Libretto: "The Seedy Opera"

A mini-opera in 4 acts, based on the legend of 1998 Ig Nobel Prize winner Richard Seed.

Words by Marc Abrahams and Don Kater

This opera premiered Thursday evening, September 30, as part of the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre, and had a repeat performance two days later at the Ig Informal Lectures at MIT's Wong Auditorium.

[For photos, etc., see the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of Annals of Improbable Research.]

Personnae Self-Importante
Opera Director : Margot Button
Opera Producers:Margot Button and Marc Abrahams
Lyrics: Marc Abrahams and Don Kater
Musical Adaptation: Margot Button, Greg Neal

The Original Cast
Richard Seed: Matthew Campbell
Related Gentlemen: Elliot Burke, Jason Karn, Matthew Lena
Mother of All Mothers: Margot Button
Cloned Sheep: Nobel Laureates Sheldon Glashow, Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, Robert Wilson, et al.
The Lovely Maidens: Gina Beck, Margot Button, Patricia Doyle, Andrea Loretz, Rachael Olsen, Jane Tankersley
Pianist: Greg Neal
Narrator: Lisa Mullins


NARRATOR: Legend has it that in the hills of Chicago, there dwelled a brilliant, lonely shepherd named Richard Seed. One day, he made a scientific breakthrough -- he discovered how to clone sheep. Join us now, as Richard Seed contemplates his sheep, and yearns for companionship.

[There are five RICHARD SEEDS, only one of whom is on stage at the start. The five have easily distinguished voices, and are of different heights. They all wear identical Richard Seed half-masks. Each wears a Pavarottian tux and scarf, and carries a shepherd's staff. RICHARD SEEDS #2, #3, #4, and #5 each has something on which the cloning has gone a little off -- some fur, an extra head, a fin, etc.]
[The CLONED SHEEP are played by NOBEL LAUREATES. They all wear fleeces on their backs and heads.]
[NOTE: in the printed program, list the five SEED singers' character names as JOHHNY, RONNIE, DONNIE, LONNIE AND DON GIOVANNI.

[Music: "O Sole Mio"]

I made some new sheep
Didn't need a ewe-sheep
In the world of science
I have joined the giants  [sheep bleat with pride]
 Were I a glutton
 I could feast on mutton [sheep bleat in protest]
 But it's not worth it for a few bytes of RAM
  [sheep bleat  "Ra-a-a-a-am" in reaction to the pun]

O solo me-oh!
Oh, lonesome me!
Although a genius
I well may be,
For a genius
It's ignomeenious
To have these stupid sheep for company

No stimulation
From their conversation
It's so defeating
All I get is bleating   [sheep bleat]
   [he gets an idea]
[spoken:] However-------
I'd not be lonesome
Not if I could clone some
Completely perfect humans just like me

   No solo me-oh.
[#2 appears] Why not a duo?
[#3 appears] Perhaps a trio!
[#4 appears] Hey, why not four?
[#5 appears] But with five
   We'd really thrive!
(SEED acts as if to go on, but the others restrain him)
SEED:   Don't stop me now,
   Let there be more and more......
(he tries to continue singing but they attempt to shut him up)
   and more and more and more......(fades out)
(They drag him offstage, still singing)


NARRATOR: It was quite an accomplishment for Richard Seed to clone all those sheep, and then to clone himself, too. Of course all this made his mother VERY proud. Join us now as his mother beams with joy while Richard tries to get some sleep.

[The Five RICHARD SEEDS lie down on the stage, all restlessly trying -- and failing -- to fall asleep while their MOTHER kisses them, pinches their cheeks, then breaks into exuberant song. Additional RICHARD SEEDS keep wandering in and lying down on the stage.]

[Music: "Ombra Leggiera" (the shadow song) from Meyerbeer's "Dinorah."
[The words shown here should be sung slowly. The trills that comprise the remainder of the piece should then be more sprightly.]

MOTHER: My son is almost perfect.
  He is very much
  Like every other mother's son.
  Compared to others, though,
  My son is better
  By a ratio of five to one.

  No other mother
  With immaculate conceptions
  Ever had more than just one.
  La la la la la la! La la la la la! La la la la la la la la!

