me.  Bring it back to me.  Prove. Love.

(The Emperor bows at her feet.)
Emperor:  I am proof…..

XXIII.
(The Emperor sets sail.)

Chorus:  The first ocean:  blue
(The first ocean is calm, sunny, whales are spotted.)
Chorus:  The second ocean: blue-green
(The second ocean is choppier.  The sky is menacing.  The Emperor passes
mysterious islands.)
Chorus:  The third ocean:  blue-green-black.  And dangerous.

(The ship rides strong, violent seas.  Suddenly, the sea-dragon appears.
It attacks the ship.  The Emperor does battle but is thrown overboard.  He
rides the sea-dragon and conquers the monster, capturing its crown.  A
gigantic wave washes over the emperor.
All vanish into the sea.)

XXIV.
(Time passes.  The peasant and his wife try to comfort the girl.)

Peasant:  Where is your smile?
Wife:  Are you unhappy?
Peasant/Wife:  Tell us….

(The girl says nothing.  She knows what sadness is.)

XXV.
(The girl walks to the edge of the ocean.  She looks out over the waves.)
Girl:  Come back….
Chorus:  There: something on the shore.  The dragon’s crown.
(The sea-dragon’s crown appears on the beach.  She picks it up.)

Girl:  Come back.  Follow the waves drawing back to shore.  Come back.  From
unknown islands and unknown winds.  Return to me.  Soon….

(The tide carries the Emperor’s lifeless body onto the beach.  The girl
goes to him.  She kneels beside him and gently cradles his head.    She
kisses him.  The emperor stirs.
He opens his eyes.)

Emperor:  Yes…You….
(He sits up.  He touches her face.  She is crying.)
Emperor:  Yes….
Girl:  What do I feel?   What is this?
(She touches her tears.  She pulls away from him.)

Emperor:  Stay.
Girl:  No.
Emperor:  I command you.
Girl:  Command?  Who commands me?  Not you.
Emperor:  Stay with me.
Girl:  I have to go back to where there is no love: no sadness, no air, no
music, not time: no                memory of what it is to be living.  Here
where there is time, I have little time left before
returning to where I must belong.  I have to go back….leaving time  and
sadness and love  behind.
Emperor:  I have power on this earth.  I am power.  I won’t let you go.
(The girl is transfigured, revealing her divinity to the Emperor.  The
Emperor is stunned, humbled.)
Emperor:  You are all I want.  All.   and I’ll have nothing.
Girl:  Can you love?
Emperor:  Yes.
Girl:  Then you have everything.  Then you have power.
(He takes her hand.)

XXVI.
(Word travels.  Others learn of the girl’s imminent return.  Action is taken.)
Emperor’s mother:  A thousand men will guard the fields.  A thousand men will
guard the house.  A thousand men will guard the door.  A thousand men will
guard the girl.  We will not let her go.
Minister of War:  Aim at the sky:  watch for the moon.  Armed and alert, be
ready to
defend.  We will not let her go.
Grand Consul:  Without her…what is laughter?  Without her…what is beauty?
Without her we have no proof that angels dance on earth.  We will not
let her go.
All three:   We will not let her go…!

XXVII.
(In the peasant’s house.  The mood is somber.  The Emperor, the peasant and
his wife wait with the girl.)
Peasant:  No.
Wife:  You can’t leave us.
Peasant:  I’ll kill whoever takes you.
Wife:  Before you, there was emptiness.  After you, there was hope.  I was
full again.
I could love again.  Was I selfish?  Did I love you to forget my
emptiness?  You
gave me reason to forget.  You gave me reason to love.  Stay.  Don’t
take my reason.
Stay.
Peasant:  Let me give up everything.  Riches.  House.  Let me give back
everything
everything: treasures. Land. What does any of it mean without you?
Don’t take away
meaning.  Stay.
Both:  You gave us reason for sleeping sound and waking up and breathing in and
laughing and wondering and living.  I will give up anything.  Let me
give up
living. Stay.
Girl:  You cried to the moon out of sadness, out of emptiness.  You cried
to the moon
and the moon heard.  Wasn’t your sadness healed?  Wasn’t your emptiness
filled?
You cried to the moon and the moon gave you me.  Now you must give back.

Girl, Peasant and Wife, simultaneously:
Girl:  Now you must let go.  Let go.  Let me give up living.  Let me leave.
Let me go.
Peasant/Wife:  I will give up everything….Stay.  Stay.

(She kisses her parents goodbye.)

Emperor:  Can I love anymore?  Can I love anyone but you?
Girl:  The earth.  Your life.  Others.  You can love.

(The air begins to tingle with anticipation.  A strange light glows in the
sky.  The moon seems to approach the earth.)

Girl:  Petals.  Treetops.  Pebbles. rice. Father. Mother.  Water. Wind.
There is no other
earth…No other place of sadness and love.  Longing.  Wanting.  Living.
Living.
Father.  Mother.  Do you know what you have?  Protect your life.
Protect this
strange world of laughter and hunger and color and living: this
beautiful place
of living sadness and love…..

(Glorious noise and light fill the scene.  The moon gods descend.  They are
astonishing creatures.)

Chorus:  Now.  Come back.  Forget.  Vanish into light and the purity of
timelessness.
Return to our arms:  without blood or memory.  Come back.  Follow the
path of
light from the towers of the moon.

(Those on earth are transfixed.  Even the girl is awed.  She hesitates.)

Girl:  Father…?   Mother….?
Emperor/Peasant/Wife:  Stay!  Stay here!
Girl:  Look up.  Look up and see me and remember your blessing: your life.

(She goes to the moon gods.  They surround her, placing a white feather
robe on her
shoulders)

Final chorus-(simultaneously)
Chorus:  Now.  Come back. Forget.  Vanish into light and the purity of
timelessness.
Return to our arms without blood or memory.  Come back.  Follow the path of
light to the towers of the moon!
Girl:  Forget.  Vanish into light and the purity of timelessness.  Return
to our arms
without blood or memory.  Come back.  Follow the path of light to the
towers of
the moon!
Emperor/Peasant/Wife:   We’ll remember you in the light.  Forever.  We’ll
remember you in the tides.  We’ll remember this blessing of life when we
see you
in the path of light from the towers of the moon!

(The girl, the shining princess, vanishes with the moon gods in a
shimmering explosion of light: sweeping upwards to the stars.)

The End.

 

 

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