[She trills loudly and proudly at each of her sons. Then, one by one, the SHEEP come on stage..
They leap over the five RICHARD SEEDS.
Then they sing "bahhhh" responses to the mother's trills.
Then the sheep attempt to frolic with the Richard Seeds, who attempt to go to sleep despite both the sheep and the mother's trilling.
The two word phrase that sometimes occurs in the Mother's trilling phase should be simply "My son!" ]


NARRATOR: In far-off New Zealand, a young maiden has heard the news -- that in Chicago there are some identical -- and thus very valuable -- sheep. The maiden and her sisters decide to go steal the sheep, get rich -- and THEN do something about their abysmal love lives. Let's listen to their maidenly thoughts.

[The five MAIDEN SISTERS all wear identical Madonna half-masks. Only two of them actually sing here.]
[Two large portraits hang somewhere. One, a picture of Madonna, is captioned "Our Sainted Mom." The other, a picture of Jesse Ventura, is captioned "Our Sainted Dad."]

[Music: "Viens, Mallika" (The Flower Duet) from Delibes's "Lakme".
NOTE: This skips the first line of the original music.]

MAIDEN #1:  Come, my sisters!
   Come, let us go steal those famous sheep.
   Then when we're rich,
   We will trade them in for something better
    with which we-ee can sleep.

MAIDENS 1&2: I want a guy
   Just like the guy
   Like the perfect gentleman -- the splendid man --
     who married dear old mom.

   One of a kind...
   The perfect find...
   Better than the best I ever saw
     when I was just a peeping Tom.

   He's --- absolutely --- u-unique!
   He's -- what I seek! Great physique!
   I know that he is unlike any other.
   And maybe he's got a little brother.
   And, undoubtedly,
   I'll bet that he
   Has a quiet, humble mother, too.

   Come, let us go!
   Yes, now we know:
   Loo-ove dema-aa-aands -- that we-ee-ee-ee steal shee-eep.


NARRATOR: The five maidens have journeyed to Chicago in search of sheep and love. Join us now as they find the cloned sheep, meet the many Richard Seeds, and fall in love -- though in a most unexpected, delightful, and profitable way.

[Music: from "Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." Note that we have one more verse than is in the original music.]
[All the MAIDENS and all the SHEEP are on stage. The RICHARD SEEDS stay off stage until the final stanzas.]

MAIDENS: Where are those sheep?
  THERE are those sheep!
   Oh my, don't they look splendid!
  Look at that wool --
  It's beautiful.
   Looks like our search is ended.

  Each lovely fleece
  A masterpiece.
   Our fortune will be made now.
  We can't resist;
  They must be kissed
   Come here, don't be afraid now

[The music pauses.]
[The MAIDENS kiss the SHEEP, who throw off their fleeces and stand up to reveal themselves as lab-coated handsome SCIENTISTS.]

MAIDEN #1 [spoken]: Oh! Oh, my! You stupid sheep have turned into handsome scientists!

BELWETHER SHEEP/SCIENTIST [spoken, slowly]: Well, of course. Why are you surprised? Have you ever kissed a sheep that *** DIDN'T *** turn into a handsome scientist?

MAIDEN #1 [spoken]: I'd prefer not to discuss that.

[The music resumes.]

MAIDEN #1: My, what a change.
  That was a strange
   Genome re-combination.
MAIDEN #2: And, I must say,
  A clever way
   To do exfoliation!

MAIDEN #1: So this is love.
  Kinda sort of
   Not what I had expected.
MAIDEN #2: I recommend:
  Get your boyfriend
   USDA inspected.

MAIDEN #2: So come, sweetheart,
  And let us start
   To form a corporation;
  A business which
  Will make us rich
   From human replication.

  Here's what we'll do --
  We'll sell them to
   Armies of every nation.
  No need to draft,
  With armies staffed
   By clones of our creation.

[During the next, final, verse, zillions of the RICHARD SEEDS enter in grand style. All the SEEDS are singing the final verse of O Solo Me-oh, their lines interspersed with what the maidens are singing.]

  When there's a war
  We'll just make more.
   How many will you nee-eed?
  We will provide
  To either side
   As many copies as they want of Richard Seed.

(c) copyright 1999 Annals of Improbable Research (www.improbable.com)
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